Smacking poll in hands of mother

Smacking poll in hands of mother

By NICK VENTER – The Dominion Post

Last updated 05:00 30/06/2009
LAST WORD: The referendum on the anti-smacking law will not go ahead if  promoter Sheryl Savill withdraws her petition.

LAST WORD: The referendum on the anti-smacking law will not go ahead if promoter Sheryl Savill withdraws her petition.

The dark-haired, bespectacled woman talking forcefully across an outdoor table laden with scones, cake and drinks on Family First’s pro-smacking website does not have a bionic arm and cannot run faster than a speeding car. But Sheryl Savill is New Zealand’s $6 million woman.

The mother of two and policeman’s wife will have the final say this week on whether another $6m is spent on a referendum that Prime Minister John Key says the Government will ignore.

That is because the petition calling for a referendum on the anti-smacking law was submitted in her name.

A spokeswoman for the chief electoral officer said yesterday that $700,000 had already been spent preparing for the August referendum and a public information campaign costing $2.2m had also begun.

If the referendum goes ahead it will cost another $6m. However, if Ms Savill withdraws her petition before the governor-general issues the writ, the last day for which is Friday, the referendum can be cancelled.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie and petition organiser Larry Baldock say that will not happen unless the Government agrees to decriminalise smacking.

“The consequences of this law remaining in New Zealand are far too serious and will cost the country far more than the cost of the referendum,” Mr Baldock said.

He said Ms Savill, who is in the United States on a family holiday, was chosen as the petition promoter because she was a mother.

“She was concerned about the law and as a young mum felt she was prepared to put her name to it.”

Ms Savill, 40, has asked petition organisers not to give her contact details to the news media, but her views are explained in the video produced for the Vote No website. “I’m the mum of two lovely girls and when I realised how the anti-smacking law would directly affect the way I was raising my girls I knew that I had to do something,” she says, children and friends seated nearby.

“A light smack done in a good home that’s full of love sure isn’t child abuse.”

Mr McCoskrie said Ms Savill’s girls were aged about eight and 11. He declined to say whether she smacked them. “I can’t answer that. I won’t answer that on her behalf. I’m not going to comment on her parenting practice. All I know is that she is supporting the law change.”

Ms Savill, of South Auckland, works as a “communicator” for a conservative critics say Right wing evangelical organisation, Focus on the Family. Its headquarters are in the United States and it offers advice on parenting and marriage.

Family First Comment : The Referendum is actually in the hands of the Prime Minister. 300,000-plus signatures, 80% support for amending the anti-smacking law. Only the PM can prevent a costly Referendum. And Sheryl isn’t the $9 million dollar woman. Each person who signed the petition (300k) is the $30 protester!!!


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