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Anti-smacking lobby has no public support.

17 February 2006

Anti-smacking lobby has no public support.

Two representatives from Family Integrity attended the "Effective Discipline" Forum in Wellington 9 February 2006, put on by the Families and Children's Commissioners. They found that the two Commissioners knew very well they did not have public support for the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

Two large polls (shown below) demonstrate how true this is. A TV1 website poll, which has been active since 28 July 2005, today shows 93% in favour of parents being allowed to use reasonable force to discipline their children. A Stuff.co.nz web poll conducted 16 February 2006 shows 5322 participants (83.8%) answering "No" to the question, "Should smacking children be outlawed in NZ?"

A third poll appeared in this morning's Wellington Dominion Post. Presented by former Children's Commissioner Ian Hassall to a conference in Wellington on child abuse, the phone survey of 800 parents revealed that 82% believe it is ok to smack.

For a more robust, scientifically conducted survey, the best is the one commissioned by the Ministry of Justice in 2001 and carried out by the National Research Bureau. (See: http://www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports/2001/children/ex-summary.html). It states as its objective, "The survey was conducted by the Ministry of Justice to ascertain public attitudes towards the physical discipline of children. This information is to inform ongoing policy work on section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961." The survey further states: "The results showed that 80% of the public agreed that a person parenting a child should be allowed by law to smack the child with an open hand if they are naughty."

"These polls show that smacking or using reasonable force to discipline one's child is overwhelmingly supported by the New Zealand public," says Family Integrity National Director Craig Smith. "Remember, these polls reflect what parents think, those parents at the coalface rather than ivory tower academics. And when you explain to these people that repealing Section 59 will criminalise not only every parent who smacks a child, regardless of how lightly, but also every parent who tries to correct or train or discipline a child using force of any kind, including "time out", they get really angry at the deceit behind this proposed legislation."

Yet neither the Families Commissioner Dr Rajen Prasad nor the Children's Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro expressed any desire at the Forum to pay attention to our democratic tradition of majority rule. Instead they call upon the Government "to show leadership" in this area. That means, "Ignore what the voters say and do as we United Nations-inspired, un-elected, politically-appointed academics say is best."

These people and all those who are pushing for repeal of Section 59 are happy to overturn in a moment of time parenting methodologies that have been successfully used and proven over thousands of years across many cultures. The only glimmer of hope at the Forum was the grudging acknowledgement by the two Commissioners that repeal would in fact criminalise parents from one end of New Zealand to the other. "It cannot be glossed over," Dr Kiro told the Forum delegates.

Most of us can easily see how foolish it would be for a government, without any serious public debate or solid research into the social consequences of such a move, to criminalise practices that are as deeply held to and believed in as any other you will find. Such cultural, religious, philosophical and familial insensitivity would spell disaster for any sense of social cohesion and trust and security the government may be trying to foster.


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