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Pansy Speak: Two standards of behaviour

Two standards of behaviour

Since the last edition of this newsletter I have been overwhelmed with responses to ‘A Logical Debate about Smacking’.

So far the majority of the feedback is heavily against repealing Section 59, with many respondents wanting to keep the legal defence of using reasonable force when disciplining their children.

Everyone who has emailed or written to me has illustrated a measured and logical argument and there was no bad language. This shows that people have taken the time to think about what they want to say.

I was given many personal examples as to why the majority felt they would be left vulnerable if Section 59 was repealed and the decision about whether or not to prosecute was left in the hands of the Police and other bureaucracy.

Two stories have stuck in my mind. In one, a mother discovered her 12-year-old daughter was drinking alcohol in the street and went to pick her up. When the daughter refused to get into the car, her mother dragged her in, which led to the daughter laying a complaint of assault against her mother.

The second involves a mother of five who was acquitted in the Timaru District Court when using Section 59 as a defence. She had written a long and emotional letter to me saying she had tried all forms of non-physical discipline in trying to change the behaviour or one of her sons, but this hadn’t worked. One day, her son picked up a baseball bat and swung with full force at his stepfather during an argument. The mother then smacked the son using a riding crop. A social worker subsequently laid a complaint with the Police, who took five months to press charges. Even though this woman was acquitted, her son was still placed in care.

Labour and the Greens have been identified by respondents as leading the crusade to stamp out violent behaviour in our society by repealing Section 59. These two parties have also been singled out as showing a lack of confidence in the judgment of parents and guardians.

The attitude of Labour and the Greens to Section 59 is in stark contrast to their attitude towards the Auditor-General’s report which ruled on illegal spending leading up to the 2005 election.

Labour fast tracked a bill to make the illegal spending legal, while the Greens abstained to ensure the bill was passed with indecent haste. It was introduced on Tuesday 17 October and was passed into law on Wednesday 18.

We all know that Labour love to tell us what to do while making their own rules, but this debacle takes the cake.

I have read through the whole Auditor-General’s report and would like to share with you some of the findings.

As a fellow accountant I am immensely proud that the Auditor-General has single-handedly elevated the reputation of accountants and restored the integrity and respect of independent offices such as the Office of the Auditor-General.

His report made it clear that he had reviewed ‘advertising’ spending in August 2004 and had met with the leaders, or representatives of six of the eight political parties to discuss his concern in this area of public expenditure. All parties were then given the opportunity to comment on his report of the review before it was finalised in 2005.

He was aware of the sensitivity surrounding advertising matters in election year and had wanted to make his view on advertising in the year before the election clear. It is interesting to note that some parties told him that he should not present his report to Parliament before the election. Ignoring this advice is proof of his strength.

In his 2005 review report the Auditor-General said ‘any publicly funded advertising by political parties that does take place between now and the general election must be consistent with the existing rules, and will be subject to the oversight of the Speaker’, therefore the cries by Labour, United Future, the Greens and NZ First that he has changed the rules in his latest report are not credible.

The Auditor-General has also drawn further attention to a Speakers’ ruling in November 2003, which says parliamentary funding is explicitly prohibited to apply to electioneering material. In light of the current situation, where is the accountability of the Speaker to whom Parliamentary Service reports?

Apparently, the Speaker told the Auditor-General that she is not able to adequately fulfil her role as the Minister responsible for Vote: Parliamentary Service.

In order to preserve the Speaker’s impartiality, the Parliamentary Service has not, in practice, involved the Speaker in matters which a responsible Minister might usually consider. Because of this position, the Speaker is unable to fully carry out her duties as one might consider them to be.

The question I have today is that if parents or guardians fall foul of the law after any repeal of Section 59 would they be accorded the same leniency that the Labour Government has given itself?

Pansy Wong

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