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Smellie's Rant: Shame On The Smacking Referendum

Smellie's Rant: Shame On The Smacking Referendum

By Pattrick Smellie

I have to confess I missed Bob McCroskie/Family First’s Sunday paper newspaper ads. I was too interested in the positive news story above it about a new literacy programme that has worked well on the West Coast, especially among Maori children.

The “Parenting Hell – No More Smacking!” shriek from Family First was typical of this hysterical, well-funded, Christian Right organisation forcing a second referendum on the so-called “anti-smacking” issue, scheduled for July this year.

The “pro-smacking” lobby – McCroskie and Co – have ensured New Zealanders will spend $10 million on this Citizens Initiated Referendum, in which Family First seeks to overturn recent changes to s59 of the Crimes Act which strike at the root cause of the Nia Glassie case.

McCroskie wants it both ways, but he can’t have it. He decries alleged bureaucratic bungling by CYFS, using vague and unverifiable allegations.

At the same time, he claims the memory of Nia Glassie in support of his cause.

Shame on you, Bob.

Nia Glassie was proven in a court – not a newspaper ad - to have been horrifically murdered by family members who were themselves raised in a culture of psychopathic violence. The changes to s59 make it unequivocal that we are not just horrified, but will not let go unpunished, that sort of cruelty to children. How can Family First not support this?

Where I sit, I see a country awash with parents looking actively and positively for alternatives to violence in their child-rearing. The country is changing for the better as a result.

As a former hitter myself, this is an amazing sign that the anti-violence message is being heard, and that people are comfortable that there is a law that says you are not allowed to use good parenting as a legal argument for violently abusing children.

That is how the law is being applied. The Police seem to be having no trouble at all. I suspect, at times, that it’s useful in situations involving domestic violence.

However, we must still spend $10 million on Bob’s question, which by the way is so bent as to be unanswerable by someone like me, who supports where the current law stands.

Very often, learning to be a good parent will involve learning to become a good adult. So often, I read about “child-rearing techniques”, and “how difficult” little Jimmy used to be before his behaviour changed on “this programme”.

Yet the person who changed was often the adult, and the child liked the change and got with the programme. That’s what good parenting looks like a heck of a lot of the time and people are getting that.

Shame on you, Bob McCroskie and Family First.

There’s much better ways to spend $10 million than voting on your silly referendum.


Pattrick Smellie recently returned to the frontlines of journalism. He is currently an editor of, a freelance journalist and the founder of a new business content service in partnership with Jonathan Underhill. He can be contacted at Pattrick @

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