Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Press on the Referendum

I'll just quickly run over this article and make a few comments in bold.
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.

Justice Minister Annette King said planning had begun to hold a postal vote on section 59 of the Crimes Amendment Act.

"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.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Family First: Success on Referendum

Family First Media Release 22 August 2008
NZ’ers Deliver Strong Message on Anti-Smacking Law

Family First NZ is welcoming the success of the petition demanding a Referendum on the flawed anti-smacking law.

“To reach the required 285,000 signatures is difficult enough, but the final result shows that an extra 25,000
signatures have been attained. This is evidence of just how strong the opposition to this law is,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The evidence is pouring in that good families are being both persecuted and also prosecuted with eight prosecutions for minor acts of physical discipline in a recent six month period.”

“The rate of CYF notifications has sky-rocketed yet actual cases of child abuse found are remaining the same, and in some areas like the Waikato, actually falling.”

“The anti-smacking law has failed miserably. You know a law is flawed when it fails to address the problem it was supposed to, and implicates good families in the process. Supporters of the law are trying to herald its success because they incorrectly claim nobody has been prosecuted. But we actually want a law that works and catches actual child abuse!”

“The only reason the law was passed in the first place was because the two major parties were whipped to vote for it – which is a little ironic in itself, being an anti-smacking law,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Family First NZ continues to call on the politicians to change the law so that non-abusive smacking is not a crime (as wanted by 85% of NZ’ers according to research), and to tackle the real causes of child abuse.

Clerk Confirms: Referendum to go Ahead

Kiwi Party Press Release
2pm, 22 August 2008

Kiwi Party Leader and CIR Petition organiser Larry Baldock welcomed the news today that the petition has been certified by the Clerk of the House of Representatives to have achieved sufficient signatures to force a referendum on the question, “should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

“This is great news and a huge victory,” said Mr Baldock.
“It has been a long battle to assert the right of all New Zealanders to be heard on this controversial issue. Quite frankly in a democracy it should not require so much effort. I want to pay tribute to Sheryl Savill who was prepared to put her name to the petition, and the thousands of volunteers that have helped us collect over 390,000 signatures,” Mr Baldock said.

The clerk of the house has declared that 310,000 signatures were certified as valid.
This means there were over 25 000 more signatures than the 285 027 required by the CIR Act 1993 to force a referendum.

“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 and avoid this being an election issue. She will not drown out the voice of the people and should realise there is no point further angering everyone by delaying the inevitable.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, Prime Minister. 110 MPs should never have ignored 80% of the population in the first place, and the right thing to do now is to let every Kiwi have their say as quickly as possible.

“The Kiwi Party have made it our number one priority to ensure that voice of the people in this referendum is respected. There is ample evidence that good mums and dads are now being prosecuted by this new law, while there is no evidence that it has led to any reduction in the real child abuse we are all concerned about,” said Mr Baldock.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ear-Flick Dad on Trial for Assault Charges

From Christchurch Court News,

Media access has been blocked for all evidence at the depositions hearing of child assault charges against a Christchurch professional musician, James Louis Mason.

The preliminary hearing was held before Caroline Kellaway and Percy Acton-Adams, Justices of the Peace, in the Christchurch District Court today, and Mason was committed for trial.

But the JPs refused a radio application for recording the evidence, and another media application for in-court photography.

When Mason’s defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger indicated that the evidence of all four prosecution witnesses would be handed to the JPs in written form, the eight reporters present made a joint application to see the briefs of evidence.

Miss Bulger opposed the application because she would have wanted the opportunity to have some sections of the evidence suppressed, and the JPs decided to decline the application.

Mason, 49, has been charged with assaulting his two sons aged two and four, and the case is attracting media attention because it may be a test of the anti-smacking laws.

Will they find him guilty?  I don't think so, it would just reinforce in the minds of New Zealanders that the law is bad, invasive and pointless.  I think they'll let him off (even though he has broken the law), let's wait and see.