Waikato people smack law down

Waikato people smack law down

By BRUCE HOLLOWAY – Waikato Times


Waikato residents have given overwhelming support to allowing parents to smack their children. Some 92 per cent of Waikato people who plan to vote in the current postal referendum voting papers went out yesterday are against smacking of children being a criminal offence, according to a telephone survey of 409 people in a Waikato Times-Versus telephone poll. The poll was run this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. The results are a continuation of the high popularity for sanctioning smacking that has registered in national and regional polls for the past four years. But the Government has already said it won't change the two-year-old law, which Prime Minister John Key thinks is working well. The Times poll showed 70 per cent of Waikato residents planned to vote in the referendum, with that rising as high at 78 per cent within Hamilton. Females (76 per cent) were also more likely to vote. Residents were asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" Just 8 per cent said yes. The wording, while awkward, is exactly the same as for the postal referendum. That phrasing has been widely condemned for automatically assuming a smack is part of good parental correction, and requiring those supporting smacking to vote "no". But 60 per cent of Waikato survey respondents thought the question was clearly worded 35 per cent thought it wasn't. A citizen-initiated referendum is not binding. Whatever the result, Parliament is not required to implement the will of the people. The Waikato Times asked Hamilton West National MP Tim Macindoe an opponent of the so-called anti-smacking law what pressure he would bear on his government colleagues as a result of such overwhelming support. "The figures speak for themselves, and I maintain the view that the no vote ought to be respected," he said. "But beyond that, in caucus it is a collective decision, and there is no party line on this. We are not being whipped [controlled by party whips] on this issue." Ahead of speaking at the national Toughlove conference in Hamilton last night, Mr Macindoe said the poll gave a clear indication of public sentiment. "There is a strong body of opinion coming through and all politicians will look at it closely." Asked how he felt about his Government potentially ignoring the voice of the people, Mr Macindoe said the prime minister had always said if there was any evidence it wasn't working, the Government would move to change it. Mr Macindoe conceded there was little sign the legislation was not working. Legislation was amended two years ago to remove the defence of reasonable force for the use of disciplinary purposes on children. A review of police activity shows the amendment has had minimal impact, while agencies which deal with dysfunctional families say the law is useful. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.85 per cent.


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