The Dominion Post | Thursday, 17 May 2007
Bob McCoskrie smacks his children, and Sue Bradford's law change won't make him stop.
The national director of Family First New Zealand, a vociferous opponent of the Green MP's bill to amend section 59 of the Crimes Act, said the "confusing legislation" that passed last night would not changed the way he disciplined his three children - just the way he described it.
"I'll continue to do it in a reasonable way and I'll continue to do it as a back-up when other non-physical methods of discipline haven't worked."
After obtaining an opinion from Queen's Counsel Grant Illingworth, Family First cautioned parents yesterday not to incriminate themselves to police.
Mr McCoskrie said that, under the amendment, parents could still use reasonable force for the purpose of prevention, but not for correction.
"What the QC is saying is that if you ever do get prosecuted for giving a light smack, simply say it was for the purpose of preventing bad behaviour, not correcting bad behaviour, which shows just how ridiculous the law is."
Supporters of the bill relaxed yesterday as it passed with greater political support than initially expected.
Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro said she was hugely relieved.
She had supported outright repeal of section 59 and had some reservations about how the amendment would be interpreted, but was happy a compromise had been reached to "allay the fears that had been whipped up among parents around criminalisation".
Barnardos chief executive Murray Edridge said he was delighted, but the challenge now was to ensure parents were equipped to deal with behavioural problems without resorting to force.
In a rearguard action against the amendment, opponents yesterday took out full-page newspaper advertisements seeking signatures to force a referendum on child discipline at the next election.
The advertisements warned parents that they would be criminalised if they smacked their children, and said police had confirmed they would have to investigate any complaints made against parents who smacked or put their children in time out.
But Police Association president Greg O'Connor said he had been misquoted.
Police would continue to investigate complaints of assault - just as they always had - but putting a child in time-out would not land a parent in jail.