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Govt In Talks Over Referendum Clarity Bill

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, June 22 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key has called a referendum on so-called anti-smacking legislation ridiculous as his government looks at ways of tightening up wording of questions in future.

Proponents of the upcoming referendum, which asks "should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" today launched a campaign to promote a "no" vote.

They want the 2007 law sponsored by Green MP Sue Bradford, which removed the defence of reasonable force in child abuse cases, to be repealed.

Mr Key was scathing today about the $9 million referendum.

People who support the status quo might vote no, thinking that was what the question was reflecting, he indicated.

Mr Key believes the current law is working and good parents are not being prosecuted for smacking.

At his post-Cabinet press conference Mr Key described the referendum question as weird and the situation, where the meaning of answers was unclear, as ridiculous.

"You've got a referendum question that could have been written by Dr Zeuss. I mean this isn't green eggs and ham, this is yes means no and no means yes."

Mr Key said the point of a referendum was to send a message to government but no one would be any wiser based on the result of this one.

Justice Minister Simon Power has approached Ms Bradford to discuss her Citizens Initiated Referenda (Wording of Question) Amendment Bill.

Ms Bradford drafted the bill in response to the latest referendum. It would require the Clerk of the House to allow only referendum questions which were "not ambiguous, complex, leading or misleading".

If a question was not allowed by the Clerk, the petitioner would be able to re-write it until it met the criteria.

Mr Key said nothing could be done about the current referendum but wanted the problem fixed for future cases.

He suggested better communication between the promoters and Clerk of the House was needed.

The non-binding referendum will be held by postal ballot from July 31 to August 21. It was forced by a petition organised by opponents of the 2007 law change.

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