News Media Reports
21 December 2006 - Crimes Act amendment smacked down AND POLL
Dec 21, 2006
The family law section of the Law Society says proposed amendments to Section 59 of the Crimes Act are inadequate.
A select committee decided to revise the anti-smacking bill in November by repealing Section 59 and replacing it with a section allowing the use of reasonable force in some situations.
Section chairman Simon Maude says the society has been mulling over the changes to the proposed bill and has decided they make things worse.
He says the proposal does nothing to assist police or the courts in defining what levels of force are allowed.
15 December 2006 - Family First - Children’s Needs, not Rights, should be the Focus
Children’s Needs, not Rights, should be the Focus
Friday, 15 December 2006, 10:28 am
Press Release: Family First
Children’s Needs, not Rights, should be the Focus
Bob McCoskrie –National Director Family First
Parents have every right to be very nervous over recent media reports of cases involving the rise in Children’s Rights.
The first warning shot was news of a teenager effectively ‘divorcing’ her parent because she didn’t like the family rules. The mother, in a letter to her local MP, listed reasons the daughter won under "unusual circumstances" to have guardianship placed with the court including the facts that the 16-year-old is given permission by her older sister to stay at friends' houses on school nights when that would be denied by her mother.
Otago University law faculty dean Mark Henaghan said the case is the consequence of the Care of Children Act (2005) which recognises children as independent entities rather than members of their families. The Act gives the wishes of children more prominence, removing age and maturity as factors in court decisions. Henaghan cites a case where a four-year-old's views should have been taken into account in a family dispute, and believes there will be a rise in such cases.
The report of a girl (well under the age of sexual consent) being sneaked off by her school to get contraceptives without any parental knowledge should be another warning.
The girl's stepmother only found the pills when she was cleaning out her stepdaughter's locker. The label on the box of pills showed the girl's name, care of the school, and one packet was dated back to when the girl was only 13. The parent, not surprisingly, felt a sense of absolute disbelief. The medical implications of being on the pill also concerned the family.
And we have Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking Bill which sends a clear message to parents that they are no longer primary guardians of their children. The State and its agencies know better and parents who responsibly correct their children will become guilty of assault and criminalised.
Ironically, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is constantly quoted as the catalyst for removing section 59, acknowledges the important role of parents in raising a child with appropriate direction, guidance, and correction.
It recognises the right, and duty, of parents to provide direction and guidance in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child. Yet our new, and ironically named, Care of Children Act says that age and maturity should not be factors when considering the views of a child.
Any parent knows that the capacity of a child is very different to the capacity of an adult. That’s why we have laws protecting children from sexual involvement and exploitation, driving vehicles, voting, drinking alcohol, certain purchases, watching violent and sexually explicit movies etc. That’s why we say “no pudding until you eat your peas”, and “get to bed now!” That’s why we need to train and correct children in a way that is different to how we deal with adults.
A recently published book on children’s rights “From Innocents to Agents – Children and Children’s Rights in New Zealand” by Dr Michael Reid, previously a researcher with research and public policy think tank the Maxim Institute, is compelling.
It highlights deep concerns around the politicisation of children’s rights.
Dr Reid says that children are no longer being seen as innocent and vulnerable, but as full human beings needing support to assert rights to autonomy and independence.
He warns that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is part of a wider attempt to redefine the family, and an “undermining of what some saw as oppressive parental rights to control children.”
For example, Articles 15 and 16 of the Convention argue the right of a child to associate with others, the right to protection from interference, and the right to privacy. Yet what happens when children want to start dating, stay out late, engage in sexual activity, and view objectionable video games or movies at home? Dr Reid warns that “as the wider rights culture moved to uphold the child’s individual autonomy, this came – in the home setting at least – at the expense of a parental right to prohibit these practices.”
Parents are right to be indignant about a government and state encroaching on ‘their turf’. Child abuse is truly awful but an increasing fixation with children's rights will not reduce child abuse.
Too many ‘concerned’ and ‘child-friendly’ organisations and governments are not only doing the worthy task of protecting children who are emotionally and physically vulnerable, but have adopted moral supremacy and appointed themselves as the experts on parenting and the well-being of children.
In an attempt to protect children from the small minority of parents who are obviously unsuitable to hold the responsibilities of parenting, we are steam-rolling good parents who deserve the backing of the state – not undermining and potentially criminalising.
A child’s rights should never be at the expense of the parental right to nurture, protect and set boundaries in a family setting. Rights of children have been shifted from simply protecting vulnerable children to granting them rights that are destructive to them, to good parenting practice, and to the welfare of the whole family in which they are being raised.
The nurturing needs of children should be paramount. They’ll have plenty of rights, and responsibilities, to worry about when they become adults.
28 November 2006 - The liberal establishment wants to ban smacking, but it's the parents we should
The liberal establishment wants to ban smacking, but it's the parents we should trust on how to discipline children.
The trouble with the
on smacking is there has been excess of knee-jerk, emotional reaction and a paucity of logical, objective thought. In fact, there hasn't really been a debate at all. Mostly contributions on the level of, "My mother walloped all of us and it never did us any harm," or alternatively, "My father used to beat me really unfairly, and I've hated him ever since."
The voice I've heard most often from those campaigning on the subject runs something like this: "If you'd seen the distressing abuse I've seen, you wouldn't hesitate to make hitting children a criminal offence." It's a powerful appeal. But it isn't rational. Abusing children is already a criminal offence. If the law can't stop it now, it won't stop it if we make smacking illegal. But that's not to say it won't have any effect. It certainly will.
But first we should decide on various principles of child rearing, one being whether or not we think incentives and disincentives are legitimate tools in the bringing up of children at all. There are some who think they are not. I have a very close friend who genuinely set out, when she started a family, with the view that any encouragement after a good deed was a form of bribery, and therefore somehow tacky. She would not cuddle, praise or enthuse about her children if they did something that pleased her, because she said they should be encouraged all the time. She certainly didn't believe in "punishment". You simply explain to children, that's all. Just try it.
I'm sorry to say that she was so ragged and exhausted after several children and several years of this ideology that she was yelling at her children all the time. She certainly punished them - but not with any method or system that enabled them to know when they were doing the right thing and would be rewarded, or how to avoid doing the wrong thing so they wouldn't reap its unpleasant circumstances.
The trouble with this beautiful theory is that it simply doesn't work. None of us responds only to explanation. Would you really never break the speed limit or park on a double yellow if it was simply explained to you why you shouldn't, but you knew there wouldn't ever be adverse consequences for you? Why do we bother to get out of bed and go to work in the morning? Aren't we all motivated by the incentive of the pay cheque and the disincentive of the sack? Would you go on buying Christmas presents for your loved one if he never even smiled at you to show you he was pleased, let alone thanked you and said how much he liked it?
Reasoning is fine ("he likes it; he just isn't very demonstrative") but the encouragement is what makes it worth it. Similarly, explanations are good ("Tommy doesn't like you spitting at him"), but it's the discouragement that actually stops us.
If we can't agree on this point, actually there is no further debate. If you honestly believe calm reasoning is enough to bring children up to do good and avoid wrong, good luck to you. Don't know how you're going to train your dog, but never mind. You go your way and the rest of us will go ours, because most sane people recognise that saying, "Well done!" to a child to encourage the right behaviour, and, "I'm really not pleased with you!" to discourage the wrong, is necessary to reinforce the result we want. Information is not enough.
Once this is established, the next question is what incentives and disincentives - or, to give them their politically incorrect names, what bribes and punishments - are most appropriate. And frankly, as long as they are both harmless and effective, I don't think it matters. I potty-trained each of our children with a jar of olives (one for a wee, two for a poo). I would never have used sweets because they're bad for them, but I wouldn't criticise other parents for doing so if they want to. I think shouting is distressing and best avoided, and would always prefer something calm like the "naughty stair".
In this context, given that a punishment has to have a certain unpleasantness about it if it's going to work, I can't for the life of me see why we get in such a lather about a smack. I would sometimes give our children a choice. Once, when two of ours, aged four and five, had done something really naughty - they had broken up a door with a claw hammer - and yes, when quizzed, they knew perfectly well it was wrong - I knew they needed a pretty severe punishment. So I gave them the option of going to their room for an hour, or having a smack that would be over immediately - but I warned them it would be a pretty hard one. They briefly conferred and opted for the smack. Do we really want this to be illegal?
And this raises a crucial distinction. Campaigners against smacking deliberately confuse the issue by calling it "hitting". But hitting is very different. Hitting happens in the heat of the moment after a loss of control - indeed, some, like Penelope Leach, even say losing one's rag is preferably to smacking "in cold blood". This is a very wrong, even dangerous, idea to propound.
Lashing out at a child in a temper, whether physically or verbally, is abuse. It is done for the benefit of the adult not the child, to relieve feelings rather than to discipline, and is far more likely to escalate into violence. It tends to be much more frightening, and is also likely to be humiliating. Smacking, properly used, is a controlled way of persuading your child that undesirable behaviour is not worth repeating. But if you prefer a "time out", the loss of a treat, or ten minutes on the bottom step, that's fine.
The issue is not whether smacking is necessary to raise children. (Of course it isn't.) The question is who is best qualified to decide. I believe it is parents, not politicians, who should rear their children - which is why the proposed change in the law is such a dreadful mistake. Not because we need to smack our children, but because we want them raised by the family, not the state.
Some years ago, a father
his child several times in a dentist's waiting room because she was getting hysterical about having her teeth attended to. He probably overstepped the mark (haven't we all?) but at least, as a result, the dentist was able to fix the problem that had been keeping her awake every night with the pain. But alas, the father's mistake was not hitting her too hard or too often (she'd recovered from that by the time she'd left the dentist's chair), but doing it in public, where a social worker saw him and reported him. He was removed from the family for the next fortnight so the poor child had to spend Christmas without her daddy.
I happened to speak to the mother a year or so later. Her husband had lost his teaching job; they'd had to sell their house, and they could no longer afford all the luxuries her daughter had loved - her piano lessons, her ballet classes. Her father upset her for a few minutes. The state has traumatised her, perhaps for life.
23 November 2006 - Wanganui Chronicle - Borrows seeks change to smacking bill
Borrows seeks change to smacking bill
By MARY BRYAN
AN AMENDMENT drawn up by Wanganui National MP Chester Borrows will take the fight against Green MP Sue Bradford’s total ban on smacking bill to the next stage.
“The amendment has been checked by the president of the Law Commission Sir Geoffrey Palmer (a former Labour Prime Minister). I’m hopeful it will be accepted by Parliament.
Common sense has to be listened to,” Mr Borrows told the Chronicle.
Parliament’s second reading of the bill is expected in mid to late February, at which stage the amendment will be put for debate.
National’s spokesperson on Ms Bradford’s bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act, Mr Borrows was seconded onto the Justice Select Committee.
Section 59 allows “reasonable force” (to be used against a child for the purpose of correction), and he is concerned that the Select Committee’s replacement clause does not allow smacking.
“The replacement allows for restraint such as holding a child, or picking them up, but not for smacking.
“I want to see the bill limit the degree of force which can be used for correction, and worded so that parents who should be prosecuted can be. But the bill needs to give protection to good parents who smack their children occasionally.
“The protection needs to be written into the law. The public have a right to know with certainty and clarity the law they have to abide by.”
Sue Bradford, he said, believed the police would not charge people for smacking their kids, but “Police Association president Greg O’Connor has made it clear the police will have to pursue offences that are disclosed”.
Also the bill, as amended, did not take into account the 10 or so surveys that had been done, all of which had found New Zealanders did not want parents criminalised for smacking children.
“As well as the surveys, I have spoken to a number of children, all of whom have said they would rather have a quick smack for doing something wrong than lose privileges. “With a smack, straight away the matter is dealt with and immediately and done with.”
Meanwhile, Plunket would rather have seen a full repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act.
“Plunket sees over 90 percent of babies born in New Zealand. As an organisation we called for repeal of Section 59 as a signal that violence against children will not be tolerated,” Kaye Crowther, New Zealand President, Royal New Zealand Plunket Society said.
A Chronicle street poll yesterday found people were unanimous in their belief that smacks on the hands and legs as a way of keeping children safe were necessary at times.
22 November 2006 - Family Integrity Press Release - Depriving Children of Clear Standards is Harmful
Depriving Children of Clear Standards is Harmful
Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 9:57 am
Press Release: Family Integrity
For Immediate Distribution
Depriving Children of Clear Standards is Harmful
The Select Committee's proposed replacement of Section 59 specifically says reasonable force is to be totally prohibited for the purpose of correcting children. Bradford has at last revealed her true intentions: that parents should be prevented by law from correcting their own children.
In spite of Bradford's consistent ranting against the use of force, this new Section 59 she and the Committee have come up with says three times that reasonable force can be used by parents to prevent their children from doing something. However nowhere is force allowed to make the child do something he should, to behave in a way the parents insist upon.
Reasonable force can be used to stop some (but not all) behaviour the parent may want to stop, but nothing in this law allows parents to use reasonable force to get the child to behave in a way the parent requires.
Part of parenting is teaching right and proper behaviour and speech, teaching right from wrong, good from bad, wise from unwise. Will this law allow parents to enforce standards such as: making the child apologise to anyone or to address elders by using "Mr" or "Mrs" or "Dr", etc? Will parents be legally able to cause their children to conform to their standards of dress, grooming, speech and behaviour if the standard being set by the child cannot be called offensive or disruptive, but just not up to the standard required by the parents? Can parents legally correct children's bad grammar or slang? Can parents stop their children from visiting a friend if going over there is not obviously harmful, is not a criminal offense, is not offensive or disruptive, but the parent simply thinks the other household is a bad influence? This Bill is totally unworkable. It supposedly allows a parent to use reasonable force to cause a child to cease offensive behaviour. But is this not how one corrects a child? First stop the unacceptable and then coach in doing the acceptable? And yet correction is specifically forbidden by this Bill. It is a nonsense.
This Bill is a direct attack on parents, parenting and parental authority. It wants to forbid parents from imposing their standards upon their own children by forbidding them to correct their own children. It is incredibly harmful to children morally, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and academically to present them with unclear and ambiguous standards or to be inconsistent in enforcing them. This Bill puts good parents into a quagmire of uncertainty as to how or even if they can legally impose and then enforce any standards at all upon their children without falling foul of the law.
The sooner we dump this Bill the better.
21 November 2006 - Ashburton Guardian: Editorial Comment
Editorial comment November 21
By Grant Shimmin
It’s an issue every parent or caregiver has been confronted with at some point, and most likely on numerous occasions. Whether or not to smack an errant child.
And it seems that question is getter closer to being a decision about whether or not to commit a criminal offence.
Green MP Sue Bradford’s bill, aimed at getting rid of section 59 of the Crimes Act, which allows “reasonable force” in disciplining children, has moved a step closer to becoming law after Parliament’s justice committee recommended the bill pass with an amendment defining the circumstances in which reasonable physical force may be used.
But it hardly seems that situations like pulling a child’s hand away from a hot stove or grabbing a child about to run into the road are the same circumstances where smacking may come into play.
And essentially, this bill will tell us that if we smack, we’re committing an offence.
This bill had the best of intentions. It was clearly aimed at reducing violence against children, a worthy cause if ever there was one.
But as one pretty experienced parent said this morning, there’s no way this proposed change is going to stop situations where children are bashed to death by parents or family members. Believe it or not, that’s always been illegal. There are laws and punishments available for such offending.
What this bill risks doing is putting hundreds of thousands of reasonable, loving parents under a cloud of uncertainty.
According to one report today, the bill’s promoters, led by Bradford, are saying reasonable parents who give their kids a light smack don’t risk legal sanction.
“The current police prosecution guidelines and the current practice of judges is not to prosecute people for trivial and minor offences,” she’s quoted as saying.
It’s an assurance, but it’s certainly not a guarantee. The point is that it will still be an offence to smack and reasonable, loving parents who discipline their kids for the own good don’t want to be made to feel that they’re committing a criminal offence.
By all means, punish child abusers to the fullest extent of the law, but leave the vast majority of good parents to raise their kids without a legal sword hanging over them.
20 November 2006 - Family Integrity Press Release - Criminalisation of Parents Confirmed
At last MP Sue Bradford has been forced to admit her real objectives of her bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act. The Justice and Electoral Select Committee's report shows it was not to reduce violence but to hamstring parents.
The committee has re-written Section 59 so that it lists the occasions when reasonable force can be used by parents with their children. This categorising of legitimate uses of force was something Bradford consistently railed against as totally unacceptable. But she has helped delineate and describe four situations. Three of those have to do with preventing behaviour that might lead to harm, or crime, or is offensive or disruptive. The fourth simply allows parents to use reasonable force for "performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting."
But the re-write specifically and pointedly prohibits reasonable force to be used if the motivation is to correct.
Parents are to be legally prohibited from correcting their own children! How revealing of Bradford's purposes! The original Section 59 only allows the use of reasonable force for one reason: correction. Bradford's new version of Section 59 only specifically prohibits the use of force for one reason: correction.
Correcting children with force of any kind, however light, is specifically prohibited. Yet part of parenting is teaching right and proper behaviour and speech, teaching manners and etiquette, teaching grooming and modesty, teaching right from wrong, good from bad, wise from unwise. Reasonable force can be used to stop some but not all bad behaviour the parents may want to stop. But nothing in this law appears to allow parents to use force to get the child to behave in a way the parent may require or that culture, tradition or societal norms expect. This new Section 59 allows the use of reasonable force to stop some types of bad behaviour, but does not allow the use of force to enforce the performance or practise of any kind of good behaviour.
The standard of public behaviour will obviously sink to the lowest level generally acceptable, since parents will not be legally allowed to force children to maintain higher standards. Disobedience and disrespect will blossom. Those who feed on such dysfunction can see a bonanza on the horizon: it was as if this legislation had the future welfare of counsellors, psychologists, lawyers and the exploding numbers of child and family advocacy and interventionist groups in mind.
This Bill has become totally unworkable. It shows that the purpose has nothing at all to do with violence or excessive force against children, which things are already illegal. The purpose of this bill all along has been to repeal parental authority over their own children, to minimise and compromise a parent's ability to correct, train or discipline his or her child to act, dress or speak to any standard imposed by the parent.
Correction of children is to be illegal. This is absurd. It is insane.
20 November 2006 - Family First Press Release - Parents Should Be Worried
Family First Press Release - Select Committee ignores the facts on smacking; parents should be worried
20 NOVEMBER 2006
Select Committee ignores the facts on smacking, and parents should be worried
The Justice and Electoral Committee’s announcement that the majority are supporting the Bill designed to remove the statutory defence for parents who use force against their children for the purpose of correction, should cause parents to shiver in their boots.
“We have just heard about the right of a teenager to effectively ‘divorce’ their parent because they don’t like the family rules, a 12 year old being sneaked off to get contraceptives by their school, and now this Bill,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First. “Parents in NZ should be horrified by the way their authority and responsibilities are being undermined.”
The majority view of the Select Committee has ignored a number of key issues:
1. Child abuse is already illegal in New Zealand - Repealing s59 isn’t needed, because the law already says that child abusers have committed a crime. Since 1990, there have only been seven successful defences under s59 – that’s seven in 16 years!
2. If s59 is repealed, good parents will be treated as criminals under the law - The police have confirmed, and has been confirmed by two Queen’s Counsels that smacking a child would be assault. They will have to investigate any complaint made against a parent for smacking or even removal to ‘time out’. This will immediately place a family under enormous pressure. The police have to enforce the law, regardless of what politicians say.
3. Banning smacking will not stop child abuse - In 2003, a UNICEF report identified poverty, stress and family breakdown – along with drug and alcohol abuse – as the factors most closely and consistently associated with child abuse and neglect. Of the five countries with the lowest child abuse death rates in the UNICEF report, four allow smacking!
4. Reasonable smacking does not damage children or teach them to be violent - A recent Otago University study found that children who were smacked in a reasonable way had similar or slightly better outcomes in terms of aggression, substance abuse, adult convictions and school achievement than those who were not smacked at all.
“The Select Committee has chosen to ignore the 80% of NZ’ers who know the difference between a smack and child abuse, and want s59 retained,” says Mr McCoskrie. “The Politicians must support kiwi parents and reject repeal.”
For more information contact Family First:
Bob McCoskrie JP
Tel. 09 261 2426 | Mob. 027 55 555 42
email. email@example.com | www.familyfirst.org.nz
P.O. Box 276-133, Manukau City, Auckland, New Zealand
30 October 2006 - Victim decries sex link to discipline
Printed on October 30, 2006
Victim decries sex link to discipline
A woman who was severely abused as a child is decrying MP Sue Bradford 's attempts to equate physical discipline with abuse and to demonise Christians who discipline their children.
In a speech Ms Bradford made even stronger allegations, linking discipline and sexual abuse.
She said: "Personally, I have no problem with sadomasochism carried out between consenting adults using safe sex practices. What I do have a problem with is a legacy of hidden sexual violence practised on children and young people under a mantle of so-called discipline. Section 59 of the Crimes Act has been protecting the perpetrators of a vicious mix of sexual and physical abuse for generations."
Former Christchurch woman Glenyss Barker, who lately moved to Melbourne, says that as a child she was in a family that suffered horrific abuse from an alcoholic father.
"I can now speak because both my parents are dead and it will not cause them any pain to do this. My mother was abused, as were all of my siblings. Being the youngest, I believe I probably got off more lightly but the memories are still there.
"Because of this experience I am fully aware, as I was as a little girl, of the difference between 'abuse ' and 'discipline '. After the family broke up and the divorce, my mother did discipline us with smacks and I knew that this was not abuse, but justified because my actions had needed to be reprimanded.
"All children need guidance and, at times, something stronger than a word to make them behave. Children with strong personalities will always try to push the boundaries but they need to know the adults are in charge and are to be obeyed.
"As a teacher it was also apparent to me which children were loved and cared for, and I was always aware of the children who were not disciplined at home. They were often the ones wanting stricter guidelines in the classroom, and they responded very well to classroom structure and order."
Mrs Barker says repealing Section 59 of the Crimes Act will do nothing to correct abuse in New Zealand homes, but it will make loving parents fearful and prevent them from sensibly disciplining children so they grow up as mature, caring adults.
"My children have reflected that they respect the discipline in our home and I am very proud of the young women they have grown into. We disciplined them when it was needed, but did not abuse them - they like me, even as children, recognised the difference."
Mrs Barker says to regard loving discipline or a smack as abuse shows that people do not have any idea of what abuse really is.
"I do - it happened to me and I really am worried that Ms Bradford is seeking to remove the only help parents have to assert the authority needed to ensure children are brought up knowing their actions have consequences in life."
Mrs Barker was formerly secretary of the television viewers organisation VoTE (Viewers for Television Excellence).
She says the deluge of extremely violent and sexual scenes daily on TV is a far better documented cause of the breakdown in homes than parental discipline. The instances of teenage murder and violence lately are ample examples of the effect copycat violence is having.
"If Ms Bradford honestly wishes to reduce the amount of child abuse in homes she should start with the dreadful programmes that are screened during the times children are known to be up and watching TV," she says.