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Govt Needs To Urgently Amend Law -- `No' Campaigner

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Larry Baldock
Larry Baldock

Wellington, Aug 22 NZPA - The Government should urgently amend the law to allow parents the right to smack their children as part of "good care and parenting", former MP Larry Baldock says.

New Zealanders have overwhelmingly voted no in a citizens-initiated referendum which asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

Voter turnout on the initial results was 54 percent, with just over 1.6 million votes cast.

The no camp recorded more than 1.4 million, or 87.6 percent, in the preliminary count, while the yes camp was under 200,000 or 11.81 percent.

The final result will be declared on Tuesday.

The referendum was organised by opponents of a law change sparked by Green MP Sue Bradford's member's bill in 2007. That bill resulted in an amendment to the Crimes Act which made it illegal for parents to use force against children for correction, but also allowed police the discretion not to prosecute inconsequential cases.

Mr Baldock, who was a poll campaigner and leads the Kiwi Party, said Prime Minister John Key should put Parliament into urgency to vote on deleting references in the Crimes Act which ban parents from using force "for the purpose of correction".

"If subsections two and three (of the Act) were deleted, then the wishes of the majority of New Zealanders expressed in the referendum would be carried out, and the use of reasonable force for correction could be covered..."

Using reasonable force for the purpose of correction would then no longer specifically be an offence, Mr Baldock said.

"Since these amendments have already been part of a lengthy select committee submission process, not to mention widespread public discussion, Parliament would be justified in making such changes without referral to the public via submissions to a select committee since the public view has now been clearly expressed through the referendum," he said.

Yes vote coalition spokeswoman Deborah Morris-Travers told NZPA the group was not surprised by the result.

"We always expected it would go in favour of the no vote because of the way that the question was phrased -- it was loaded and misleading, suggesting first of all that hitting children was part of good parenting practice and secondly suggesting that good parents are being criminalised when in fact they are not."

Police statistics showed only serious cases were pursued and parents who lightly smacked their children were left alone, she said.

Research showed more and more parents resisted smacking, she said.

"But there is still a lot misinformation about the law and how it's working."

She said the relatively low turn out showed the referendum was irrelevant for many New Zealanders.

Ms Bradford said not too much should be read into the result.

"I would have a much greater respect for the referendum result if it was based on a clearer question," she said.

Mr Key has consistently said the law is working in the way that it was intended to, and he would not change it unless it stopped working.

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