Heather Roy – Anti-Smacking Referendum

Speech: Roy – Anti-Smacking Referendum

Wednesday, 24 June 2009, 3:55 pm
Speech: ACT New Zealand

Anti-Smacking Referendum

Hon Heather Roy, ACT Deputy Leader
Hon Heather Roy – General Debate, Slot One; Parliament; Wednesday, June 24 2009.

Violence is not acceptable in any shape or form. It is a plague that haunts our communities, and violence against the vulnerable – against our children – is totally abhorrent.

I say that as a mother, and as a politician. That’s why we have laws that are explicit about violent behaviour and which impose punishments on those in our society who choose to inflict violence on others.

The Anti-Smacking Bill – repeal of Section 59 – was promoted as the solution to the terrible abuse suffered by too many children. Details published around these cases – the Kahui twins, Lillybing, Nia Glassie and far too many other children – were so repugnant that I couldn’t read them.

But the Anti-Smacking Bill is not the answer to stopping child abuse. The debate has relied on emotion rather than reason, and focussed on rules rather than results. The unintended result of the smacking ban has been to criminalise hundreds of thousands of good parents.

Those who beat children to a pulp have never paid attention to the law and never will. The police have been told to use their discretion when complaints are made, but this makes a farce of the law. Laws must be clear, enforceable and regularly enforced to be effective. This is not the case we have now.

What really surprised New Zealanders during the anti-smacking debate was the flip-flop of the National Party. They did a complete U-turn after opposing the Bill all the way through.

It is only the ACT Party that believes that intrusion of the State into the homes of good parents is unacceptable.

More than 300,000 people signed a petition to hold a referendum on the question: should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand.

It is a question that has divided the country – not 50/50; not even 60/40. It has split the New Zealand Parliament from the rest of New Zealand. A Parliament that voted 113 to eight in support of the Anti-Smacking Bill, but which ignored polls showing public opinion was opposed to the Bill by a ratio of four to one.

It is no wonder the people of New Zealand feel alienated – that the politicians are not listening. ACT supports this referendum; we support the people of New Zealand having a say; we support democracy. We do so because this Parliament has refused to listen to the people.

Prime Minister John Key has dismissed the referendum as an irrelevance and that the result will not change his mind. I’d ask the Prime Minister to reflect on those statements and consider the anguish and confusion that the Anti-Smacking Bill has had around the country.

Proponents of the law say it is working; that it is reducing child abuse – but 13 children have been killed since this law was passed 25 months ago. The long list of names we had before the Bill was passed continues to grow.

This law targets the wrong people. The thugs and bullies, the child abusers, the real criminals – not good parents – will continue to assault and murder children. It won’t stop the James Whakarurus, Delcelia Witikas or Tamati Pokaias from being abused and killed.

What it does do is frighten, confuse and prevent loving parents from parenting. The ACT Party is the only Party in this House that opposed the anti-smacking law; we were the only Party to publicly support the referendum to allow New Zealanders to have a say and we remain the only party committed to reforming the law to protect loving New Zealand families.



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