Key says no to changing smacking law

Key says no to changing smacking law


Smacking referendum results by electorates

Pro-smacking campaigners are calling on the Government to fast-track a law change to allow parents to smack their children, after a thumping referendum victory.

But Prime Minister John Key says he will not change the law, and the law’s original sponsor, Green MP Sue Bradford, says the question was so flawed the result is meaningless.

Children’s Commissioner John Angus also joined the chorus of people saying the law should remain, as “it is good for children”.

The referendum, which cost $8.9 million and drew a voter turnout larger than most local body elections, asked: Should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

In preliminary results issued last night, 87.6 per cent of those who voted answered No, and 11.81 per cent said Yes.

More than 1,622,000 people or 54 per cent of enrolled voters voted.

Mr Key said he “took the message seriously” and would take a series of proposals to the Cabinet on Monday.

The proposals stopped short of a law change, but he would not say whether he was planning to give new instructions to police. “It is my belief that the law is working and that at this point we don’t need to change the law,” he said.

“I don’t think a law change is necessary. There are other changes that fall short of changing the law that I think can be introduced.”

Mr Key has said he smacked his two children “very lightly and in moderation” when they were younger.

Kiwi Party leader and poll campaigner Larry Baldock said the turnout showed how strongly people felt about the issue, and sent a firm message to Mr Key: “They want the authority back in the home and he is foolish to suggest this law is working.”

Mr Baldock, a former MP, said the Government should bypass the select committee process and move straight to a vote in Parliament. References in the Crimes Act that barred parents from using force “for the purpose of correction” should be deleted, he said.

He denied the poll question was biased and confusing. The law had made people angry. “Every parent has been disempowered. They’ve got children coming home and saying, `You can’t touch me’.”

Ms Bradford said she had expected a majority “No” vote. She believed some people were so confused by the question they accidentally voted the wrong way. “Because the question is so flawed, the result is flawed. It’s not a clear indicator to the Government of what it should do, if anything.”

Other voters had told her they had scrawled abusive comments on their ballots instead of answering the question, which could have spoiled their votes, she said.

She accepted some people were still uncomfortable with the law, but said it should stand because “it’s a law about protecting our most vulnerable citizens”.

Sheryl Savill, who instigated the referendum, felt “overwhelmed” by the result. “I am so pleased that such a large number of people have shown their support for this issue.”

Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden said no data was kept about how many ballots had been written on or otherwise spoiled. But 9696 votes were recorded as “informal” because the voter’s intention could not be understood.

Police are due to release their final report into how the law has affected their operations early next week. In reports so far, they have said its impact has been minimal.

Turnout dwarfed the only previous citizen-initiated referendum decided by mail a 1995 question about firefighter numbers that only 26.96 per cent of voters responded to. Turnout at last year’s local body elections was about 41 per cent.


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