Smacking your Children!!!!!!!!
Green MP Sue Bradford's Bill to repeal Section 59 (s59) of the Crimes Act was debated in Parliament last night, before finally passing its first reading 65 votes to 54. Labour, the Progressives, two New Zealand First MPs, and Maori Party MP Tariana Turia, voted in favour. National, ACT, United Future and 11 New Zealand First MPs voted against the Bill.
It now goes to select committee, and its passage into law will depend on the conclusions of the committee, and the make-up of the new Parliament after the election. A number of MPs may have voted for it because they want to see the issue debated further at the select committee level, not necessarily because they want to see the Bill pass in its current form.
Ms Bradford wants to ensure s59 is not used successfully as a defence for the physical abuse of children, but despite assurances this is an "anti-beating not anti-smacking Bill", she is trying to have it both ways. If smacking is considered violence, parents who smack their child would, under this law change, be committing a criminal act.
It is important to understand that discipline is a necessary part of the unique parent-child relationship, which may include the occasional use of physical discipline. Where evidence suggests that "reasonable force" has been exceeded, the courts need to determine the facts and abusers punished. Let's be clear - discipline is normative, abuse is not.
High rates of child abuse in New Zealand will not be reduced by the State further undermining parents' authority in the parent-child relationship. A better approach is to first understand what is occurring in families and then promote community-based parenting programmes to deal with the root causes of dysfunction.