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Smacking report vindicates Greens’ call for change

2 June 2004

Smacking report vindicates Greens’ call for law change

Green MP Sue Bradford says new research confirming the negative effects on children of smacking completely vindicates her efforts to repeal a law that provides parents with a legal defence for physical punishment.

A newly released Otago University report says physical punishment can turn children into violent offenders, lower their IQ, lead to suicidal thoughts and is unlikely to teach them anything. Ms Bradford has a private members bill in the parliamentary ballot that would repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act, an initiative that is part of the Greens’ Every Child Matters policy package. “This new report now confirms the link between punishment and development and shows that ultimately society pays the price when parents smack their children,” said Ms Bradford, the Green Party Children’s Issues Spokesperson.

“I view these findings as ‘common sense’, not the oft-repeated claim that low-level physical punishment is somehow natural and reasonable.

“Section 59 creates a climate which allows a large section of the population to think that whacking kids is okay. I can’t understand why a Government struggling to deal with rampant violence in society is sitting on its hands on one of the key underlying causes. And I am sick and tired of CYFS copping all the blame, it is the adults around children who beat them and the legal defence via section 59 has to be removed.

“The Government should have the courage of its convictions and be leading the debate by introducing a Bill to repeal that clause in the law. It shouldn’t be left to the off chance that my private member’s bill will be drawn out of the ballot.

“I applaud report author Professor Anne Smith for her statement that ‘nobody could say for certain where to draw the line between moderate and severe physical punishment.’ If the definition of that line continues to be left to the courts to interpret, abusers will keep getting away with claiming that what they were doing was either reasonable or a one-off over-reaction. The only safe, unambiguous line is one of zero tolerance of assault against any member of society.

“Superficial public opinion surveys may suggest wide opposition to repealing section 59, but that is surely not an entrenched viewpoint and hopefully this new report will go some way towards shifting attitudes.

“The Greens support well-funded parenting education, such as the newly launched SKIP, so all parents are made aware of the many alternatives to smacks. Frankly, whacking kids is often just lazy parenting, its time adults recognised the power they have over the most vulnerable members of society and not only showed self control themselves but condemned those around them that physically punish their kids,” said Ms Bradford.


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