Who would do better?


Richard Long ends his parting shot in Dominion Post by telling Labour to take it easy on David Shearer.

. . . He’s got what the public relations people describe as the ideal “legend” to make an outstanding Labour leader. He’s also doing better than Helen Clark in Opposition: her polling was in margin-of-error territory. Give the man a break.

What he hasn’t got is traction with the public nor any significant runs on the board against the government.

But Rob Hosking points out no-one else in his caucus has done much either.

. . . And while Mr Shearer’s performance has been somewhat ill-starred, look at the rest of the caucus.

Few have managed any substantial hits on the government. . .

. . . It can be argued Mr Shearer should be judged by the same standard he set his MPs, and by that standard there is no doubt too many opportunities have gone begging.

On the eve of Labour’s annual conference later this week, the party’s question is whether any of the alternatives could do any better.

On recent performance the answer to that question would be no.




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.


Can Houdini get out of this one?


Richard Long  sees a striking similarity between Winston Peters and Houdini:

Imperious self-assurance. Charismatic. Thick, curly black hair. An expansive smile. A love of performing.

 These were descriptions of Harry Houdini, the great Hungarian-American escape artist who thrilled audiences 100 years ago. Today they sound uncannily like our own great political trapeze artist, NZ First leader Winston Peters.

… As he prepares for today’s parliamentary showdown with Opposition MPs, Mr Peters must feel as hogtied as his famous doppelganger. If he manages to wriggle free he deserves to be listed up there with Harry as one of the great escape artists of all time.

The trouble for Mr Peters is that he is being pinged in at least three directions about quite different sets of donations to his party, and questions about where the money went and why it was not declared. That’s like being handcuffed and straitjacketed inside the water torture cell.

…IT MAY well be that Mr Peters has adequate explanations for how such donations have been used, even if there has been a failure to declare.

He may have felt boxed in last week with the visit of United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and failed to concentrate sufficiently on explaining rather than attacking his critics.

But he will need to do better with the answers this week, although he will be tempted to continue the counter-punching role, in which he revels, rather than giving explanations, which he hates.

Apart from his political opponents, Mr Peters is facing an increasingly exasperated prime minister who watched as the undeclared donations saga last week upstaged what should have been a major political showcase in the visit of Dr Rice.

… She will not want to precipitate an early election, but if she cannot coax suitable explanations from Mr Peters and, if she calculates her image as a strong leader would be enhanced by action, she could strip Mr Peters of his portfolios.

NZ First would be sealing their own death warrant if they responded by bringing down the Government over that.

Mr Peters would, in these circumstances, portray himself as the injured innocent and go on an all-out campaign for the pensioner vote. With Tauranga being a lost cause, he needs a focused campaign to get his party vote over the 5 per cent threshold. Presently it is hovering nearer four.

Harry Houdini, the escape artist, would no doubt approve.

But Peters isn’t supposed to be entertaining us, he’s supposed to be hleping to run the country which puts his antics in a very unfavourable light.

P.S. Long discussed this issue Jim Mora and his guests on The Panel  this afternoon.

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