Petition earns referendum on `child-smacking' law - The Press
New Zealanders will be asked to vote on the so-called anti-smacking law next year.
So-called? Well, that was what the Green Party called it initially.
Parliament's Clerk of the House said yesterday that a petition organised by Christian political activists had enough valid signatures to force a referendum.
Hah, just couldn't help yourselves could you? Yes, the petition question was written by Sheryl Savill who works for Focus on the Family. But look at the huge support nationwide, from a huge variety of people and groups.
"The advice to me has been that it should be a postal referendum, and my latest advice is that it will take until about mid-next year to organise such a referendum properly," she said.
An audit of the petition found that 310,000 of the 390,000 signatures were valid.
That represented 25,000 more signatures than the 10 per cent of the national electorate required for a non-binding referendum.
Parliament's Speaker, Margaret Wilson, is expected to present the petition to the House on Tuesday, after which the Government will have one month to announce a date.
The referendum question will be: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
Petition organiser Larry Baldock, who founded the Christian-based Kiwi Party, said the vote should be held with this year's general election.
The Government has ruled this out, saying the petition had come too late and it would best be held as a postal ballot next year.
"It has been a long battle to assert the right of all New Zealanders to be heard on this controversial issue," Baldock said.
"Quite frankly, in a democracy it should not require so much effort. The referendum should be held at this year's election.
"None of the reasons being given by the Prime Minister for delaying it make any sense at all, and are simply a tactic for her to try to avoid this being an election issue."
Family First director Bob McCroskrie said the petition showed the strength of the opposition to the law.
Green Party MP Sue Bradford, whose child-discipline bill last year removed the defence of reasonable force from the Crimes Act, said she welcomed the ongoing debate.
Hah, did she? That's easy to believe.
"They put an enormous amount of effort, time and money into it, so it is not a surprise," Bradford said.
"We will continue to engage in the debate. It is all part of the process of changing the culture of violence in this country.
"The fact that these people are so determined to change the law back again just gives us more of an opportunity to educate people as to why we shouldn't be able to legally hit our children."
Bradford said the referendum question was misleading. "There is no such offence in New Zealand law as smacking. There never was and there isn't now. There is an offence of assault on a child."
Then why was your original bill drawn up as an "Anti-Smacking bill"?
She said that while the referendum was not binding, she would not trust a future National government not to change the law, despite the party's current support for the legislation after a last-minute deal with Labour.
"I've heard National MPs out and about basically dog-whistling to the Christian Right," she said.
National leader John Key has ruled out overturning the law if he becomes prime minister unless there was evidence of good parents being prosecuted.
Figures released by police have so far shown that has not happened.
Key did not return a call for comment yesterday.
Clark told Parliament in June that she had received "strong advice" from the Ministry of Justice that it was too late for a referendum to be held with this year's election.
She said the Government had accepted the ministry's advice that it would cause too much confusion, and a postal ballot next year was preferable.
The ministry said a postal referendum could cost taxpayers between $4.8 million and $6.4m.
A previous petition to force a referendum was ruled invalid when it was found it had failed to collect enough signatures.
No, it was not ruled invalid, and it was not a previous petition. It was the same petition for which we were granted another 2 months - as is usual practice, to make up the short-falling.