Anti-smacking law likely to come under more heavy fire this year

The Gisborne Herald, 24 January 2008

By Iain Gillies


Politicians look like being confronted, challenged and possibly embarrassed by the prospect of a referendum on the anti-smacking law later this year, almost certainly held in tandem with the next election.

Opponents of the controversial legislation initiated by Green MP Sue Bradford are now close to the 300,000 signatures necessary to force a citizen’s initiated referenda.

Almost 5000 signatures were obtained last weekend, including 1000 at the World Cup of Motorsport event at Taupo, 720 at a “blues, brews and barbecues” event in Hastings and other tallies from A&P Shows.

The current total of almost 268,000 represents a gain of 43,000 in the past two months, suggesting no diminution of public feeling on the issue.

Principal organiser Larry Baldock told The Gisborne Herald: “We’ve got to keep it moving, but we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to see this through to a referendum.”

Two petitions are being canvassed with a deadline of February 28 to obtain the signatures of at least 10 percent of registered electors and present them to the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

The first — “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand? — is in the name of Aucklander Sheryl Savill, a mother-of-two who works with Focus on the Family and whose husband is a policeman.

The second, in Mr Baldock’s name, is “Should the Government give urgent priority to understanding and addressing the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse in New Zealand?”

As a former United Future MP Mr Baldock has been the public face of the campaign since the petitions began circulating a year ago, with strong support from volunteers, organised groups and churches.

The terms for organising and conducting Citizen’s Initiated Referenda (CIR) are defined by legislation enacted by the Bolger administration in 1993, since when only two petitions have reached the point of forcing a plebiscite.

Interesting stuff . . . but even a referendum result is not binding on the Government.


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