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Punishing Smacking

Punishing Smacking

Wednesday 26 Nov 2003
Stephen Franks
Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today told the Child/Youth Law & Policy Conference that criminalisation of parents who choose to smack their children is now purely a political struggle.

"It has nothing to do with reason. There's no evidence that banning smacking would save a single child from brutality. Some earnest people of good intent are caught up in this - but, mainly, this is about political elites wanting to look good to their mates," Mr Franks said.

"I addressed a Barnardos forum on this two years ago, and took the argument seriously. I researched, and tried to find evidence. I tried to respect the good intentions of those urging the law change, and set out my conclusions: ( .

"I shouldn't have bothered. This cause attracts dud science and dishonest rhetoric, and feeds the same impulses as previous decades' recovered memory syndrome and satanic abuse panics - and, no doubt, witchcraft trials centuries ago.

"It's a modern version of the Inquisition. Conclaves of the self-anointed, clerics quivering with indignation and the urge to punish. But punishing people who brutalise children is too hard - there is more sanctimonious satisfaction in threatening the ordinary people who don't share their ideology, and who dare to question their authority and motives.

"This reeks of the dishonest debate over abolition of corporal punishment in boys' schools. None of the claimed benefits have materialised. All the opponents' feared detriments have emerged. There's no proof of cause and effect either way. Yet we've seen no apology from those who were so superior and scornful of the defenders of the status quo.

"The issue has become a tribal identification badge. The fact that 80 percent of ordinary parents are saying `Who are you to tell me how to raise my child' just confirms for them their special status. They feel anointed to save the lesser breeds from themselves.

"Labour, Progressive Alliance, New Zealand First, the Greens, and National spokespeople say they'll repeal the law allowing reasonable force to discipline children. They think it will win opinion leaders' support. They despise the ordinary people, assuming our memories are so short that if the change is made early in the next election cycle they won't lose votes.

"But, unlike other stupid changes, this will get attention. When police are forced to prosecute decent and caring parents, when a `righteous' judge `sends a message' and convicts a normal mother, the 80 percent won't meekly accept their education at the hands of the law.

"This could be a watershed issue in social policy. ACT will do its best to make it as intractable for the establishment as the coming home to roost of the seabed and foreshore albatrosses," Mr Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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