Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Muriel Newman on S59

from www.murielnewman.co.nz

New Zealand is being conned over the so-called anti-smacking bill.

Touted as being the way to prevent child abuse, this bill is part of an international movement designed to undermine parental authority and increase state control over children. While a dozen or so countries have succumbed to the pressure of the anti-smacking lobby and the United Nations, the overwhelming majority have not (see "Smacking Laws in other Countries" BBC News Online>>>).

The promoters of the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill want to remove section 59 of the Crimes Act, so that parents who discipline their children using "reasonable" force will no longer be protected from the charge of assault. They claim this is necessary because section 59 is being used as a shield to protect child abusers. Yet since 1990 there have only been seven successful defenses using section 59!

The public can recognize a con job when they see one. That is why they are fighting back with email campaigns, newspaper advertisements, marches, meetings, petitions and debates. It is this organised opposition that is threatening Labour to such an extent that they are now plotting to undermine the democratic process by calling the House into urgency. If they succeed, the bill will be fast-tracked through Parliament with the rest of the committee stages and the final third reading all held this week.

At the centre of the controversy over the bill is the Prime Minister. She reassured the country before the last election that she would not support a smacking ban: "As you know I do not support a ban on smacking. I am opposed to that because I think it defies human nature. No one wants to see a stressed and harassed parent who in exasperation lightly smacks a child dragged before the court." (see >>> )

The Minister of Justice at the time, Phil Goff agreed saying that while he supported the bill going to a select committee, he did not want to make criminals out of parents (click here to read the Herald article >>>).

When the bill was first introduced into Parliament, Labour MPs were asked to support it to a select committee on the understanding they would be given a conscience vote for the subsequent stages. However, when Philip Field resigned and Labour needed the Green Party's support to stay in power, all of that changed and the Prime Minister now expects all Labour MPs to vote with the party.

But in a Parliamentary democracy they don't have to do that. MPs have sovereign rights and history is rich with stories of brave MPs who cross the floor over important matters putting the best interests of their constituents and the country ahead of party politics.

When the anti-smacking debate started, the government funded a Canadian anti-smacking advocate Dr Joan Durrant to visit New Zealand to promote her controversial view that Sweden's smacking ban – introduced in 1979 - had reduced child abuse to "virtually zero". It is a view that had been discredited a few years ago by other researchers (see Herald >>>)...

Read the rest of the article here

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