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Dishonesty in anti-smacking bill agenda


Press Release 23/05/06

Bradford's blatant dishonesty in anti-smacking bill agenda

Green MP Sue Bradford has just made a major U-turn in her position with regard to her flawed private members bill that seeks the complete removal of the "reasonable force" defence from the Crimes Act 1960 (s. 59).

After numerous public denials by her and her supporters, that the repeal of s. 59 would 'criminalise' ALL parents who use force such as smacking (i.e. potentially open them ALL up to a charge of criminal assault); she now admits that the repeal would in fact do just that: 'criminalise' them ALL. She has known since last year that the Police have conceded in a letter to Family Integrity that this would be the EFFECT of removing s. 59, even though the intent of the bill's proponents may not have been to produce this effect.

In this case an unstated intention of the present bill (not to criminalise smacking) is irrelevant. It is the EFFECT of the law that informs the Courts not an unstated intention!

Bradford now goes much further and concedes, as her critics have been pointing out, that repeal of s. 59 opens up ALL parents who use ANY force against their children in disciplinary action such as carrying kids to their rooms for time-out, or for ANY other reason (other than to remove them from imminent danger where force is justified); to charges of assault being laid against them by the police.

The Society is calling on Ms Bradford to concede that she has been quite dishonest in her responses to her critics and has demonstrated a level of incompetence that sullies the legislative process and many of her competent parliamentary colleagues. The Society is asking for her to come clean and apologise publicly for this debacle.

As recently as Sunday 21 May she was claiming that she would not compromise on her efforts to get s. 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 repealed and resolutely maintained that all smacking constitutes the 'thin-edge of the wedge' and the 'slippery slope' towards criminal offending by parents, called "child abuse". This is the position of CYFS (Child, Youth and Family Services), one of her main supporters. (We all know what they're like when we saw Ms Lorraine Williams, their National Operations Manager, savage Don and Anne Eathorne for having committed 'child abuse' on the recent TV One Sunday programme, because they smacked their foster boy in a disciplinary action).

Following the recent publication by Investigate Magazine of an interview done with her on the subject of her bill, it was suggested by critics that she actually does not want any parent who smacks their child to be criminalised. However, she rubbished this suggestion that she had softened her approach. Newstalk ZB (21/05), having noted her critic's comments, reported that "the MP says there is no change in her position. She [Bradford] says any suggestion [by her critics] she has softened her stance is nonsense."

Her hard-line view opposing all smacking by parents and her determination to have it criminalised by the removal of the "reasonable force" defence from the law - was disclosed to the nation last year at a time when her blatant dishonesty over her real agenda was being attacked by the Society for Promotion of Community Standards in a series of media release.

As the Society pointed out ….

"When asked by TV One's "Eye to Eye" host former MP Willie Jackson, "Do you accept [the use of] mild physical discipline [on children]?" Green Party MP Sue Bradford did not answer the question. However, she did make it clear that her long-term legislative goal was to criminalise smacking. "I accept that at this time it's too soon in this country to criminalise parents who lightly smack their children, therefore I'm simply wanting to repeal existing [legislation]". This evasive yet very revealing reply led Jackson to restate the question: "But do you think it's OK to smack your kids?" Bradford replied. "Personally no, but I'd like to see the day when we no longer use that [light smacking] but I think we have a long way to go. We have a lot of education to do". [Eye to Eye: Episode 23 First Broadcast TV One Saturday 09/07/05l; Rebroadcast TV One Tuesday 12/07/05].

Ms Bradford has been responsible for producing a bill that is patently absurd and driven by confused and dishonest motives. If its proponents really do believe that the smacking of a kid in a measured way for disciplinary purposes by parents does constitute actual "child abuse", then why have they not seen fit to produce a bill that includes a clear intention to have the police deal with all such smacking as criminal offences? The same point could be made with regard to the use of "force" in establishing 'time out'. The reason Bradford and co. have not done so, is because this bill is actually a classic piece of liberal engineering. Its real intent is not stated. And when it is altered, if this is allowed, it will be dishonest by not truly reflecting the real position of its proponents!

Now, just days before the select committee is to hear from some of the 1,750 submitters and in a state of frenzied panic, Bradford wants to be given the chance to appease her critics by rewriting the bill. She wants to add an "intention" into the explanatory note: one clarifying that the bill's aim is not to criminalise smacking etc. Frankly, she has lost all credibility. She should not be allowed to waste tax-payers money in a futile effort to salvage a lost cause.

The Dominion Post (23/05) reports that "she would not countenance moves to legally define permissible hitting." Here she creates a classic conundrum for herself because of her flawed presuppositions concerning what constitutes violence and child abuse. Her position is the classic one of a circular argument. By defining ALL forms of force against children as violence and abuse, and accepting no justification for its use as valid; she obviously has to recoil with horror from any attempt to define in law - "permissible hitting." To allow for "permissible hitting" in law, would undercut her dogma - opposition to ALL forms of "force" used against children (with the exception of force allowed in cases where children need to be removed from imminent danger).

And notice how she deliberately and dishonestly conflates the term "hitting" with "mild smacking". By using the blanket term "hitting" she lumps all loving and measured disciplinary force into the category of "violence". Her puerile excuse for doing so is her fallacious argument that because all such actions against an adult are unacceptable under the law - they constitute assault legally - then the same should be true with respect children. Sadly she deliberately ignores the clear distinction IN KIND between the relationship of two adults and that between an adult and his or her child, as well as the domestic setting in which society accepts force as justified in disciplinary matters involving children.

The Society's submission to the select committee on the Bill is available on its website under "Submissions to Select Committees" See: www.spcs.org.nz


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