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Smith launches Parental Discipline Bill

Friday, 14 May, 2004

Smith launches Parental Discipline Bill

United Future's Murray Smith today launched a member's bill on the
physical disciplining of children "to inject common sense, balance and
detail into an area in which the debate has lacked all of the above".

"We all abhor child abuse and there is no excuse for it, but to date there
has been no common ground on which this important issue can be discussed -
and that has created a field day for extremists," Mr Smith said.

"If this Bill achieves one thing, it should be to clearly and reasonably
identify child abuse, while not throwing the baby out with the bathwater
in terms of reasonable parental discipline of a child," he said.

Mr Smith said the Bill was based on physical discipline of children - as
the last resort, not the first - and as not being tantamount to child

"Middle New Zealand knows that; parents every where know that, and
properly and lovingly handle their children.

"This Bill takes the argument away from political and social extremists,"
he said, citing a TV3/NFO poll late last year that showed some 74% of
respondents considered it acceptable for parents to smack their children.

"This Bill recognises that a smack on the backside to discipline a child
is a world away from the thrashing of a child that all too tragically

"People know that there is a world of difference between appropriate,
restrained, physical discipline of children and the violent acting out of
anger and frustration."

"It provides a list of factors for the court to consider in determining
whether the force used constituted abuse, including intention,
reasonableness, whether it was controlled or uncontrolled, whether it was
considered or reactive, its duration and frequency, the manner and extent
of the use of any object and its medical effects. The child's age and
physical size are also to be taken into account," he said.

The Bill could well serve parents in evaluating their parenting and their
use of physical discipline, Mr Smith said.


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