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Greens Question Smacking Survey

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 19 NZPA - The Green Party is questioning the reliability of a poll which showed most people want a change to the law that bans smacking.

The survey, released yesterday, was followed today by an ACT Party MP announcing he had drafted a member's bill to amend the law.

John Boscawen said his bill would allow parents to use a light smack to correct their children.

The survey, commissioned by the Family First organisation, questioned 1000 people and found that 77 percent felt the law should be changed.

Green Party MP Sue Bradford, who promoted the legislation, said the survey was "a smokescreen to obscure the simple message that New Zealand children deserve to live free of violence" and was designed to confuse people.

She said it posed questions which were geared to elicit a particular response and flew in the face of other research.

Ms Bradford said the New Zealand Health Survey 2006/07 showed only one in 22 parents considered physical punishment was an effective form of discipline, and an independent UMR poll released in November last year showed 43 percent of respondents supported the law change to strengthen child protection while 28 percent opposed.

Mr Boscawen said the law had criminalised law-abiding parents and removed their freedom to decide how best to raise their children -- something the ACT Party had consistently opposed.

"The Labour `we know best' government is out and National is now in," he said.

"Perhaps we will now begin to see an end to the madness of the past nine years where politicians saw fit to tell New Zealanders how to live their lives."

The law bans smacking for correctional purposes and it was passed by Parliament in May 2007.

Mr Boscawen said it was "inflicted on New Zealanders by Labour and the Greens".

It was passed by 113 votes to eight, and National backed it after a last-minute compromise was reached by John Key, who is now prime minister, and the then prime minister Helen Clark.

ACT's two MPs voted against it, as did some New Zealand First MPs, United Future's Judy Turner and independent Taito Phillip Field .

It removed from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of "reasonable force" to correct a child, meaning there would be no justification for the use of force for that purpose.

Supporters said the "reasonable force" defence had been used by parents who had beaten their children with whips and pieces of wood.

Opponents said it would make criminals out of parents who lightly smacked their children and removed their right to discipline them.

Mr Boscawen's member's bill will go into a ballot.

One or two bills are drawn every second Wednesday Parliament is sitting, if there is room for them on the order paper.

Some have come out the ballot within weeks of going in, others have taken years to get into Parliament and be debated.

Family First welcomed Mr Boscawen's bill.

"This flawed law has attempted to link a smack on the bottom with child abuse of the worst kind," said national director Bob McCoskrie.

"It has put good parents raising law-abiding and responsible citizens in the same category as rotten parents who are a danger to their kids and to society in general."

Mr McCoskrie said the child abuse rate had continued unabated since the law was passed, with 12 deaths in the last 21 months.

He said National should adopt Mr Boscawen's bill as a government bill.

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