Posts Tagged ‘Vote No’

Anti-smacking side concede loss likely

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Anti-smacking side concede loss likely


Larry Baldock

HOT ISSUE: Larry Baldock with boxes of petitions in 2008. The petition, circulated nationwide, led to the referendum.

Campaigners on both sides of the smacking debate believe a referendum result due out tonight will be a victory for those who opposed a controversial 2007 law change.

We will bring you results of the referendum as soon as they are available this evening.

Preliminary results from the controversial $9 million citizens-initiated poll are due at 8.30pm this evening  although they are not binding, and the government has not signalled any intention to act on the result.

Those behind the referendum, which asks: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” believe the majority of respondents will have voted no. As of last Friday, 1,330,900 votes had been cast.

“I’ve been working on this for 32 months and to get the final result it will be great,” Kiwi Party leader Larry Baldock, who initiated the referendum, said.

“I think it will definitely be a majority no vote.”

The referendum follows a controversial law change in 2007 led by Green Party MP Sue Bradford which repealed Section 59 in the Crimes Act, a clause which made it legal for parents to use reasonable force to discipline a child.

The law change made it illegal for parents to use force against their children but affords police discretionary powers not to prosecute where the offence is considered inconsequential.

Mr Baldock said the 2007 Act should be repealed, and is so confident the majority of Kiwis feels the same that he has already organised a party at an Auckland motel for supporters, where they will gather to await the result.

Vote Yes spokeswoman and former NZ First MP Deborah Morris-Travers said the group that opposes smacking did not expect the vote to go their way.

“We’ve always expected that the majority vote would be a No vote because, of course, thats how the question is put. It’s a loaded question.”

However, she said the campaign had allowed them to (miss-educate)  educate people about the law and address (spread) some of the misinformation that surrounded it.

She pointed to the latest police statistics which, she said, proved concerns in the community that large numbers of parents would be criminalised for smacking were unfounded.

(No any good family that comes before the Police and CYFs is unnecessary and traumatic for the family)

The figures from the latest six-month review showed police attended 279 child assault events in the six-month review period between last October and April.

Of those events, 39 involved “minor acts of physical discipline”, with four resulting in prosecutions. Eight of those involved smacking.

During the previous review period, police attended 258 child assault events of which 49 were “minor acts of physical discipline” and nine involved smacking.

Police said there had been little impact on their workloads since the law was enacted.

“It’s hardly thousands and thousands of parents are being criminalised because they are absolutely not,” Ms Morris-Travers said

(One good family criminalised is too many – especially if it is your family)

She said she had detected a sea change in people’s attitudes and New Zealanders needed to give the law a chance.

“They can have confidence in [the law] and they can have confidence in the way the police are administering the law,” she said.

The No campaigners would be making recommendations on how the law should be changed and hoped Prime Minister John Key would act quickly, Mr Baldock said.

Mr Baldock said little had been gained from the legislation so far.

“If you look at all the time and money and, you know, angst thats been expended on this for the past three or four years and for what gain?” he said.

However, both Mr Key and opposition leader Phil Goff have said they are comfortable with the legislation as it stands and a No vote would not change that.

The smacking referendum – my summary

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

As plenty of readers will already know, New Zealanders are currently taking part in a postal referendum on the issue of whether or not a parent smacking a child under any circumstances should be a crime. I have already voted no.

In 2007 Sue Bradford of the Green Party was successful in having section 59 of the crimes act repealed and replaced with a new version. The former version provided exceptions to the law concerning assault, providing a defence. It permitted parents to use “reasonable force” in the process of correcting their children. This would include, putting a child in her room against her will, administering a smack, placing a child on the “naughty stool” when he didn’t want to go, and so on. These are all uses of force, and are acceptable provided they are done within reason (e.g. hurling a child into her room would not be allowed, and nor would punching a child’s lights out or shoving him into the stool).

This defence was necessary because of the unique relationship that parents have with children. Obviously it would be illegal for me to select a random adult and force him into a bedroom and require him to stay there. That would be assault and unlawful detention, as would making him sit on a stool against his will, and smacking him would just be common assault. So there was a natural and obvious difference between the rights and protections given to another adult and those given to a child. This is reflected in other aspects of law too (e.g. children can’t buy alcohol, vote, consent to sex, get married, drive a car etc). Those who say, for example “if you can’t do it to an adult, why should you be allowed to do it to a child?” are just not thinking seriously about the issues at all.

The new section 59 erases this defence completely. In its place here’s what it now says, as law professor Jim Evans pointed out:

Subsection (1) of the new section 59 allows a parent (or person in the place of a parent) to use force that is reasonable in the circumstances for the purpose of (a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person, (b) preventing the child from engaging in a criminal offence, (c) preventing the child from engaging in offensive or disruptive behaviour, or (d) performing the normal daily tasks incidental to good care and parenting.

So far so good. “But wait a minute,” you might think. “part (d) would allow a smack, provided it was part of good parenting.” Up to this point, maybe, but then check subsection (2) of the new version. It reads: “Nothing in subsection (1) justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.” Subsection (3) adds: “Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).”
Subsection (2) is where the problem arises, and it is this section that now prompts people to call for a law change. So here is the issue: Force is allowed as part of “good care and parenting,” provided it’s not corrective. Now wait a minute, isn’t correction part of good care and parenting? Confused yet?

In case it wasn’t unclear enough for parents already, subsection 4 makes it even worse, allowing police discretion when this crime of assault against children is committed, enabling them to decide for themselves which criminal acts to prosecute. So a law that is already now written in doublespeak then gives police sole discretion in deciding whether or not to prosecute, in a case where the defence of reasonable force in correcting a child is no longer available.

Because of the wording of subsection 1, which refers to “good care and parenting,” and because of the wording of subsection 2 (which for many, introduces confusion), referring to “correction” as though it was excluded from good care and parenting opponents of the law change had the referendum question worded as follows, following the lead of the legislation:

“Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

The question was written precisely because of the terms used in the new law, asking new Zealanders, in effect, whether they agreed with the divide that the law proposed between “good care and parenting” in which reasonable force was allowed, and “correction” in which no force at all was allowed.

I think that the facts as spelled out above are relatively simple and easy to ascertain. However, the supporters of Sue Bradford’s law change, as well as supporters of voting “Yes” in the referendum (the two groups partly overlap) have set out on a campaign of misinformation and deception, along with bungled and careless reading of the law.

John Roughan is among the worst offenders. In reply to the claim that the law is unclear or possibly inconsistent, he writes that subsection (1) clearly allows smacking, so there’s no ban on smacking here at all! He further implies that anyone who is worried about subsection (2) is supporting the right to inflict “a cold-blooded assault” intended to leave a defenceless child  “in pain and fear.” He claims that there’s absolutely no tension in the law because it’s obvious that “correction” in subsection 2 refers to this type of assault, or to things like “ritual thrashings.”

Fortunately, uncritical opponents of the referendum (like those who reproduced Roughan’s material online as gospel) weren’t the only ones reading. Roughan’s legally uninformed perspective was itself given a good thrashing in the same newspaper by Professor Emeritus of law at Auckland University, Dr Jim Evans (see here). He explains just how the new section 59 is in fact unclear and a poor piece of legislation.

Others (e.g. the propaganda site “yesvote”) have claimed that the wording of the referendum question is loaded because it uses the word “good” and repetitive because it uses the word “correction.” This just represents a failure to understand the specific legal reasons why those terms were chosen. They were chosen because subsection (1) allows force as part of good parenting, and yet subsection (2) forbids force in cases of correction. The referendum question then asks parents if correction using force can indeed be part of good parenting. The only ones claiming that the question is loaded or unclear are those who are motivated to do so, namely those who themselves fully understand the question but who want people to vote “Yes.”

There’s a good list of frequently asked questions over at

But isn’t “Vote no” a propaganda group too? Sure, in the sense that they are trying to influence opinion. They do, however, draw on the legal facts of the matter, along with evidence that the new law is not making any positive difference in the abuse rates of children, and they also illustrate the negative impact of the law on good parents in New Zealand. If the facts are in poor taste, then that website’s up to no good!

So for what it’s worth, if you haven’t voted yet, vote NO.

To view the comments and to make a comment go to:

PM warned over smacking referendum

Monday, August 10th, 2009

PM warned over smacking referendum

By GRAHAME ARMSTRONG – Sunday Star Times

Last updated 05:00 09/08/2009

ROB KITCHIN/Dominion Post
HITTING KIDS: John Key has said the law will not be changed back unless it can be shown that good parents are being prosecuted for light smacking.

ACT Party leader Rodney Hide has warned Prime Minister John Key of a public backlash if the government ignores the result of the controversial smacking referendum.

Snubbing the referendum result sends a message that politicians know what’s best for the people and that the government is running a “nanny state”, Hide wrote in a letter delivered to Key’s office on Friday.

The referendum question asks: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand.” The postal ballot, which is voluntary, opened on July 31 and closes on August 21. As of Thursday, chief electoral officer Robert Penden said 570,300 people had voted.

Those who believe parents should be allowed to smack their children have campaigned strongly for a “no” vote. They want to repeal the 2007 law that removed the defence of reasonable force in child-assault cases.

Key, however, has said the law will not be changed back unless it can be shown that good parents are being prosecuted for light smacking.

He described the referendum question as “pretty weird” and a case of “yes means no and no means yes”.

“It could have been written by Dr Seuss,” Key said.

The referendum has also been controversial for its $9 million cost.

In the letter to Key, Hide, who said he had been shocked by the number of parents who had been unfairly treated under the new law, urged the prime minister to act on the result of the referendum, a sign that the “no” campaign believe they will score a decisive victory.

Hide told Key the law change two years ago had driven a wedge between parent and child and although some people might disapprove of the way others behaved, it did not give them the right to make the others criminals, “unless their behaviour is demonstrably causing harm”.

Hide said one of the reasons Labour lost the last election was because people were sick of being told how to live their lives by politicians and “it would be a tragedy if, six months into your government, a nanny state tendency emerged once again in ignoring the clear wish of the people… ”

“The referendum gives an opportunity for the public to speak. Their views must be respected.”

But the “yes” campaign says the government and parliament should wait for a review of the new law, due to be completed this year, before it responds to the referendum.