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Big News: Children, Smacking And The DPB

Big News with Dave Crampton

Children, Smacking And The DPB

Social Services Minister Steve Maharey is a politically correct socialist. He was all ready to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act – the section that gives the right for parents to physically discipline their kids. The only thing that has stopped a law change now is the fact that the move will cost the Government votes.

It’s irrelevant to politicians that most people don’t want a law change. Public opinion is less relevant than losing votes. Most people want tougher sentencing; we never got that in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill. Perhaps that’s because the implications of that bill don’t affect as many people as a repeal of Section 59 - nor is it likely to lose as many votes. Most people don’t support gay marriage, so a civil union bill has just been drafted for debate in the House. It will be interesting to see the result of that.

I’d also suggest most people are also against politicians increasing their own perks and making the rules themselves, but that change is going through the House so fast that there’s no time to even do a decent poll. Jonathan Hunt, one of the main perk controllers, should be able to give himself permission to spend more than the $29,170 he spent on taxis this year. Apparently the change in perks was mooted to make the perk process transparent. It will be less transparent than the doors on Hunt’s taxis - let alone the windows.

Back to smacking. The Government will conduct a public education programme, which is what Maharey said should happen – and he said it more than a year ago. Perhaps he wants to educate those who use “reasonable force” to use no force – and if they don’t agree or won’t listen, he’ll drum up support from all his fellow childless MP mates and use his own force through his influence in changing the law.

The other reason Maharey has backed down from the repeal of Section 59 for now is the other two ministers in charge of the issue - John Tamihere and Phil Goff – do not favour a repeal of the section just yet. Tamihere probably never will. Although Maharey would like Section 59 repealed now, he can’t change the law on his own and it appears that the arrival of Tamihere as the Youth Affairs Minister has made any law change more difficult. Former Youth Affairs Minister, Laila Harre, shares Maharey’s view. Unfortunately for them, most New Zealanders don’t.

The whole smacking debate is a result of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child which requires “all appropriate legislative, social, administrative and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of abuse….while in the care of the parent or, legal guardian”.

Maharey might like to quote that section of the UN Convention when it comes to smacking, yet he completely ignored it when considering the Working Toward Employment Bill- which should have been renamed “Working To Keep People On The DPB For Longer Bill”. It is a bill that assists individuals rather than families – i.e. assisting families that split up. It does not protect the child from abuse or poverty, nor does it provide hope for the future. Violence and welfare dependency are connected. For example, studies have shown that those on a sole parent family are 75 times more likely to be killed than those from two parent families- and 33 times more likely if the mother is living with a boyfriend. So it is arguably morally wrong for the Government to make it easier to get on the DPB and harder to leave.

Unlike the community wage, there’s now no longer a stand down period for the DPB. You can get it as long as you have a dependant child, don’t marry, don’t work and don’t let the other parent see your children for more than 40 percent of the time. You can even leave the country for a month and still get the benefit.

Some kids with solo parents won’t even meet their dad. One in seven women on the DBP refuse to name the father on their child’s birth certificates – yet that was a requirement when the DPB was introduced. Some have lived with their dad before he left and the Family Court waded in to help. As a result of Family court hearings, the mothers usually gain custody of children, and they also get legal aid. Fathers on the other hand, may not get custody or legal aid - but they find it difficult to pay child support when they lose custody because they’ve spent a huge amount in legal fees. Of course lawyers are the winners, the media is locked out as it can’t report on Family Court proceedings, so it is all done in secret. The losers are sole parent families who often end up on welfare and don’t receive child support as the courts fail to enforce it even if dad has a high paying job. So they rely on welfare paid by you and me, the taxpayer.

When Michael Joseph Savage introduced welfare in 1948 he envisaged it to be a temporary measure to assist people back onto their feet – now some make it a lifestyle. Currently one in three New Zealanders are dependant on the state. When the DBP was introduced to assist woman after abusive partners had left them and the kids, just 17,231 were getting the benefit. Government advisers at the time said that no more than 20,000 will be on the benefit at any one time.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years and there are 109,000 on the benefit. There would have been about 124,000 had work testing not been introduced a few years ago. Thanks to United Future and Labour, work testing is now a thing of the past. Fast forward another eight years and if present trends continue three quarters of Maori families will be without a dad. Most of these kids will be raised on the DBP, just like their mums were.

This is why present trends must be reversed. It is time the Government started making family friendly laws. United Future was supposed to be the family friendly party, but it is in fact a handful of ACT MPs who are doing the job for them. Mr Dunne often said pre election, “If our families are working well then our country is working well”.

At least he’s got someone to blame if the country is not working well. The family. The rest of us could point to inappropriate legislation measures.


- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at

EDITOR’S NOTE: Scoop is committed to freedom of speech and so published the above column as submitted by its author. The editors of Scoop do not however endorse any of its content.

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