Let’s ALL vote yes in the smacking referendum

A couple of weeks ago Brian Rudman started writing in the Herald on national issues, in addition to his consistently solid pieces on the local scene. This was excellent news. Today he suggests to Helen Clark, “a simple way of finessing the slap-happy Christians campaigning for the right to beat children.”

I’m not sure whether this description does justice to all of the signatories of the petition, but probably sums up the organisers quite well.

Rudman notes the incredibly loose wording proposed for the referendum. It fits quite comfortably into the current legislation:

“Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

“Should the Government give urgent priority to understanding and addressing the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse in New Zealand?”

Rudman’s right. I could quite happily vote for both these propositions, although my definition of a smack isn’t the same as some of the would-be whackers’. The police have the discretion to decide what is not in the public interest to prosecute, and I’m sure that my definition falls well within their operating parameters. And I’m all in favour of more research into the social problems listed.

When I saw the first question the other day it did occur to me that it was so wide as to be pointless. Who dreams up these dopey questions (q.v. the harsher penalties referendum of a few years ago)?

As Rudman notes, “without the oxygen of an all-out battle, the new Christian Party which the referendum organisers are trying desperately to promote will die from lack of publicity and public interest.”

So, let’s all get behind the referendum!

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7 Responses to “Let’s ALL vote yes in the smacking referendum”

  1. Inventory2 Says:

    Interesting proposition JP! As a committed, practising Christian, I can see both sides of the argument. Bottom line however is that I would never vote for a “Christian” party per se. I believe that the focus becomes too narrow. I would far rather see Christians become people of influence in poltical parties, where they can apply their personal philosophy on a wider scale.

  2. MacDoctor Says:

    As I have posted before, the problem with the repeal of section 59 is that it criminalizes normal parental behavior, regardless of the number of prosecutions that are made. All it does is create confusion in parents minds as to what is acceptable discipline and what is not. Bradford was in full crusader mode and refused to consider the eminently sensible suggestion of defining acceptable discipline – Namely, open hand only and not to the head.

    This would have immediately solved the problem of occasional use of S59 for defense of minor child abuse and let parents know exactly what was acceptable at the same time. This would have been good law – easy to follow and administer, rather than surreptitiously ignore.

    In the meantime, it would be helpful if people like Rudman ceased their emotive use of language (such as “slap-happy” and “beat children”) and tried to debate the issue in non-pejorative terms.

    MacDoc, Typing double quote marks followed by closing bracket automatically produces a smiley face. I retyped the sentence in word to get rid of it.

  3. MacDoctor Says:

    Inventory2: I agree, wholeheartedly. I find Christian parties typically come from the most legalistic, moralistic backgrounds and thus tend to focus only on the “hot button” issues such as abortion and smacking. They tend to have no coherent and comprehensive alternate view for society. Worse still, they consign Christian politics to a “Christian ghetto” as they have no broad-base appeal. As they rarely get more than 1-2%, Christians regularly waste their party vote voting for these people. We would have a more believable Christian voice in parliament if there were no Christian parties!

    JP: could you please edit my last post. I certainly did NOT mean to put a winking face next to “beat children”!

  4. Steve Withers Says:

    MacDoctor: Have you ever read the Crimes Act 1961? Assaulting children is illegal. Period. What S59 did was provide a defense in law against a charge of assault brought by the police. The police never did bring spurious charges….and they don’t now. This is all so very silly. Proof that hundreds of thousands of people have reading comprenhension problems severe enough to be confused on ths point: ANYONE hitting children has, since 1961 at least, been illegal.

  5. MacDoctor Says:

    Steve: Yes, actually, I have read the Crimes Act (at least the portion around assault – I deal with this all the time in emergency departments). To say that it was always illegal to beat your child is a little facile, since no-one in the debate is talking about child beating at all, but child discipline. S59 ensured that reasonable correction was NOT illegal. What was to be considered reasonable was to be determined by a jury of your peers – so it was not possible to assault your child and get away with it by saying it was discipline. With the repeal of S59 you no longer have that safeguard. You are now entirely at the mercy of what the police say is reasonable. That they have not bothered much with prosecutions is hardly reassuring.

    So the only person here who is confused would seem to be you, Steve. You do not appear to appreciate the difference between correcting a child and beating a child. May I suggest a quick talk with a lawyer friend so they can put you right.

  6. jafapete Says:

    MacDoc, True, but the problem with juries is that they have proven themselves somewhat averse to returning guilty verdicts, even when fairly severe thrashings are brought before them. They are too far from perfect, and the “reasonable” out is just too loose for my comfort.

    It seems that we all recognise the problem, but differ over what is the best solution in an imperfect world.

  7. MacDoctor Says:

    JP: Agree with your comment. This is why I prefer the option of better definition of what is considered acceptable (open hand only, not to the head). This would have lead to the conviction of the “whipping” lady that sparked the original drive to scrap S59.

    PS thanks for fixing my post. Theoretically, “) should not go smiley unless there is a space – not like (“this”).

    Ah, but it does “)

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