Editorials on referendum

The Southland Times says Let’s reassure parents:

It’s one thing to accept that police have been very careful about the way the law is being interpreted, right now. But there’s no getting around it that a great many parents remain worried about a wider anti-smacking agenda and that the sands may shift underneath parents in future, and a much harder line be taken by the law as it now stands.

Underscoring that view is the widespread public recognition of the distaste from many in the so-called PC corridors of power, notably the law’s original drafter Sue Bradford, for any sort of smacking. It’s a distaste this newspaper shares . . .

The explicit intention of the law’s final form was that nobody could commit the sort of assault against a child that would previously have landed them in court and rightly so in the eyes of mainstream New Zealanders but then raise the arcane previous defence that they were within the rights of parental correction. That defence was removed under the Bradford legislation, and so it should have been.

But, okay. Maybe the existing law does need to be refined to give greater assurance that normal parental guardianship and discipline will still be the preserve of the parents.

It’s got the bit about reasonable force wrong – that’s still allowed for prevention.

The Press says the vote was a fiasco:

The question posed was flawed, the participation of voters low, the campaign unengaging, the cost of the exercise prohibitive and the results inconsequential. In short, the referendum was a fiasco.

The question was flawed, though its intent was clear it has enabled the governmetn to address the result without changing the law. But the turnout wasn’t low and the cost was the fault of the previous Prime Minsiter who decreed the referendum couldn’t take place with last year’s election.

The Nelson Mail says politicians need to resist mob pressure:

Nelson MP Nick Smith was on the money in suggesting the anti-smacking referendum result reflected a strong reaction against the “nanny state”.

The overwhelming “no” vote nearly 90 per cent, with a turnout of more than half of this country’s registered voters is also a slap in the face for children’s rights and anti-violence advocates. It delivers an unfortunate message about New Zealand’s underlying conservatism and represents an important challenge to the country’s politicians as they consider how to respond to it.

The Dominon Post editorialises  In the Dominion Post Richard Long says: on making an ass of our laws:

Even a 100 per cent vote against the anti-smacking law would not have made it possible to revoke.

It  might be frightening the  daylights out of decent, law- abiding middle class parents, but  now it is on the statute books we  are stuck with it. To do otherwise  would be signalling open slather  on kids. It would be saying  whacking is fine.

David Cohen asks is an editorial smack part of good part of good media discipline?:

With the votes now counted and an emphatic result in, the biggest loser in the recently concluded child-discipline referendum appears to be the news media.
Almost 90 percent of people who participated in the citizens-initiated referendum asking New Zealanders whether smacking should be illegal voted No. An entirely unsurprising result, that. . .
A significant aspect in much of the media coverage in the lead-up to the referendum was the almost uniformly negative press accorded to potential No voters.
He says almsot everything in the NZ Herald was desisgned to put No voters in the worst possible light, but the Herald editorial is the only post-vote one which wants a change in the law.
It says parliament should act to define force:
The people have spoken and the Government is obliged to act. The vote against the criminalisation of parental “correction” is too decisive to be ignored. The referendum question may have been biased by its reference to “good” parental correction but it is doubtful that anyone who wanted to outlaw smacking was misled by it. . .
This whole debate has disguised a high level of consensus about the place of violence in child discipline. Before the referendum the Herald commissioned a DigiPoll survey of parents . . .  It found the number who smack their children at least once a week has dropped drastically in the past decade to just 8.5 per cent. The number who never smack – just 10 per cent in the previous decade – has risen to 36 per cent.

Yet 85.4 per cent of that same sample intended to vote against the criminalisation of smacking. Plainly today’s parents have found better ways to bring up children but overwhelmingly they do not want the law to forbid their resort to force if they need it.

The law does not forbid it, and never has.
It too is wrong on this last point. The ammendment to Section 59 permits reasonable force for prevention but makes it illegal to smack a child for the purposes of correction.
Another point several editorials made is that there are much more important things to worry about. They are right, but that won’t make this issue go away.
The Marlborough Express says Costly referendum a waste of money:
The law was brought in as there was a clear problem defining what reasonable force was. In a climate of despair over repeated child abuse in this country the law made it clear that it was not okay to hit children.
But it didn’t. It still allows reasonable force for prevention.
The Dominion Post says Smacking vote carries clout:
The question is loaded and ambiguous. It presupposes that smacking is part of good parenting –  a debatable point – and ignores the fact that the existing law specifically permits the use of reasonable force, including smacking, in certain circumstances.

Those circumstances are fairly comprehensive. They include: to prevent harm to children or others, to stop offensive or disruptive behaviour and to stop criminal behaviour.

At least one paper understands the current law still allows the reasonable force which the Act’s proponents – and a lot of its opponents – wanted to get rid of.


19 Responses to Editorials on referendum

  1. Paul says:

    “Plainly today’s parents have found better ways to bring up children”

    The assumption being that smacking is somehow inferior to the alternatives. What arrogant nonsense.


  2. JC says:

    The media, along with the police, politicians and the Yes voters have all managed to get it wrong and mix and confuse the two very separate issues of smacking and child abuse.. almost certainly deliberately.

    Lets separate them for analysis..

    Prior to the 2007 Act there were just a handful of prosecutions for excessive force, and after the Act and now this referendum the police and politicians have produced the actual stats on smacking. In the past two years there have been only 33 investigations of illegal smacking and no successful prosecutions.. by consensus the police and politicians have assured us that we do not have a smacking problem of excessive force.

    Thats it.. done and dusted.. we do not have a smacking problem in this country despite the most intense scrutiny imaginable in a democracy.

    However, there is a second issue.. in the last 12 months there were about 117,000 notifications to CYFS of child abuse and neglect.. this compares to about 30,000 notifications in the 1990s.

    It is the deliberate mixing of these quite separate issues by the politicians, media and anti-smackers to produce a view on smacking that is so wrong and despicable.. it also is used to camouflage the very real problems of child abuse and neglect and blame it on smacking.

    I might add that those 117,000 notifications of abuse need exposure.. they suggest that 12% of the million children in NZ are reported as abused each year, and more than a third of all Maori children. Thats bullshit moral panic used by the authorities to make unnecessary and damaging changes to our society.



  3. Look it’s simple, smack an adult the way pro-smackers say is ok for kids and you get arrested. Tell me the difference – that adults won’t heed a lesson if they are smacked but kids will? Such lack of logic and understanding. The fact is that we can only smack kids until they have enough strength and resolution to say “no you don’t do that to me any more, I’m big enough to stop you”. That is the nub of the flawed argument put by the pro-lobby.

    There is also the fact that NZ is signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (only the US and Somalia, those failed states, aren’t). Articles in this Convention are meant to be heeded within signatory states (one’s own as well as everyone else’s). Article 12 takes a common sense, good parenting stance on when and how we should listen to children and take on board what they say. It’s to do with ability to understand, related to age etc. So A12 says all kids have a Right to be consulted about administrative and legal matters which affect them, and for their views to be heard.

    What was the minimum age for this referendum? Has anyone in authority made an effort to ask kids what they feel, how they see it, for a genuine consultation in ways that will gather their views? If not the whole exercise is so flawed it needs scrapping as an insulting waste of public money which failed to ask the very people (they are you know, not property) who would be the main recipients on a return to ‘reasonable chastisement’.

    The lack of this basic requirement is akin to the plantation owner saying his slaves don’t need to vote on abolition of slavery. (“They are too simple and undeveloped to be able to make a rational judgement because they are … black, poor, heathen, not civilised, immature etc etc”) It shows up the underlying thinking which led to this daft exercise. Smacking is OK, it runs, because it ensures we adults get our way when we need to/for their own good etc. The ‘reasonable chastisement’ lot will say it’s all a matter of degree and that it’s up to each parent to decide exactly what that means. At the same time they will also sign up to ideas of e.g. fairness and justice etc.

    So, tell me this. Children A, B and C from respective families A, B and C, all get caught together up to no good, maybe sneaking sweets from the local shop. Dads A,B and C are called, haul their offspring to Acacia Avenue, Blackberry Way and Coronation Drive.

    Dad A gives son A a traditional paddling on his btm sufficient that son A cannot sit down for a while.

    Dad B also smacks his son, but on the bare legs with bare hand, and raises welts.

    Dad C lectures son C, says how disappointed he is, makes son C go back, taking remnant of sweets, whole of saved pocket money, and son C has to confront Mr Shopkeeper.

    I am not even asking which is the ‘better’ method. Some will say, well son B will know well enough next time because he knows what will happen. But that can be said of all 3 situations. No, the issue for me is that for the same offence there are 3 punishments of varying severity – these kids will compare notes afterwards. They will sense and express to each other their value-judgements on what happened, and if one kid has been hit beyond what they all believe is unacceptable because of its severity, that will affect them all, and not in any way I can see as being good.

    I’ve made no mention of child abuse, just dealt with issues on the very grounds used by the pros. The next time someone wants to make a pro- stop doing something, perhaps s/he won’t object or resist if someone says to them it’s ok to smack them if they won’t do as they are told. “Mr Jones, the next time I see you throwing rubbish over my fence, I’ll smack you. I’ve tried being reasonable, I have asked you. So you know what will happen?” ‘Reasonable chastisement’, a level of hurt Mr Jones will feel but which is not anything more than a painful slap? Go on, tell me you think that’s OK. Mr Jones, obdurate, selfish, likely to strop if told even ever so nicely, quite determined to have his own way? And not even the excuse of being a child?


  4. Oh, PS – of boys A, B and C, when they do compare what happened to each of them, what do you think they will agree as ‘fair and just’? No brainer.


  5. homepaddock says:

    Jan – Dads A & B would have broken the old law too.

    That isn’t what I’m debating. I’m not in favour of smacking. But nor am I in favour of the law which makes it legal to use reasonable force for prevention but illegal for a parent to lightly smack – using the same or less force – for correction.

    Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s condoned.


  6. You may wish that is what parents will do, but are you there to monitor the degree of force used? How do you gauge ‘light’? These are subjective terms and will be interpreted with wide variation, with some ideas of ‘light’ being just that much too ‘heavy’.

    Now A and B Dads, perhaps they should try talking to A, B and C kids and listening to the kids’ perception of what is just and appropriate. Kids are calculating little beasts – some will weigh up the smacking and say ‘it was worth it’. Those who say in later years it stopped them are just falsifying the truth. Many kids will say, and I have heard them, “Yes I should have been punished but he didn’t have to smack me”. The psychology is simple – smacking humiliates children, ask them, they are often resentful, not about being punished, but that an adult will resort to hitting them. If the exercise is to punish and also that children see it is just punishment, I assure you smacking is just not the answer. Ask those kids about Dad C and they will tell you that his approach is just, that loss of pocket money, privileges etc is more effective and accepted as just.

    Incidentally, if a child e.g. bites an adult and the adult instinctively retaliates, then that is not smacking in the sense of punishment. On that basis, adults have to be clear about the likely consequences, however provocative the child’s action. But that can be judged on exactly the same basis as an adult hitting one – how proportionate is the retaliation, and one has to take on board the age of the perpetrator. If it’s an adult you hit back at you may, as we all know, face the possibility of being arrested. So the same may well apply re a child.

    In many cases, adults hitting each other may get a caution, or the case lie with no action but a note on file. That seems to me to be the sensible course to apply re children where an adult retaliates, providing the retaliation is proportionate. Issues such as age of child, relative physical strength etc may weigh as factors, as well as what degree of self-restraint is to be expected from an adult and also, did the adult actually by his previous actions, contribute to the child’s action of e.g. biting in the sense of creating frustration and anger legitimately in the child.


  7. homepaddock says:

    Jan – what is reasonable force for prevention which the current law allows?

    Dads A & B are irrelevant because their actions would have been illegal under the old law too.


  8. Red Rosa says:

    I see the Boscawen Bill is now on the agenda, and being slavered over on the right-wing blogs. A bit touchy – will the National Party support it? C’mon troops, yes or no? Easy, innit?

    For those who do support a law change (presumably those NO votes) why not a few amendments make it specific? Front up, and argue that horsewhips, wooden spoons and belts should be OK again. And the Christians can testify that a few good thrashings to the Baby Jesus made all the difference.

    Should be interesting.


  9. homepaddock says:

    Rosa: Which bits of the following statements don’t you understand?

    * Horsewhips, wooden spoons and belts weren’t okay and still aren’t.

    * The current Act allows reasonable force (just like the old one did) for prevention – but not for correction.

    * Opposing the Act because it’s bad law is not the same as supporting smacking.

    * Saying a trivial and trifling smack shouldn’t be illegal doesn’t mean any smacking is a good way to discipline children.


  10. Red Rosa says:

    Since John Key has announced that the National Party will not be supporting Boscawen’s bill, I guess you could put those questions to JK himself, HP.

    And I took him for an amiable flip-flopper! Turns out the guy has genuine commonsense and decency.

    How he will fare at the hands of the US funded Christian Right (Focus on the Family, to spell it out) – well, we’ll wait and see.


  11. Stork says:

    “The pro-smacking lobby has scored a healthy win in the referendum, but it is a win thoroughly tarnished, writes The Press in an editorial.

    The question posed was flawed, the participation of voters low, the campaign unengaging, the cost of the exercise prohibitive and the results inconsequential. In short, the referendum was a fiasco.”

    I wouldn’t say “inconsequential; I’m happy to know hardly anyone listened to the dork.


  12. Stork says:

    The Nelson Mail says politicians need to resist mob pressure:

    90% is a mob?


  13. Stork says:

    how many editorials were positive do the above cover the field?
    If so they beg the question why? is it a piece of logic or better understanding of social scientists or is it that journalists self select in some way?


  14. homepaddock says:

    “how many editorials were positive do the above cover the field?”

    These were all the ones I came across.


  15. How nice to get a Visitors entry on the Fair Play site I help maintain telling me I’m an idiot – not so slow I didn’t trace it back here to someone at this blog. Well done for the intellectual content, whoever.

    Let’s see – what is ‘reasonable force’ as applied to a child which makes it legal but not when applied to an adult, for the justification does not exist in law, either for prevention or even for punishment these many years. No adult is given any legal sanction (bar police) to use force to prevent an act other than self-defence and even that’s circumscribed. There is no right of one adult to use force on any other to prevent them doing something the one does not wish the other to do, or to make the other do something they do not want to do. It all amounts to criminal assault.

    That is because we don’t recognise the argument that one person, whomsoever, can be allowed to inflict their will or another by any degree of use of force.

    So what can’t you understand about there being no argument to do the opposite where children are concerned. No brainer – we do not even allow children to do that to one another. Even non-family adults cannot do it to children.

    The pro lobby will say that children have to be taught an example – what in the name of common sense do they mean? “Jimmy, the law says you mustn’t get your way by using force against others” and then Jimmy gets a reasonable smack to prevent him from doing something.

    The pro lobby hasn’t an intellectual leg to stand on, nor do the half-way apologists. What they fear is, after all, being unable to cope unless they have such sanctions available. If only people would admit, smacking may happen but it’s a failure of coping. Not to be condoned but we all know it can happen.

    To underline it – the parent is supposed to be the primary carer and one function is to show the child how it is supposed to behave and what it cannot do. One of the first things is that you can’t force your will on others by hitting them. So how does anyone claim there is any sustainable argument that one of the means of instructing a child is to hit them?

    Always the act of hitting (a smack is a form of hitting, the pros will say maybe ‘gentle’ or ‘moderate’ hitting?) contains an inherent warning if the person hitting is bigger and stronger than the recipient. “If you do not stop, I can do this again, and it could be harder”. If you don’t accept that, tell me what the parent using the concept of reasonable force has to do when the unreasonable child defies reasonable force smack no 1? Same again, Sammy? Same degree of reasonableness, or just a tad increase of reasonable force?

    What a way to sell moral behaviour to the young!


  16. homepaddock says:

    I am not in favour of the reasoanble force defence. that’s one of the reasons I oppose the current law becasue it still allows it.

    I agree smacking isn’t to be condoned but it’s because it happens, albeit usually because the parent isn’t coping,that a smack which is trivial and trifling shouldn’t be illegal either.

    But your arguemnt on treating children as adults is flawed:

    The law doesn’t allow anyone to detain an adult against his/her will as a parent might ground a child, give him/her time-out; make him/her sit on the naughty step . . .

    The law doesn’t allow us to withhold pay from an adult as we might from a child.

    Chidlren need to be safe and the law should ensure they are but the parent-child relationship is unique and can not be comapred with adult-adult relationships.


  17. Stork says:

    For all the evil of smacking it doesn’t appear to do much harm:

    the lead author of the physical punishment part of the Dunedin study, psychologist Jane Millichamp, said the project appeared to be the first long-term study in the world to separate out those who had merely been smacked with an open hand.
    Preliminary analysis showed that those who were merely smacked had “similar or even slightly better outcomes” than those who were not smacked in terms of aggression, substance abuse, adult convictions and school achievement.

    “Study members in the ‘smacking only’ category of punishment appeared to be particularly high-functioning and achieving members of society,” she said.

    “I have looked at just about every study I can lay my hands on, and there are thousands, and I have not found any evidence that an occasional mild smack with an open hand on the clothed behind or the leg or hand is harmful or instils violence in kids,” she said.

    “I know that is not a popular thing to say, but it is certainly the case.

    “The more honest researchers have said, let’s be honest, we all wish we could say it’s all very clear and that no parent should ever lift a finger on a child – although I think that is totally unrealistic as a single parent myself – but the big problem is that a lot of the studies have lumped a whole lot of forms of physical punishment together.”



  18. Farmer Baby Boomer says:

    good comment Stork. When I think about it some of the words my father said to me, when I was a child, hurt lot more for a lot longer than any of the smacks I received.


  19. “The law doesn’t allow anyone to detain an adult against his/her will as a parent might ground a child, give him/her time-out; make him/her sit on the naughty step.”

    “The law doesn’t allow us to withhold pay from an adult as we might from a child.”

    The law allow the detention of adults, where they are vulnerable to such an extent that this nis for their safety. Mental health and mental handicap situations. But this compulsion of a vulnerable person for their own protection or for the protection of others most certainly does not extend to lawfully hitting them to compel their obedience.

    In contracts for employment it has been common enough practice to deduct pay as fines for misconduct – footballers for example. But the Manager or the League Disciplinary Committee are not allowed to hit them, believe me.

    Justice is based on equality before the law. If you disallow adults to hit one another but not adults hit children, then that basic principle is breached. It used to be accepted men could also hit servants and their wives. How long before you all understand this right not to be struck for any reason extends to your children.


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