The referendum on child discipline hasn’t closed yet, but Sue Bradford is already making excuses:
“Feedback I’ve received from the public over the last few weeks tells me a lot of people feel pretty angry at the confused nature of the referendum question and the waste of $9 million of taxpayers’ money this represents,” she said.
The waste of money started when the law was drafted badly in the first place. It continued when former Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to allow the referendum to take place with last year’s general election when it would have cost much less.
The referendum is badly worded but it’s not hard to work out what its intention. It is asking people if they support the law change which made it illegal to smack children for the purposes of correction. Those who do should vote yes, those who don’t should vote no.
That is much clearer than the law itself which even it’s architect doesn’t understand because she says:
“The `Yes’ vote is a vote for keeping the law as it is, providing children with the same legal protection from violence as adults.
The law for which she is responsible, the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act says:
(1) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of—
- (a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.
(3) Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).
(4) To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.
Which bit of justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of – preventing . . . don’t you understand Sue?
Smacking to correct is illegal, smacking to prevent is not.
The wording of the referendum could be better but its intent is clear. That is more than you can say about the law which criminalises parents who smack for correction but protects those who use the same amount of force, or more, providing they do it for prevention.
To misquote Blackadder, this law is so stupid you could pin a tail on it and call it an ass.