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A referendum? Why the panic?

A referendum? Why the panic?

“If, as claimed on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report this morning, the current petition does get the signatures needed to force a referendum on the law banning physical punishment of children, it will be a dubious victory achieved by misleading the public,” said Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand.

“When Parliament passed the new law last year it made provision for the operation of the law to be reviewed after two years. Why therefore the haste to have a referendum nine months before that law review is due?”

“Have the petitioners told the general public about the review? Is there any reference to it in the material available at their booths seeking signatures? Is there any reference to the review on the Family First website? We couldn’t find any!”

“Do actual court decisions in recent months justify such a panicked reaction? Of course not. Has there been a single court decision since June 2007 that would cause anxiety for parents? Not one.”

On 4 December, Family First issued a report from the spurious American College of Pediatricians (its website records 59 charter members) supporting physical punishment of children, but did not tell the public that it this was not the mainstream paediatric society in the USA (the American Academy of Pediatrics which has 60,000 paediatrician members).

On 7 December, Family First issued a statement saying that the original Section 59 was doing its job when foster parents were successfully prosecuted for hitting two children with a baseball bat. Yet Family First offered substantial support and publicity to a woman whose approach to parenting has resulted in a recent conviction and nine months imprisonment.

On 20 December, Family First dismissed a Police report claiming that the Police were ‘totally false’ in stating that they are dealing with one smacking complaint per week.

“What we have seen is a clear intention to generate concern and anxiety for parents with alarmist stories that subsequently have failed to be substantiated. It can only be presumed that this is an endeavour to engender support for this petition.”

“The reality is that cases prosecuted under the new law have demonstrated how effective the new law is. The law is now upholding the new standard, parents are being sent on positive parenting programmes, and they are not being needlessly prosecuted. If the Police are dealing with one complaint a week, most are clearly not getting to court, but are being dealt with by positive discretion as intended under the law change.”

There is no need for anyone to be alarmed, or for a referendum. There is a need to operate under the new law for two years and then constructively and dispassionately assess its effect. However most importantly, there is a need to be continually mindful of the safety and welfare of our children” concluded Murray Edridge.


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