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Turner: Time For Commonsense In Smacking Debate

Media statement
For immediate release
Monday, 13 June 2005
Turner: Time for commonsense in smacking debate

United Future deputy leader and family spokeswoman, Judy Turner, says the debate over smacking or not smacking children needs a healthy dose of forward-thinking and commonsense.

"On the face of it," she says, "Green MP Sue Bradford's Member's Bill to remove Section 59 from the Crimes Act (which allows parents to defend themselves from charges of abusing their children through physical violence) seems entirely reasonable.

"But reality intrudes when you take a minute to consider the implications of banning smacking.

"Not only do you criminalise the actions of ordinary, loving New Zealand parents, but if we are going to define smacking as abuse, let's be consistent about it and let Child, Youth and Family know they should get ready to investigate possibly every family in the country.

"The Department's own figures show they already have 1800 unallocated cases already sitting in their in-tray, and everyone knows over-pressured CYF social workers have to work very hard each day just to keep their heads above water.

"To suddenly label any parent who uses physical discipline as an abuser, and their parenting requiring intervention by CYF, is simply ludicrous.

"We need to get a handle on this debate, and rather than foisting blanket bans on smacking upon loving Kiwi parents, we should actually get to grips with the real issue here which is, how do we define what is abuse and what is not?

"United Future MP Murray Smith has developed a bill that would give Courts guidelines for determining what is appropriate physical discipline of children and where the line is crossed to abuse.

"This would mean parents who occasionally smack their children in a controlled and loving manner, and who rely on smacking as a last resort won't be at risk of criminal sanction.

"Of course middle New Zealand wants to see an end to the horrific cases of abuse we hear about constantly in the media, but banning smacking is simply not the way to go about this. Nor does it acknowledge the views of ordinary New Zealanders.

"It is time that this question of smacking stops being dominated by voices at extreme ends of the spectrum and a dose of commonsense is injected into this debate," said Mrs Turner.

ends

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