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Key's `Stupid Mistake' Will Cost National, ACT Party Says

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Boscawen
John Boscawen

Wellington, Aug 25 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key has made "a huge mistake" by refusing to change the law that bans smacking and National will suffer for it at the next election, the ACT Party says.

"He is making exactly the same mistake as Helen Clark made -- he is putting himself above the overwhelming wish of the majority of New Zealanders," MP John Boscawen told NZPA.

"I think he's making a very stupid mistake."

Mr Key yesterday said he was going to ensure parents were not prosecuted for an inconsequential smack, but he wasn't going to change the law in response to the referendum result.

Voters faced the question: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction by a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

About 1.6 million ticked the boxes and nearly 88 percent said "no".

Mr Key said changes were likely to the way welfare officers handled complaints about light smacking and police would be asked to review their procedures to make sure good parents weren't treated like criminals.

"I am not going to allow that to happen to them and if the law shows, through its application, that New Zealand parents are criminalised or their children are taken off them in some bizarre case for what could only be described as minor or inconsequential smacking, then the law has to be changed," he said.

But the facts showed people were not being prosecuted and he wanted to find ways to assure parents that was not going to start happening.

Mr Boscawen said the referendum result was a clear, emphatic vote for the law to be changed.

"I think he's taking a very grave risk in ignoring such a massive mandate for a change to the law," he said.

"I think he's being very foolish, his response is totally inadequate and he's making a huge mistake."

Mr Boscawen said National's poll ratings would drop and the impact would carry through to the next election.

Family First, one of the referendum's main promoters, said MPs and ministers were receiving floods of e-mails demanding a law change.

"The referendum wasn't about recommendations, guidelines or comfort -- it was about a law change," said Family First director Bob McCoskrie.

The Green Party congratulated Mr Key, saying he had resisted pressure from those who wanted to "re-legalise assault on children".

MP Sue Bradford, who drafted the 2007 law change, said Mr Key's response was appropriate.

Labour leader Phil Goff would not directly say whether he supported Mr Key's response to the referendum.

"I think that almost every New Zealand parliamentarian would agree that no good parent lightly smacking their child with inconsequential effects should be subject to sanctions," he said.

"We should give reassurance to people who have indicated overwhelmingly of those who voted that they don't want good parents prosecuted."

He believed those on both sides of the argument should focus their energy on ways to prevent child abuse, as police were clearly not prosecuting parents for smacking their children.

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