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Maharey back-pedalling over smacking is outrageous

7 May 2004

Maharey back-pedalling over smacking is outrageous

Green MP Sue Bradford says the Government has blatantly retreated from its previous commitment to remove the law that allows children to be physically punished and that the move is yet another example of Labour sanitising its principles in a spin-driven effort to hold on to votes.

The Social Development Ministry yesterday released SKIP: Strategies with Kids - Information for Parents, an initiative previously promoted as the Government's alternative to the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, but which contains no reference to physical punishment at all. Social Development Minister Steve Maharey went further on National Radio this morning, saying SKIP is not intended to "soften people up" for a law change.

"It is outrageous for the Minister to now claim that his Government has no opinion on Section 59," said Ms Bradford, the Green Party Spokesperson on Children's Issues.

"Maharey is furiously back-pedalling out of the issue in another cynical attempt to shore up Labour's vote.

"In opposition Labour promised 'a line in the sand' on smacking. Then in government it offered this parenting campaign as an alternative to a law change. Now the Minister says the campaign has nothing to do with challenging physical punishment at all.

"The Greens support well-funded parenting education, such as SKIP, but believe the Government should have the courage of its convictions and be leading the debate by introducing a Bill to ban smacking now, rather than after the next election."

Ms Bradford has a private members bill in the ballot that would repeal Section 59, an initiative that is part of the Greens' Every Child Matters policy package.

"Superficial public opinion surveys may suggest wide opposition to repealing section 59, but that is surely not an entrenched viewpoint which cannot be shifted by a vigorous debate ahead of an imminent and tangible reform. New Zealanders rightfully condemn child abuse, but it remains a blight on the face of our society. It is time for the Government to take tangible action rather than just putting out more words.

"I am sick and tired of CYFS copping all the blame for the increasing reports of child abuse. It is the adults around children who beat them and the legal defence of section 59 has to be removed. The National Party's focus on CYFS is particularly hypocritical given that that department's dysfunctional state ultimately comes back to the lack of funding that dates from National's time in Government," said Ms Bradford.

ENDS

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