John Key has announced that National will oppose ACT MP John Boscawen’s Bill to legalise violence aganist children.

So regardless of what Labour will do (and Trevor Mallard seems to be equivocal, although also appears to be firming up Labour to oppose), the votes of the Green, Maori and National parties should see this appalling Bill soundly defeated.

End of story! Larry Baldock, Bob McCroskie and the rest of the spankers will now have to go off and find another way to legitimise the abuse of children.

And big ups to Sue Bradford. A great victory for our kids welfare!

Own goals

Family First and the Vote no campaign seem to be getting rather good at scoring own goals. The “Vote no” campaign kicked off a couple of days ago featuring this sexist and racist cartoon on the front page of its website:

Then Honest Bob McCoskrie found a new poster boy yesterday in Glenn Groves:

Glenn Groves, 44, of Wellington, pleaded guilty to assault in Lower Hutt District Court yesterday but will undergo an anger management course in a bid to get discharged without conviction.

In May he and his young son were at a rugby game at Lower Hutt’s Fraser Park, but when the boy refused to play because he was missing part of his uniform, Groves became “extremely agitated” at his attitude, court documents show.

Groves laid a hand on his back to redirect him, but as the boy resisted he fell. He stood up three times and was pushed by his father, falling to the ground each time. After a bystander complained to police, Groves admitted pushing his son.

He told police he was “tired and determined that his son would not let the team down”.

Mr McCoskrie said the charges laid against Groves and several other parents for lightly smacking their children proved police were taking far too heavy an approach.

Now this isn’t even smacking. This is a man pushing his son so hard that he fell over – three times!

It is actually indicative of why the previous law didn’t work. If “reasonable force for the purpose of correction” were still a defence, Groves may have been able to successfully defend the charge.

Wonder if Family First and the no-voters will be adopting Christopher William Hunt as their next poster boy? I wouldn’t put it past them.

Speak roughly to your little boy, and beat him when he sneezes

johnson73art1Stolen, from Leopold, on the Dim Post comments thread (only because it is such good parody of both the Spankers and Lewis Carroll, and because I am a great fan of Carroll):

Oh, don’t bother me,’ said the Duchess; `I never could abide figures!’ And with that she began nursing her child again, singing a sort of lullaby to it as she did so, and giving it a violent shake at the end of every line:

`Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.’
CHORUS: (In which the cook and the baby joined):–
`Wow! wow! wow!’

While the Duchess sang the second verse of the song, she kept tossing the baby violently up and down, and the poor little thing howled so, that Alice could hardly hear the words:–

`I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!’
CHORUS: `Wow! wow! wow!’

`Here! you may nurse it a bit, if you like!’ the Duchess said to Alice, flinging the baby at her as she spoke. `I must go and get ready to play croquet with the Queen,’ and she hurried out of the room. The cook threw a frying-pan after her as she went out, but it just missed her.

Personally, I have to say I still prefer Grace Slick’s interpretation of Carroll:

Hat tip: The Dim Post

That ridiculous referendum

Well, look what turned up in my letterbox yesterday…


I was at a loss to understand how such a poorly worded referendum question could be approved. There are three obvious flaws in this referendum question:

  • It is a leading question, in that it predisposes the reader to a particular response. People find it diffficult to associate “good” with “criminal”, so the wording itself encourages people to respond “No”.
  • It is a misleading question. It implies that giving a child a smack is likely to result in a parent becoming a criminal. The evidence is that it is not.
  • It is an ambiguous question. The term “smack” is not defined in law, so the question will mean different things to different people.

So I took a look at the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act, under which this referendum has been proposed.

The Act provides that “The Clerk of the House of Representatives shall determine the wording of the precise question to be put to voters in the proposed indicative referendum”. But it gives the Clerk no guidance as to how the referendum question should be worded, and it seems that in this instance the wording proposed by Larry Baldock has been blindly accepted. Hence, it seems, a question that is deliberately designed to elicit a particular response can slip through the system.

It really is appallingly drafted legislation that can allow $9 million to be spent on a referendum question as biased and confusing as this one is.

As for how to vote, and despite the wording of this ridiculous referendum question, I’ll be taking my lead from the people at The Yes Vote:

  • A ‘yes’ vote is a vote to retain a law that is working well.
  • A ‘yes’ vote is a vote to protect children from assault.
  • A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for positive parenting.
  • A ‘yes’ vote is supported by Barnardos, Plunket, Save the Children, Unicef and many other respected child-focussed organisations.

Update: I see Danyl is taking the piss on the referendum as only Danyl can over at The Dim Post.

Yay for yes

It’s nice every once in a while to be able to say something is good and we should keep it rather than bad and it needs changing.

So ‘hooray’ for the crew at The Yes Vote with their great resources and ideas.

This is my favourite:

If it’s wrong to hit an adult, how can it be right to hit a child?yesvote-poster-if-its-wrong-to-hit-an-adult-thumb

I’ve added their banner to the side of g.blog for a while. If you’re generally of the view that the world has not fallen into catastrophic ruin since we lost the right to take to our children with large pieces of wood you might like to click on it and add your voice to their call to protect children from assault.

The Yes Vote needs your help

Just a reminder to everyone who supported Sue Bradford’s Bill to repeal §59 of the crimes act and extend full protection from assault to children- there is a referendum coming up that is designed to undermine that decision, even though it passed overwhelmingly and attitudes (not only to abuse of children, but also to physical discipline of children) have already changed dramatically since the implementation of the new law.

There’s a great non-partisan campaign to support the current law on at http://yesvote.org.nz/. The site is very rigorous and straightforward in its facts, doesn’t overreach, and has excellent talking points for the current policy and why it needs extra time to be successful. In short, their main thrust accords with the Party’s reasoning for supporting the bill in the first place: It draws a line in the sand and uses that to motivate slow change towards a society where physical discipline is largely abandoned and unnecessary.

If you can get out and help spread the word that people supporting our current, sensible laws regarding assault against children, please do so. Their recommendations for supporting the “Yes” campaign are here1, and you can find resources for grassroots campaigning here.

1 Basically, they recommend writing your local MP and keeping up with news from the campaign.

Boscawen: Bring back the bash

ACT MP John Boscawen has been hunting around for something to do now the Electoral Finance Act has been repealed. What he’s come up with is Private Member’s Bill that proposes to amend section 59 of the Crimes Act.

Boscawen says:

The amendment will change the Act so that: it is no longer a crime for parents or guardians to use reasonable force to correct children; there are clear statutory limits on what constitutes reasonable force…

That sounds suspiciously like the amendment that National MP Chester Borrows attempted to introduce when Sue Bradford’s Bill that resulted in the current section 59 was before Parliament. The Borrows amendment would have defined force as unreasonable if it causes or contributes to harm that is more than transitory and trifling; involved a weapon, tool, or other implement; or is inflicted by a means that is cruel, degrading or terrifying. If none of those criteria were met, and the force was for the purpose of “correction” then it would be lawful.

What Borrows proposed, and Boscowen now appears to be proposing, would be thoroughly bad law. For a start, it attempts to define just how much violence against children is acceptable and conveys the message that it is okay to hit children. It would treat children as second class citizens who do not have the same protection in law against assault as adults do.

It attempts to define the degree of force that is reasonable by the physical outcome of the use of that force. It does not take into account that most parents cannot anticipate whether physical or mental injury is likely to be caused by the punishment they are administering before or at the time they administer it, and whether any injury caused is likely to be more than transitory and trifling. The 2006-07 NZ Health Survey revealed that:

One in 22 parents (4.5%, 3.8–5.2) considered physical punishment to be an effective form of discipline. Less than one in three parents who had used physical punishment in the previous four weeks considered it to be effective (29.8%, 24.9–34.8).

Given that the same survey revealed that 1 in 10 children had been physically disciplined in the four weeks before it was undertaken, thet leaves an awful lot of parents who discipline physically for reasons other than that they think it will be effective. Anger, frustration, loss of control – whatever the reason, these are parents who clearly haven’t thought through the outcome of the punishment before they administer it. It is facile for Borrows and Boscawen to expect that all parents will suddenly acquire that ability. Yet that is what their proposed amendments expect.

Under the Borrows and Boscawen proposals, parents would be able to get away with administering physical punishments several times a day on a daily basis as long as each instance did not cause injuries that were more than “transitory and trifling”. They take no account of the cumulative mental trauma this could cause to the child.

It is disappointing that John Boscawen appears to be trying to revive Chester Borrows’ amendment. There is no evidence to suggest that the current law is resulting in good parents being prosecuted for the occasional light smack, so why change it?

Hitting back at Section 59 myths

Sue B has a new press release on the official Party site detailing some new research into public opinions on the §59 changes. UMR research shows that more than 80% of those polled agree with the Green Party rationale for the changes- that the law should offer consistent protection from assault for children.

It also showed that there was plurality support for the law among those who understood that the changes merely removed an additional defense for assault against children, rather than changing the criminal status of those assaults.

There’s a lot more in the document, including the incredible attitude shift around the acceptability of violence against children, at the full report, which indicates that there are many other positive side-effects, such as increased awareness of non-physical discipline, compliance with our UN obligations in terms of safety and rights of children, and a dramatic downturn in support for physical discipline. (Measured by asking a pro-smacking question similar to historical surveys for comparative purposes)
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