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Govt Will Look At Green Bill To Prevent Confusing Referenda

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Wellington, June 17 NZPA - The Government will consider adopting a Green MP's bill to prevent confusing and ambiguous referendum questions, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Both Mr Key and Labour leader Phil Goff have criticised the wording of the smacking referendum as open to interpretation in different ways.

The citizen initiated non-binding referendum asks: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

Today Green MP Sue Bradford said she was hoping her bill to prevent confusing questions would be drawn out of the next ballot.

The Citizens Initiated Referenda (Wording of Question) Amendment Bill required the Clerk of the House to allow only referendum questions which were "not ambiguous, complex, leading or misleading".

Where a question was not allowed a person would be able to re-write it until it met the criteria.

People who were confused by a question would not vote, Ms Bradford said.

Mr Key said in Parliament that National MPs may consider supporting the legislation as they agreed it was better for a referendum question to be clear.

MPs' bills have to be drawn out a ballot to make it before Parliament and they usually make very slow progress.

Asked if the Government would consider adopting Ms Bradford's bill, Mr Key said it was "worthy of consideration".

Mr Key said he was concerned that $9 million was being spent on an "ambiguous" referendum, but those proposing it had gained the signatures needed and it must proceed.

ACT MP John Boscawen also put up a bill today which would amend the law to allow parents to lightly smack their children for the purposes of correction.

Mr Key said National MPs would not consider their support for the bill unless it was drawn from the ballot, but again said he saw no need for change.

"In my view the current law is working. I've given New Zealand parents a commitment that if the law didn't work I would change it. I stand by that commitment but I've seen no evidence to date that the law is not working," Mr Key said.

Labour leader Phil Goff said he would not vote in the referendum because the question was badly worded.

It was "absolutely" the wrong question, he said today.

"The question implies that if you vote `yes' that you're in favour of criminal sanctions being taken against reasonable parents -- actually nobody believes that."

The question should be: "is the law working satisfactorily?" Mr Goff said.

Ms Bradford said the wording of the referendum had been a shock and ambiguous questions should not be allowed.

"However, I still believe the strongest statement we can make to demonstrate our commitment to protecting of children from violence is to vote yes in the postal referendum."

It was another member's bill from Ms Bradford that led to the change in the so-called anti-smacking law.

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