Wednesday, February 21, 2007



D-day for the anti-smacking bill

Today is the first Member's Day of the year, and Sue Bradford's Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill is head of the order paper. The bill has been heavily watered-down in select committee, to the extent that it actually makes things worse than the current situation in some respects IMHO (a position shared by the Children's Commissioner). OTOH, the fundamentalist Christians who oppose it believe it would be the end of the world - so maybe it will be some improvement.

The fundamentalists have been lobbying hard, but apparently in vain - the bill looks set to pass its second reading with support from Labour, the Progressives, the Greens, and a handful of National and NZ First MPs. However, the real work will be in the committee stage in a few week's time. National's Chester Borrows has put forward a Supplementary Order Paper [PDF] which would add correction as a reason for the use of force - giving parents an explicit license to beat. Meanwhile I am also hoping to see amendments to remove new sections 59 (1) (c) and (d), which IMHO allow force for correction by the back door. They may fail, but it is worth a try - and I want to make sure that MP's positions are all on record, so they can't lie about it later.

Given the Parliamentary timetable, I expect the second reading vote to be held between 17:30 and 18:00 20:00 and 20:30 today. As usual, I'll post a voting list as soon as I acquire one.

Update: Corrected expected time of the vote - I'd forgotten about the general debate, which eats another hour.

15 comments:

Hysteria isn't a good look for you I/S.

Thanks for the link, but have you actually read Chester Borrows' SOP? It wouldn't impose a complete ban, but in what sense could it possible be invoked as a "licence to beat"?

Posted by Graeme : 2/21/2007 12:53:00 AM

Graeme: changing the purpose of the bill from protecting children to being about parental control, for one. Allowing force by use of correction for another. Sure, he limits it, but by specifically allowing it, he creates a license to beat. As someone who regards the use of force by anyone against anyone as unacceptable, I think that an amendment which allows it to be used against the weakest members of our society is simply monstrous, and I would rather see the bill withdrawn than perverted in such a way. Fortunately, Sue Bradford agrees.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/21/2007 01:11:00 AM

The use of force in terms of bad parenting is illegal, so what you mean is that you find the use of force as it relates to good care and parenting unacceptable.

I would think anything that classifies as a beating is not good parenting by definition.

I would imagine this law would either be hard to enforce in practice (to use one of bradford's examples - the same way that we seldom see people prosecuted for seriously injuring others on a rugby field despite all the video coverage – the concern here is then disrespect for the law)

AND/OR it will be used as a charge to prosecute people that police want to prosecute but can't legally get by other charges. (E.g. you charge the drug dealer with child abuse in order to soften him up, and 'did your daddy/mommy ever hit you' becomes one of the first questions on entering a suspect’s house for whatever crime)

Posted by Anonymous : 2/21/2007 07:03:00 AM

" The use of force in terms of bad parenting is illegal"

Unfortunately it isn't. Witness the case not that long ago when someone successfully used Section 59 as a defence against a prosecution for taking to her children with a stockwhip. Any law which can be thus used as a defence is not only bad law - it is evil law.

Posted by Spectator : 2/21/2007 07:31:00 AM

This comment has been removed by the author. Posted by Graeme : 2/21/2007 08:36:00 AM

A licence to "beat" except that if anyone actually beats their child, the defence won't apply *and won't be able to be argued before a jury*.

Reasonable force is speficially allowed now - how is allowing reasonable force only in circumstances where there is only trifling or transitory discomfort, and not as a defence to a charge of injuring, assault with intent to injure, assault with a weapon, etc. worse? I'd have characterised the SOP in your terms as changing the bill from protecting children to protecting children from the excesses of parental control.

I can understand your belief that it doesn't go far enough, but opposing the bill altogether if the SOP is agreed to, is going a bit far. It's like ACT voting against a 30% top tax rate because they want a 25% one...

I'm not sure if this is what you were saying, but I'd note that Sue Bradford can't withdraw the bill.

Posted by Graeme : 2/21/2007 08:38:00 AM

Honestly, I don't care about the rights of parents being trampled. It's time we stopped killing our kids, really, and if one of the things we have to do is make parents think before they hit, do it.
Yeah, yeah, I know that it will punish the good parents and the bad ones will keep on being bad. Big deal, we have to stop killing kids and this might be a way to start that.

Posted by Hamishm : 2/21/2007 11:36:00 AM

Graeme: how is allowing reasonable force only in circumstances where there is only trifling or transitory discomfort, and not as a defence to a charge of injuring, assault with intent to injure, assault with a weapon, etc. worse?

If you any force is obscene, the last thing you want to see is its use enshrined in law, particularly with your name permanently attached to it.

We don't allow such "trifling and transitory" force against adults, and we shouldn't allow it against those who are least able to defend themselves from it.

Oh, and Members have an absolute right to withdraw bills in their name. See Standing Order 71.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/21/2007 11:45:00 AM

Hey, I've just got an email saying that George Hawkins is deferring his Manukau Graffiti Bill to tomorrow, so S59 will be read at about 4:15.

Posted by Aucklander At Large : 2/21/2007 12:39:00 PM

AaL: He is (or rather deferring it until June, according to the Order Paper); the question is how long you think Question Time will take. Recently, its been strung out to one and a half hours, so it ends at 16:00, general debate ends at 17:00, and allowing a full two hours of debate plus the dinner break means the anti-smacking bill will probably come up for a vote around 20:00. If question time only takes an hour, its conceivable that they'll push it in before dinner (so a vote at 18:30) - but it really depends how many spurious points of order Gerry Brownlee wants to throw in today.

(Hmmm... I wonder if members are likely to go for a quick QT on a Member's Day? It would be an interesting thing to check...)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/21/2007 12:46:00 PM

Right you are. Thought that could only be done with leave (that was always given).

The use of reasonable force is already enshrined in the law. I'd have thought that changing that enshrined force to a more limited level of force would be a step in the right direction.

I see and understand the argument that we shouldn't allow trifling and transitory force against children, but I'd have thought that Sue would agree that if we are to allow some level of force then reasonable force that had to be no more than trifling or tansitory was better than reasonable force that could be more than merely trifling or transitory.

Pulling a bill amended by the committee of the whole would be (and would be seen as) petty and vindictive and this type of "my way or the highway" politics has no place in an MMP Parliament.

Little (if any) opposition in Parliament to the CUB remained on the basis that it didn't go far enough, and was offensive becuase it left marriage unchanged. Those, like Deborah Coddington, who felt that way reined themselves in, not wanting to be the person who stood in the way of gay couples getting greater recognition ('though still not full recognition). I don't imagine someone who stopped this becoming law because it wasn't enough of an improvement will be feeling particularly happy when the blame comes around next time someone escapes conviction following use of non-transiroy or non-trifling force.

I can see that Bradford wouldn't want her name associated with a half-measure, but would hope that if the bill is amended in committee, that she'll transfer responsibility of the bill to Borrows, rather than withdraw it.

Posted by Graeme : 2/21/2007 12:57:00 PM

The "stockwhip" case (actually a horse whip) came up on National Radio this morning. SB got away from that topic asap.

Yes, the courts have made judgements that people don't agree with. But headlines don't tell the whole story. In this case the child swung a baseball bat at someone's head. The punishment was noted by the school that it had improved his behaviour.

I have experienced the same punishment, far more often than just once. It is painful, but does not injure more than a hand smack, which SB is willing to tollerate.

"Honestly, I don't care about the rights of parents being trampled.
...
Yeah, yeah, I know that it will punish the good parents and the bad ones will keep on being bad. Big deal, we have to stop killing kids and this might be a way to start that."

Wow. Wow.

Wow.

You need some help there - big time.

Posted by ScrubOne : 2/21/2007 04:33:00 PM

Scrubone you said:"You need some help there - big time."

I would like to see NZ kids not getting hit whilst you seem to think that a little light whipping is OK. And I need help?
Yeah Right.

Posted by Hamishm : 2/21/2007 09:58:00 PM

No, you're quite happy to have innocent people in jail, let the criminals go free, while I'm happy to retain smacking. I do NOT support whipping, which is far different to being smacked with a horse crop.

In fact, in may cases using any sort of implement would not be regarded as reasonable even now, and I am OK with that.

Maybe you'd like to enumerate how many good people you'd like to see in jail?

Posted by ScrubOne : 2/22/2007 02:06:00 PM

Srubone said "No, you're quite happy to have innocent people in jail, let the criminals go free."

No I'm not,I said that "it will punish the good parents and the bad ones will keep on being bad".

I was anticipating the low levels of argument that get chucked around in the smacking debate. And I frankly don't care about the "right to smack". I'd like to see our rate of killing our kids go down and this would be a good start.

Posted by Hamishm : 2/22/2007 02:48:00 PM