News Media Reports
23 February 2007 - Marc Alexander - Smacking away parental rights
Marc Alexander - Smacking away parental rights
Friday, 23 February 2007, 4:54 pm
Press Release: Marc Alexander
Marc My Words…
23 February 2007
By Marc Alexander
Smacking away parental rights
Seems to me we’ve let the lunatics have free reign in parliament. Sue Bradford's private members bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act was backed by Labour, the rest of the Greens, the leader of the so-called Progressives and United last Wednesday. Despite the rhetoric and hot-air on the issue regarding being opposed to child abuse, no-one should be misled: the bill, if passed, cuts to the heart of the role of parenting. This is the nanny state intruding on the rights of parents. Bradford, Clark et al desperately want to apply this kind of ‘feel good’ interventionist balm on the canker of child abuse as a way to ‘prove’ that they’re doing something about it.
Does anyone really think that doing away with parental rights to determine the appropriateness of discipline will have any effect on our child abuse rates? This is nothing less than bringing in the state to intercede and disrupt the family relationships. It is an attack on ‘family’.
Now…the piece of legislation (Crimes Act 1961) at the heart of the debate is an example of simplicity and elegance. It reads:
(1) Every parent of a child and, subject to subsection (3) of this section, every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.
(2) The reasonableness of the force used is a question of fact.
How hard is it to understand the word reasonable? By definition it precludes abuse. Tinkering and word-smithing will increase the likelihood of ambiguity not diminish it. Once we go down the track of saying what implement, force or purpose may be applied, we’ve already lost the plot by trying to encapsulate a contingency for what constitutes reasonable. In a very real way, we destroy rather than enhance its meaning.
To yank a child from the road when in danger from traffic is using reasonable force. Similarly it can also apply if your child is self-harming and physical restraint is needed. There are many situations where not to apply reasonable force might itself constitute abuse.
In any case, the repeal of section 59 will criminalise parents and turn their children, neighbours and school teachers into government ‘spies’ as the frontline to ensure compliance. Parents will risk prosecution, fines or a prison sentence. Meanwhile the child would be removed from the home and placed in state care. That may be a scarier prospect than even CYF’s may care to admit. On June 17, 2002 the Dominion ran a report showing that in the previous three years more than 150 children had been removed from State foster parents after being physically, sexually or emotionally abused by them. Details issued by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services under the Official Information Act show that between July 1999 and June 2000, 61 children were removed from their foster parents’care after suffering substantiated instances of abuse. These are kids who were removed from their original families on the premise that they would be safer in State care!
Fifty-two children were removed from foster care between July 2000 and June 2001, and 45 between July 2001 and March 2002. That constitutes a rate of abuse of children under 17 twice the rate occurring in the general population. Those who claim that no police would prosecute a clearly sensible application of the law (as a result of the repeal of section 59), miss the point – some over-zealous 24 year old idealistic social worker with the best of intentions would!
In many cases the biggest abuse of our children is not committed by parents but by the state.
Sadly, we have a tragic record of child abuse in this country: ten year old Craig Manukau was kicked to death, Delcelia Witika, Anaru Rogers, James Whakaruru, and little Lillybing of Carterton all died at the hands of their caregivers. Another toddler, two-year-old Sade Trembath, was beaten so badly by her grandmother that she has permanent brain damage. Let’s not forget the murder charge laid against Hamilton foster father Michael Waterhouse for the death of three year old Huntly boy, Tamati Pokia. The shameful roll call goes on.
Before we get carried away…let’s pause and reflect that in none of these instances was there even a faint hint of reasonableness: these were all instances of appalling abuse. How many truly believe that a change to section 59 would have saved any of them?
How we deal with child abuse in New Zealand has nothing to do with section 59, but everything to do with a disparity between parental responsibility and abuse of children. To criminalise the majority of parents in order to deal with a proportionately small group of truly ‘evil parents’ is patently absurd.
If we want parents to be held responsible for how their kids turn out, why are we taking away the means by which some parents can parent? If it is child abuse we want to target, then let’s stop wasting time attacking good parents and do more to prevent abuse happening in the first place. Let’s start treating those parents as the criminals they surely are, with meaningful sentences.
Child abuse is already illegal and isn't protected by section 59 anyway. If the likes of Sue Bradford really did want to do something about child abuse then lets 'up' the penalties. Why not provide meaningful sentences and a term of natural life for the very worst offenders?
The Bradford Bill is the latest in a prolonged attack against our kids. The simple truth is that government no longer trusts the people. Under Labour, and the influence of the Greens, they have enacted legislation that strips the primacy of family in society – replacing it with itself. By blinding us with an orgy of diversity-based rights, the last bastion of inter-generational strength, the family, is being unceremoniously dumped from centre-stage. The rights of children to a mother and father, parental discipline tempered within an environment of love, compassion, and commitment is close to being a thing of the past. The institution of family is slowly being eroded and replaced by an accommodation of expressly defined relationships sanctioned by the state.
Ever since they abandoned all the other disciplinary measures my forbears and I grew up with (strapping, caning etc) I note how the violent crime rate has exploded. How much more will the Bradford restrictions on parental discipline exacerbate that I wonder?
When governments start debating what reasonable means, when they second-guess the care provided by good parents, and confuse parental responsibility with child abuse, it’s clear they deserve to lose the confidence of those they purport to represent. They need to go.
22 February 2007 - Larry Baldock/Sheryl Savill - Petitions on Smacking, Families launched - Maxim In
Petitions on Smacking, Families launched
Thursday, 22 February 2007, 2:15 pm
Press Release: Larry Baldock and Sheryl Savill
Press release embargoed until 1.30pm Thursday 22nd February, 2007
Larry Baldock and Sheryl Savill will hold a press conference at the Kingsgate Hotel Gilbert room, 92 Gladstone Rd, Parnell at 1.30pm Thursday 22nd Feb to officially launch two Citizens initiated Referendum petitions which will ask the following questions;
1.) “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” proposed by Sheryl Savill
2.) "Should the Government give urgent priority to understanding and addressing the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse in NZ" proposed by Larry Baldock.
With the passing of Sue Bradford’s anti smacking, anti correction bill through another stage in parliament last night, it is time for all New Zealander’s to have an opportunity to have their opinion heard in a concrete and constructive way.
Our purpose in promoting this initiative is at least threefold.
Firstly, by obtaining at least 300,000 signatures on both petitions in the next few months as the bill is debated in parliament, we can send a strong signal to all MP’s about how seriously concerned many good New Zealand parents feel about the possibility of being criminalised if the bill is passed in its current form.
Secondly if parliament refuses to listen to the overwhelming majority of us who have indicated in survey after survey that we do not support the banning of smacking, then the Petition will enable our dissent to be clearly counted in a formal referendum at the next election.
Finally through the second petition we hope to channel the enormous public energy being generated by this debate into a positive and constructive message to government that the majority of New Zealanders will support sensible and constructive efforts to address our unacceptable statistics in regard to our children and young people.
We reject absolutely the ill conceived notion that the proposed ban on smacking will do anything to stop child abuse. But we must not simply become aroused in our opposition to legislation and then sink back into life as normal, without identifying and supporting alternative solutions. Once the initial step of collecting the required number of signatures is completed, we will be able to engage in a wide discussion about what the Government could and should do, to help in addressing the reality that for too many of our children in this country the quality of their family life is unacceptable.
Petition forms can be obtained by emailing CIRPetition[at]xtra.co.nz
Or writing to CIR Petition P.O.Box 9228, Greerton Tauranga.
No. 241 | 22 February 2007
Two votes down, one to go
After heated debate last night, Parliament advanced the so-called "anti-smacking" Bill another stage. The Bill passed its second reading by 70-51, with Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party all voting in favour of the Bill. They were joined by United Future Leader Peter Dunne, three New Zealand First MPs and six National MPs.
The Bill will now be set down for what is known as the "Committee of the whole House" stage, where any MP can suggest an amendment to it as a precursor to the third and final reading. During this stage, National MP Chester Borrows will propose an amendment which aims to define reasonable force, while allowing parents to use physical force for the purposes of correction.
This amendment is a sensible solution to a complicated and technical issue and if the amendment has the support of 61 or more MPs it will replace the original Bill. However, sponsor of the original Bill, Green MP Sue Bradford, has threatened to abandon her Bill altogether if the amendment passes, because retaining a right of physical discipline "cuts across the intent of the Bill", and she has committed to fighting the amendment "tooth and nail".
Both supporters and opponents of the Bill agree that child abuse is patently abhorrent. New Zealand has a tragically high rate of child abuse and something must be done to reduce it. However, it is doubtful whether the Bill would make a difference in this regard, and it would have significant negative consequences, including the criminalising of ordinary parents for using mild physical discipline such as a light smack.
In the debate last night, Ms Bradford insisted that her Bill would not criminalise parents. While this might be her intention, there can be no doubt that the Bill would result in mild discipline falling within the definition of "assault", thus exposing parents to the risk of criminal prosecution. This is not something good and loving parents should ever have to fear. A great majority of Kiwi parents are decent and competent and should be entrusted with the authority and the responsibility to raise, and discipline, their children.
With the third reading expected as early as three weeks from now, Parliament will have to decide whether to enact an unworkable law that criminalises parents, or whether to accept a reasonable compromise. Hopefully, commonsense will win the day.
See how your MP voted at the second reading:
Read an Issue Snapshot on the repeal of section 59:
Read Chester Borrows' proposed amendment:
Write to the editor: