email from John Key, Leader of National
Dear Mr Burns
Thank you for contacting me regarding Sue Bradford’s Member’s Bill proposing the repeal of Section 59. I have voted against the bill in previous stages and over 40 of my National Party colleagues have done the same. I will be continuing to vote this way, and will continue to make media comments against the bill. I am more constant on this issue than Helen Clark, who said prior to the election that she would not support such a bill.
A lot of people have spoken to me in recent months about this issue. I’ve heard from many who are worried they’ll be criminalised for being ordinary parents, and giving the odd light smack.
I’ve also heard from people who support the bill and think that no one should be able to hide behind Section 59 and get away with assaults on children. What people who support the Bill hope is that by changing the law we will send a message to all New Zealanders that child abuse is not acceptable.
I agree that a message needs to be sent. Child abuse is not acceptable. However, I do not believe the bill to repeal Section 59 will change anything for the children growing up in violent families. Nor do I see any good in criminalising good, ordinary, parents doing their best.
My colleague Chester Borrows is proposing an amendment to the bill. It is intended to be a sensible compromise, and I attach a copy for your information. The proposed amendments limit rather than abolish the use of reasonable force in disciplining children so, for example, the use of implements would be outlawed.
You will be aware that the debate on this bill has been extended due to the excellent work done in the House by my colleagues. This means the pressure can, and should, continue on the MPs who are working with the Greens in forcing this issue – specifically the Labour Party and Maori Party. Within the National Party several MPs have been given permission to vote for the bill. They have not taken this move lightly, and it has been the subject of much discussion within our caucus, but allowing people to follow their wishes on such votes is a long standing precedent within the Party. The Labour Party is not allowing such a process, and is forcing those MPs who do not agree with the bill to vote for it. The Maori Party has also come out for the bill, despite huge community concern. This means that Sue Bradford has the numbers to pass the bill, without any National support.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the National Party