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Every Child Counts Anti-Smacking Lobby Dishonesty

"Every Child Counts" Anti-Smacking Lobby Dishonesty

"It is quite dishonest for the lobby group Every Child Counts (ECC) to tell the public that it "supports call for Section 59 repeal" (Media release 13/6/05 issued shortly after Sue Bradford's bill was successfully balloted for debate), says Society president Mike Petrus.

ECC spokesperson, Dr Emma Davies, stated: "Repeal of section 59 would ensure consistent messages about the unacceptability of violence against children and remove the legal defence in situations of serious assaults against a children [sic]". Dr Davies knows that the repeal of s. 59 forms no part of ECC's four "key policy goals" of its Policy Overview Statement to which its affiliated organisatons and individual supporters have given their support. ECC has failed to retract Dr Davies false claim, despite having received a complaint from an affiliate organisation, that, like many others, has never adopted a position either for or against repeal of Section 59. ECC's falsehood continues to be propogated through Green Party MP Sue Bradford who is determined to promote the repeal of s. 59 through her private member's bill: the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill.

Ms Bradford has issued misleading statements in media releases and in parliament claiming that ECC supports the repeal. In a Green Party blogsite update, issued on the same day of the ECC media release (13/6/05), it stated: "Add ... Every Child Counts to the list of organisations supporting Sue B's Bill." Sue Bradford has made no effort to correct this falsehood nor her outrageous and libellous claim that a woman acquitted by a jury of her peers in the Timaru Court of a charge of assault against her son, was a "child abuser" who had assaulted him with a "horse whip".

In parliament she asked Rick Barker: "Why is the Government not prepared to repeal section 59 immediately, when results of the court case in Timaru last week [Timaru Herald 24/5/05] so clearly showed that this law still allows parents to assault and beat their children-in this case with a horse crop and a cane?"

According to Dr Davies, ECC is "a coalition including Barnardos, Plunket, Save the Children, Unicef NZ and AUT's Institute of Public Policy, supported by more than 250 other organisations and thousands of individual supporters" (13/6/05). The number of affiliated organisations has now risen to over 330 and yet none of them have been notified by ECC that the repeal of s. 59, or the referral of Bradford's bill to a select committee, is supported by ECC. It continues to invite the public "to demonstrate their support for the nation's children by adding their names to the Every Child Counts campaign" while at the same time misleadingly and deliberately presents itself to the public as a coalition of members who are ALL opposed to smacking and the repeal of s. 59.

Granted, some individual affiliates within ECC, such as Barnardos, Plunket, Save the Children, Unicef NZ and AUT's Institute of Public Policy do oppose smacking of children and support the repeal of s.59. Some have even issued media releases stating their individual positions clearly. However, it is quite dishonest for ECC to seek to campaign for new affiliates and issue media releases on behalf of all affiliate organisation that presents the entire organisation as opposed to smacking and supporting the repeal of s. 59.

Despite the complaint of misrepresentation from an affiliate member noted, ECC issued yet another media release on the day the politicians debated whether to refer Bradford's bill to select committee. In it ECC called for MPs to send the bill to the select committee even though nothing in the ECC Policy Overview Statement even suggests that this is its positon on the bill. By representing all its affiliate organisations and individual members as calling for MPs to vote this way, it sent a clear signal to the public that ECC is a lobby group that wants s.59 repealed.

The bottom line is that Every Child Counts IS just a lobby group determined to have Section 59 of the Crimes Act repealed (this section permits parents and caregivers to use "reasonable force" on children in certain circumstances involving domestic discipline). ECC has four key policy issues which all the 330 plus affiliated organisations have agreed to. These are: putting the child at the centre of policy development, giving children a good start, ending child poverty and reducing child abuse and neglect. The Society supports these broad aims but is opposed to the repael of s. 59 (see our website www.spcs.org.nz). It believese that this claimed quick-fix solution to curing the nation's social/moral disease of "child abuse" is misguided and erroneous in law.

ECC claims that its primary focus is that children should be at the centre of all policy development and implementation. However, children have mothers and fathers who are responsible as primary care-givers for their nurturing, discipline, social well-being etc. ECC has adopted no formal position on section 59 it claims, it wishes to keep its focus on the strategic level of promoting to political parties and to the public a sustainable future through placing children at the centre of policy. However, it has positioned itself as one of the key anti-smacking lobby groups calling for the repeal of s. 59.


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