Letter urges Parliament to Support Parents
20 FEBRUARY 2007
Letter urges Parliament to Support Parents – not Criminalise Them
Hundreds of kiwi parents and grandparents urge politicians to retain section 59 Crimes Act
Over 1200 NZ’ers, including All Black greats Michael Jones, Inga Tuigamala and Eroni Clarke, ex Silver Fern Linda Vagana, Broadcaster Simon Barnett, Oceania Player of the Century Wynton Rufer and hundreds of parents and grandparents have sent an Open Letter (see below) to the Prime Minister and all MP’s calling on them to reject Green MP Sue Bradford’s ‘Anti-Smacking’ Bill and the ‘Anti-Correction’ Amendments recommended by the Select Committee.
The Signatories include Social Workers, School Principals, Teachers, Early Childhood Educators, Police Officers, Doctors, Counsellors, Youthworkers, and representatives of over 50 pro-family organizations. Many teenagers have also put their signature to the letter, as have senior managers and business owners – the majority of signatories are also parents and grandparents.
“Most of these people are not child development experts and have not adopted moral supremacy and appointed themselves as the experts on parenting and the well-being of children,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First who co-ordinated the letter. “They are simply the mums and dads of this country who on a daily basis are striving to raise law-abiding children who will make a positive contribution to this country. They deserve to be applauded – not threatened with criminalisation because so-called experts don’t agree with how they parent.”
Mr McCoskrie says that the organisers were blown away by the overwhelming support for the Letter. They originally hoped to get 150-200 signatures but in the end had to close the Register two weeks early.
“Our message is that child abuse is a major problem in NZ but we must tackle the real causes - family breakdown, dysfunction and substance abuse, rather than penalising and exposing to criminalisation good parents for simply giving their children appropriate care, correction and loving discipline.”
Mr McCoskrie says there is not a single piece of reputable research which proves that appropriate smacking leads to abuse or results in violent and dysfunctional children – in fact the research shows the opposite.
“Politicians will also be very aware that poll after poll after poll, both in NZ and in Australia and England, support the retention of section 59 (average of 80% support). This is because NZ’ers understand that parental discipline in the form of a smack is totally different to child abuse,” says Mr McCoskrie.
Rt Hon Helen Clark – Prime Minister
Leaders of All Political Parties in Parliament
and Members of Parliament
20 February 2007
Dear Prime Minister, Parliamentary Leaders and Members:
We oppose child abuse in all its forms. We acknowledge that New Zealand has a terrible problem with child abuse, and that the law on parental discipline could be amended to prevent any questionable cases.
We believe the answer to the prevalence of child abuse in New Zealand includes:
education on different options and alternatives for
parenting and discipline;
tackling significant contributing factors such as family breakdown, substance abuse and poverty;
introducing policies which strengthen marriage, families and parental responsibility.
But we call on all political parties to reject Sue Bradford’s Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill, and the recommendations put forward by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.
The Bill, and the Select Committee amendments, will not promote the interests of children or enable parents to fulfil their responsibilities, for a number of reasons:
1. If the Bill is passed, good parents will be treated as criminals under the law. The police have confirmed that smacking a child would be assault. They will have to investigate any complaint made against a parent for smacking or even picking up a child to remove them to ‘time out’ against their wishes. This will immediately place a family under enormous pressure. While some say parents won’t be prosecuted, the police have to enforce the law, regardless of what politicians say.
“The central issue is that people need to know what they are allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do, and they shouldn’t be overshadowed by the fear of their conduct being regarded as criminal and therefore subject to some bureaucrat or police officer making some decision further down the track that they’ve done something wrong and can be prosecuted … The behaviour of parents will be criminalised and people are brought into an area of uncertainty where they are being told that what you are doing is wrong but we’re not going to prosecute you because you’re acting reasonably” Grant Illingworth QC – National Radio interview 21 November 2006
2. Simply banning smacking will not stop child abuse. In 2003, a UNICEF report identified poverty, stress and family breakdown – along with drug and alcohol abuse – as the factors most closely and consistently associated with child abuse and neglect.
Of the five countries with the lowest child abuse death rates in the UNICEF report, four allow parents to use reasonable discipline such as smacking. The evidence clearly shows that there are far greater factors in the prevalence of child abuse that need to be urgently tackled and we call on politicians to address these factors.
3. Child abuse is already illegal in New Zealand. The law already says that child abusers have committed a crime, and the full weight of the existing law should be used to bring a full and just punishment.
4. Reasonable smacking does not damage children or teach them to be violent. In fact, a recent Otago University study found that children who were smacked in a reasonable way had similar or slightly better outcomes in terms of aggression, substance abuse, adult convictions and school achievement than those who were not smacked at all.
5. Kiwis know the difference between smacking and child abuse and should be given credit for this. Averaged out, polls show that 80% of us want to keep the status quo.
In conclusion, repeal of section 59 or prohibiting reasonable correction (as recommended by the Select Committee) will place good parents at risk by criminalising them simply for giving their children appropriate care, correction and loving discipline, to the detriment of those children.
This is an unacceptable burden to place on New Zealand families.
We commend MPs for their desire to deal with our abhorrent rates of child abuse.
We wish to work with you and other New Zealanders to stop child abuse.
For the sake of our families and our country, please do not penalise good parents doing a great job.