Posts Tagged ‘smacking’

Let’s ALL vote yes in the smacking referendum

July 2, 2008

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!

Smacking debate generates heat

June 25, 2008

Around the NZ blogs, attention is firmly focussed on the anti-smacking referendum. Helen Clark ruled out a referendum on election day, “just in terms of sheer organisation.” This, says Herald columinst John Armstrong, “simply does not stack up.” He points out that the 1984 snap election was held a month after it was called.

It may well be that, “The petition to roll back the removal of the defence in law for beating your children is a sort of IQ test and it appears roughly 390,000 people have failed”, as Steve Withers puts it. One would hope that the hysterical predictions of the pro-whackers having been shown to be false, the voters would see that giving children the same protections that animals enjoy is the right thing to do. But it is for the voters to decide.

The very real chance that the pro-whackers prevail, and that the referendum muddies the election waters, is the price we pay for democracy.

Clark’s initial response simply reinforces the perceptions of arrogance that I believe are at the root of her government’s current unpopularity. As does ignoring the message in current opinion polls. The best strategy for Labour at the present time is to adopt a more humble stance, and to convince NZers that their views count. Delaying their opportunity to decide whether they want the anti-smacking law is not helping.

UPDATE: Norightturn reports that Clark said in Parliament today that, “the Ministry of Justice has already advised that based on the 1999 experience, holding a referendum at the same time as the election would lead to severe logistical problems, voter confusion, and a delayed count.” Turns out it was the Chief Electoral Officer, whose advice is here (74 Kb).