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 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 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.