There have been a couple of surprises in where support for Sue Bradford's bill has come from. For me, one was Paul Holmes, and today, The Press. Here's their editorial in its entirety. What do you think? You could let The Press know at firstname.lastname@example.org
A ban on smacking is the right way forward for New Zealand
The Press | Saturday, 24 February 2007
The passing of the anti-smacking bill through its second reading at Parliament was a welcome step towards dealing with child abuse. It is to be hoped that the law change's tentative progress signals a new responsibility in the way New Zealand children are treated by their parents.
But the measure still faces major hurdles in its remaining parliamentary stages, notably from a proposed amendment in the name of National MP Chester Borrows, which would render Green MP Sue Bradford's bill almost meaningless.
Those MPs who had the courage to support the bill's second reading should not now allow its anti-smacking message to be diluted as it works its way through the crucial stages to becoming law.
Smacking children is an issue which can arouse strong emotions. The opposition to Bradford's bill is derived from a "spare the rod" mentality and the fear of the intrusion of State authorities into the rights of parents to discipline their children.
Just how far the most extreme and irrational opponents of the bill will go was shown by the CYFS Watch website death threat against Bradford this week.
But MPs have an obligation not to be cowered by the fear of a middle-class or religious backlash against them if they vote for the bill. In this respect, Labour adopted the smart tactic of block voting on the issue, making it more difficult for any of its individual MPs to be targeted for supporting the measure.
Other MPs who supported the bill's second reading but are now wavering should also stand firm.
They must regard the bill as an opportunity to demonstrate their own boldness and leadership by doing what is right for society, not what might seem politically expedient for themselves. That is part of the responsibility which should go with being a member of Parliament. They should not contemplate supporting the weak-kneed compromise being promoted by Borrows, which would still allow a parent to administer a trifling slap, defined as one which causes redness but only for a short time. In effect, it would create the logical absurdity of inserting a smacking provision into an anti-smacking bill and is simply an attempt to curry favour with those who want to retain the parental right to administer corporal punishment.
Trying to define what is trifling or transitory physical punishment has the potential to become a legal minefield. More importantly, it goes completely against the intent and the spirit of Bradford's bill. She quite correctly says that if Borrows' amendment is passed, then there is no point in her bill proceeding at all, and it should be withdrawn.
Those MPs contemplating supporting the Borrows amendment should be reminded of the recent Unicef report which found that New Zealanders ranked towards the bottom of developed nations in taking care of their children. The report was simply the latest in a seemingly endless stream of evidence of the extent of child abuse in this country.
By itself, the anti-smacking bill is not a complete answer to New Zealand's child-abuse problem, but it is one necessary measure in tackling this social ill. It sends a clear message about what is acceptable in the treatment of children – and that violence is unacceptable.
Those who raise the spectre of the police intruding into law-abiding families and asking trivial questions about the discipline of children are being far-fetched; they should reflect on another scenario, that perhaps the police will be able to use a law change to more effectively intervene earlier in families suffering domestic violence.
Smacking is a form of discipline which belongs to another age. Other forms of legalised violence have been outlawed, including the administering of corporal punishment in schools, which was banned almost two decades ago. The home should be at least as much a sanctuary to a child as the classroom.
Bradford's anti-smacking bill will not prevent the worst cases of child abuse, such as the death of the Kahui twins, for the origins of this sort of violence lie deep in our society. But the bill will play an important role in driving a change in attitude towards the treatment of children. It should be passed without amendment.
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