Yippee!

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!

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Build your own referendumb

In the tradition of Build your own billboard (linked site from that post no longer active), you can now build your own referendum.

Here’s my effort:

smacking_over[EDIT: Original Image © Crown copyright http://bit.ly/electcopy%5D – this edit added due to stupid and draconian copyright law.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have got them going into the gallery yet, as it is still reporting as “Nothing here at the moment.”

Hopefully that will be fixed shortly. [EDIT: It now is fixed.]

BTW, don’t forget to Vote Yes, despite the stupidity of the question. A yes vote is a vote against child abuse.

Human Rights Commission backs child discipline law

So much for the scaremongering about “uncertainty” in the current section 59 of the Crimes Act coming from those advocating corporally punishing children. The Human Rights Commission has released a legal opinion condemning the previous law for its uncertainty and backing the current law.

Most significantly, the Commission’s legal opinion states:

Critics of the legislation consider that the law is now so uncertain that many parents don’t know what they can or can’t do and risk prosecution for every slap, no matter how trivial, administered to a child in their care.

Before it was amended, under s.59 parents, or those acting in loco parentis, were justified in using force “by way of correction” towards a child if the force was “reasonable in the circumstances”. The reasonableness of the force was a question of fact. Section 59 now allows parents (or someone acting in that role) to use reasonable force for a variety of purposes including (inter alia) the prevention of harm to the child or others or to perform the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting[7]. It does not, however, permit the use of force for the purpose of correction. There is also an avoidance of doubt provision, which confers discretion on the Police whether or not to prosecute if the offence is considered so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Legal certainty is particularly important in human rights law. Any legal constraints on a right must be sufficiently “accessible, precise and foreseeable” so that individuals are aware of the consequences of their actions. The guiding principle is that individuals must be able to regulate their conduct with a reasonable degree of certainty as to the legal consequences of acting one way rather than another. The earlier original version of s.59 which stipulated that force must be “reasonable under the circumstances” provided any better guidance than the present legislation. The subjectivity that inevitably dictated what parents considered permissible and the different interpretations of what is “reasonable” meant that parents were acquitted of disciplining their children even when they had used belts, hose pipes and pieces of wood to do so.

While the only way to import greater certainty would be to abolish s.59 entirely, even this may not be the complete answer since it will always be open to the police to decide whether or not to prosecute at common law. The Commission prefers a provision such as the amended s.59 which favours the child as the more vulnerable party.

Children are completely dependent on adults to give effect to their rights. Society has a duty to ensure those rights are respected.

Children have the same right to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity as everybody else including the right not to be subject to violence in the guise of corporal punishment.

While parents have responsibilities and duties, as well as the right, to provide appropriate direction and guidance, the wording of s.59 does not remove those rights, responsibilities or duties, but rather shapes how they should be exercised.

Another good reason to Vote Yes.

The communicator

Child discipline referendum chief petitioner Sheryl Savill is described in today’s Dominion Post as:

a “communicator” for a conservative critics say Right wing evangelical organisation, Focus on the Family.

But elsewhere in the article, the Dominion Post states:

Ms Savill, 40, has asked petition organisers not to give her contact details to the news media…

Seems the “communicator” doesn’t want to communicate right now, and has run off to hide from the media somewhere in the United States.

Anyway Sheryl, if you read this blog, you can still pull the plug on your stupidly worded referendum costing New Zealand taxpayers another $6 million. You’ve got until this Friday. Remember, only 18% of New Zealanders think progressing it is a good use of taxpayers’ money.

The referendumb

A Research New Zealand poll published in the Herald on Sunday shows that only 18% of those polled think the child discipline referendum is “a good use of taxpayer dollars”.

Given that it requires over 10% of voters to sign a petition to force a citizens initiated referendum, I guess I have to give some credit to Family First and their fellow spankers for their organisational ability – they managed to get the signatures of 56% of what is now the support base for the referendum on their petition.

Mind you, some will no doubt have been put off the cause in recent days by their ham-fisted publicity.

Interestingly, the report on the poll states:

Of all the demographic differences in the poll, the only significant difference was between the sexes.

Eighty per cent of female respondents believed the referendum was a waste of money, compared with 70 per cent of male respondents.

Read into thatwhat you want, I guess. It could mean women are more concerned about wasting public money that men, or it could mean that men are more into hitting kids than women.

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.

Honest Bob McCoskrie

Two stories.

This one (Sun, 21 Jun 2009 9:01p.m):

Bob McCoskrie, director of Family First NZ which is leading the “vote no” campaign, said Ms Rankin had not expressed any concerns about being involved.

“She’s got freedom to speak out on it,” he told NZPA.

And this one (Mon, 22 Jun 2009 5:16a.m.):

Family First director Bob McCoskrie had advised earlier this evening that Ms Rankin would be the Family and Child Trust (Fact) representative at the launch but that was later changed to Bev Adair.

Ms Rankin had told the minister that Mr McCoskrie had made a mistake, and Ms Bennett was satisfied with that explanation, the spokeswoman said.

Mr McCoskrie told NZPA Ms Rankin was “part of Fact but Bev is the spokesperson on it”.

“So it was just my error. I should have put Bev’s name, not Christine’s name.”

Now come on Bob, you may expect people to believe there are all these instances of good parents being prosecuted for smacking their kids that you can’t or won’t front any evidence to support, but surely you don’t expect us to believe that.

How would you have been able to say Rankin had not expressed any concerns about being involved and that she had the freedom to speak out if it was just all a mistake involving you getting the name wrong?

Phone running hot last night perchance?

That ridiculous referendum

Well, look what turned up in my letterbox yesterday…

smack_ec

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.

Does Fill-in Goff support child abuse?

This is scary stuff!

Having campaigned succesfully to get belting children made illegal, I am terrified by Phil Goff’s comments on Q&A:

The Labour Party appears to have made a u-turn on the controversial anti-smacking policy.

On TVNZ’s Q+A program on Sunday, Opposition leader Phil Goff said smacking in a disciplinary context should not be prosecuted.

This comes as the party looks to re-brand itself after the election loss and the loss of some very experienced old hands.

Goff acknowledges issues like law and order are big for New Zealanders, but says so are what he calls the “little things”, such as what light bulbs Kiwis should use and if parents can smack their children.

What Goff told Q+A about the latter signals a major policy shift.

When Paul Holmes asked if a smack, as part of good parental correction, should be a criminal offence in New Zealand, Goff said: “The answer to that is, no, it shouldn’t be a criminal offence, or we should not have people following up for a smack in that context.”

This is truly scary stuff! Holmes has bought straight into the anti-child “Family Fist” agenda, and the precise wording of the deliberately ambiguously worded Larry Ballock referendum developed to attempt to relegalise belting children. Goff either supports him, has been naively sucked into the child-beating agenda, or is playing an unprincipled political game to recruit votes from those who want to whack their kids.

For me, as someone who was a kid who suffered severe child abuse – by way of plum tree switch, leather belt, and wooden spoon – Goff is selling out all of us who were abused as kids, and all who eventually will be if you try to change the law to quantify the level of violence against chidren that is “acceptable”.