Bradford keeps careful watch on parties’ anti-smacking positions Monday January 28, 2008
By Claire Trevett

Sue Bradford

Sue Bradford

Green MP Sue Bradford says she is watching other political parties to make sure their stance on the anti-smacking law does not waver despite attempts by lobby groups to force a referendum on the issue.

The law – which repealed the defence of reasonable force that parents had for disciplining their children – passed last year with wide cross-party support despite intense lobbying.

However, the issue is set to rear its head again – Family First requires just 30,000 more signatures by March 1 to get a referendum on it included in this year’s election. Family First yesterday took out full page advertisements in Sunday newspapers to get support.

A referendum will depend on the organisers getting 300,000 signatures and further scrutiny of the petition to ensure signatures are valid. If it happens, it will not be binding but if there is strong support for repealing the law it will have a strong moral force.

The law’s original promoter Sue Bradford said she was watching for signs that parties such as National which initially opposed the law, were wavering to try and get the Christian vote.

“There are a lot more steps to go through to overturn the legislation. In the end it’s up to Parliament to define the law and who knows what shape the next Parliament will be.”

The bill passed into law by 113 votes to 8 in May last year after a compromise clause negotiated between National’s John Key and Prime Minister Helen Clark meant police would not prosecute for “inconsequential” breaches.

Yesterday, National leader John Key said until he saw evidence that the compromise was not enough to stop minor incidents being prosecuted, he was happy with the law.

“We’ve been consistent since the day we signed [the compromise]. But if we start to see good parents being criminalised for lightly smacking then we will change the law.”

One man has been prosecuted under the new laws – in November last year a 33-year-old Masterton man was sentenced to nine months’ supervision including counselling after pleading guilty to assaulting a boy by grabbing him by the shoulder and smacking him three times.

Others have been warned, including include musician Jimmy Mason who flicked his 3-year-old son on the ear and was given a caution after a member of the public dobbed him in.


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