Monday April 30, 2007The fate of Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill appears to rest with the Maori Party caucus which will discuss it tomorrow in the light of a poll showing overwhelming 80 per cent opposition to it by Maori.
The party has backed the bill but the resounding Maori opposition may create pressure to back a proposal by National Party leader John Key to allow "minor and inconsequential" smacking.
It is believed to have been a consistent topic of concern raised at the consultation hui the four Maori Party MPs have held up and down New Zealand during the three-week recess.
If the Maori Party decides to back the Key amendment, it would have the numbers to pass.
But Sue Bradford has said she would withdraw it in those circumstances.
The bill, which returns to the House on Wednesday, outlaws the use of physical force against children for purposes of correction. It allows it to prevent a child from engaging in harmful, disruptive, illegal or offensive behaviour.
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia indicated at the weekend that the party would continue to support the bill, despite 80 per cent of Maori in the Marae Digipoll survey opposing it. But she could not be contacted last night to discuss the Key proposal.
She said at the weekend the present law allowed a legal defence against abuse. "We will not support abuse. We have got to show leadership. If we are looking at all the statistics we have got the worst statistics in the OECD. "
Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia was also committed to supporting it, saying he saw the "other side" of smacking. "I visit the refuges.
"We know that we have rampant violence in some areas for a whole host of reasons within our families. We must address that."
Mr Key said he had spoken to Mrs Turia on Saturday night about his proposal and said she had a very clear understanding of the law. She would discuss it with the caucus tomorrow.
"We can't do it without the Maori Party," Mr Key told the Herald.
He believes the Maori Party might be more tempted to back the amendment since the Marae poll.
He also said if Sue Bradford's bill passed and it was challenged in a citizens-initiated referendum at next year's election he would be inclined to change the law to reflect his own proposal.
Former United Future MP Larry Baldock said last night that he had had 163,150 signatures since March 1.
That makes it likely he will get the requisite 300,000 (10 per cent of registered electors) by March 1 next year in order to get a referendum.
"They had better prepare themselves for a referendum - and the bill hasn't passed yet." The petition asks:
* Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
* Should the Government give urgent priority to understanding and addressing the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse?
Mr Baldock said he had tried to discourage his own associates from attending the Destiny Church rally at Parliament on Wednesday, when the bill returns for further debate.
"This is not a church issue. This has never been just a bunch of Christians who want to retain the right to smack their kids. It is 80 per cent of New Zealanders."