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Marc Alexander - Welcome to Soviet New Zealand

27 January 2005 Marc My Words.

Welcome to Soviet New Zealand

Political comment By Marc Alexander

Welcome to Soviet New Zealand! A land that frees you from the vicissitudes of choice, success, and independent thinking. A nation assuming all the hallmarks of an ideological dumping ground, with its citizens perilously close to being incarcerated in a big brother prison, where the Warden is the government, bureaucracy the guards and our ethical compass removed for our own good!

Why think and be responsible when our dear government would do it so much better? Yeah right!

The Children's Commissioner wants our government to test every child aimed at preventing them from falling through the 'cracks'. The 'cracks' identified are the usual culprits of abuse, health and education.

The plan advocated by Commissioner Cindy Kiro isn't just about helping kids in need but an absolute intrusion into the affairs of all families. Worse.this nightmare vision of meddling interference is to be undertaken by the government - an agency notorious for wasting tax dollars in the pursuit of accomplishing very little other than shoring up electoral support, creating paperwork where none was needed, and devising labyrinthine amounts of red-tape to hinder the rest of us from pursuing a profitable life.

Naturally all those government types who see the possibility of increased powers and resources are rubbing their paws with glee. And who can blame them. Government social workers have had a rough time over the last few years - often being blamed for either being too heavy-handed, not doing enough, or simply being an inadequate service provider. I'll be the first to admit, it's not always their fault.

No-one can dispute that we have some real problems when it comes to the treatment of our children: we have a high incidence of child abuse (3rd worst in the OECD); deplorable rates of youth suicide; endemic child poverty; and, at best, a patchy educational system.

But we also have some pretty obvious solutions that we aren't willing to look at. What about proper penalties for child abuse?

The debate over section 59 of the Crimes Act is a good place to start. Rather than go after the majority of good parents and try to forbid them from smacking their child when it might well be appropriate, give decent sentences for those that really do abuse their kids. Capill received a ridiculously light sentence for his sexual offences on young children. So did Lloyd McIntosh. How we deal with child abuse in New Zealand has nothing to do with section 59, but everything to do with a disparity between parental responsibility and abuse of children.

To criminalize the majority of parents in order to deal with a proportionately small group of truly 'evil parents' is patently absurd. No doubt it will be the same people who want the symbolism of removing section 59 (and sleeping better, knowing they've rid the world of another of life's ills), who will be at the front of the queue tut-tut ting about the increase in wayward kids a few years later. "Where are the parents? What about their responsibility?" they will cry in utter futility.

There is a demarcation point between security and liberty. This intrusive busybody initiative of the Children's Commissioner might be well meaning but it crosses the line.

It is an insidious assumption of parental ineptitude and intentional neglect that tramples liberty under the guise of government compassion. They tried the same nonsense in the Soviet system and it took over seventy years to break out of that ideological straitjacket. We should learn from that sordid lesson and dump this idea before it takes root.

If we want parents to be held responsible for how their kids turn out, why are we taking away the means by which some parents can parent?

If it is child abuse we want to target, then let's stop wasting time attacking good parents and do more to prevent abuse happening in the first place. Let's start treating those parents as the criminals they surely are, with meaningful sentences.
We can do much more to combat youth suicides. Instead of letting government have the responsibility in an after the fact kind of way, why not improve the strength and resilience of our families?

We could start by restoring the role of fathers in their children's lives.

Men have become scarce in all the places that matter. They've been chased out of kindergartens, primary schools.and increasingly from their role as fathers. And it starts with the young; men are now called birthing partners not fathers! We have become so PC that we can't discriminate against any alternative domestic arrangements even to the point where we make the assumption of crime and guilt where none is warranted such as the seating arrangements of solo kids flying being seated next to a man!

We have child poverty concentrated within those socio-economic groups that are saddled with the hopelessness that accompanies welfarism. We have imprisoned them in a cycle of unmitigated and continuing failure; and the so-called targeted assistance of the much vaunted 'Working for Families' initiative has ensnared them even more! We have obliterated aspiration and sense of self-worth, and replaced it with a subsidized glue paper of dependency.

And can we trust the government.any government, of really being capable of legislating the aspirations we have for our children? The same government who on the one hand passed laws that had the effect of encouraging more child prostitutes? Or who pushed through the Prisoners and Victims Claims Act which elevated criminals' rights above that of innocent victims? Or a Clean Slate Act which wiped the criminal offending from the public record?

Who will assess these self-appointed guardians of our children? What assurance will we have that they will not mandate our cultural or ethical approach to child rearing as being 'against the public interest' - whatever that might mean?

And it certainly doesn't bode well when the Chief Families Commissioner has dispensed with these concerns and jumped on Cindy Kiro's bandwagon in full support. Apart from this proclamation and being supportive of the repeal of section 59, what has the Families Commission actually done for NZ families to justify its $28 million investment?

If it ends up doing no more than echoing ideological epithets then perhaps the money would have been better spent by resourcing the many non-governmental intervention agencies who have struggled to really help the object of those bureaucrats' alleged concerns: the kids and families of New Zealand.

They need it.


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