5 Nov 2010

New Zealanders vote in non-binding referendum to reinstate parental right to assault children

The Telegraph - Uk August 21, 2009

New Zealand votes to give parents the right to smack children

Preliminary figures showed 87.6 per cent of those who voted in a national referendum wanted a 2007 "anti-smacking law" overturned.

About 54 per cent of the voting population took part in the referendum, the Electoral Commission said.

Many people, including Prime Minister John Key and Opposition Leader Phil Goff, decided not to vote, arguing its question was loaded or ambiguous.

It asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

The director of the conservative organisation Family First, Bob McCoskrie, said the government must act immediately to amend the law to allow light smacking.

"John Key cannot ignore this result," he said. "The attempt by politicians to dismiss the referendum as ambiguous and irrelevant has also been rebuked by the voters."

The aim of the 2007 law was to curb New Zealand's high rate of child abuse and stop people using parental discipline as a defence against assault charges.

The law removed a provision which said parents could use "reasonable force" to discipline their children, but gave police the discretion not to prosecute trivial cases.

Opponents of the law said it would lead to good parents being prosecuted.

A 2003 UNICEF report said New Zealand had the third-worst rate of abuse and neglect of children in the OECD group of developed countries and Helen Clark, the prime minister at the time the law was passed, called the country's child abuse record "a stain on our international reputation".

Campaigners won the legal right to hold the referendum by gathering signatures from 300,000 eligible voters. The result is not binding.

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Voxy New - New Zealand August 21, 2009

Law Should Stay As It Is, Children's Commissioner Says

by John Angus

The law protecting children should stay as it is, Children's Commissioner Dr John Angus said today.

"I respect that New Zealanders have participated strongly in the referendum and it indicates to me that we are thinking hard about how we bring up our children," Dr Angus said.

"My advice to Government will continue to be that the current law is good for children.

"Parenting is about a relationship. Hitting, smacking and slapping children are forms of punishment that get in the way of the sort of relationship that works. They are not an effective way to set boundaries for children and teach them right from wrong. Most parents know this instinctively.

"There is a wealth of evidence from experts on child health and welfare that smacking, hitting and slapping are not effective and in some instances, can be harmful.

"In addition to that I have listened to the voices of children and young people. They say smacking is ineffective, harmful to them and hard to understand. "I have looked at the Police statistics and fears that the new law would mean Police would investigate lots of families and lots of parents would be prosecuted, have proved unfounded.

"At its heart this law gives children, like the rest of us, protection by law from assault.

"The change to the law in 2007 was an important step towards keeping children in New Zealand safe and secure."

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