Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Nothing to compromise over

There's a lot of talk in the papers this morning about National wanting a "compromise" over the anti-smacking bill. But personally, I see nothing to compromise over. The brute fact is that John Key and his fundamentalist Christian mates want bad parents to be able to continue to assault their children. We don't. There's no middle ground in there; it's an either/or proposition. The only reason people talk "compromise" in such situations is to give a nicer mask to a demand for surrender.

I also don't see any reason to "compromise". Currently, the bill has a majority in Parliament. That majority shows no sign of weakening, and the fundamentalist campaign against it instead seems to have hardened MPs' resolve, just as their campaign against Homosexual Law Reform did. As things stand at the moment, the bill will pass its committee stage unamended on May 2nd, receive its third reading after the Budget, and come into force sometime in late June or early July. There's no need to water it down for it to pass, and given that it has been dangerously watered down already, it would be undesirable anyway.

If Key has a genuinely better wording which would achieve the purpose of the bill rather than subverting it, I'm all ears. But I really don't think that is the case. Instead, Key is just grandstanding, and at the same time trying to wriggle out of the trap he is making for himself over repeal.

(I make no apologies for the language used in this post. Hitting people is assault. Parents who hit their children are bad parents. If you're outraged over this label, then there's a very simple way to avoid it: don't hit your kids).

43 comments:

The thing about giving an opinion on something is that the quality of the opinion is based very much on the level of expertise of the giver.

I would suggest to you that your level expertise re: parenting is about the same level of quality as mine is for say, advanced nuclear physics or civil engineering or gene splicing.

By all means, label parents as bad, but don't expect your opinion to actually mean anything.

Posted by muerk : 4/18/2007 01:42:00 PM

Muerk: you do not need to be a parent to have an opinion on this, any more than you need to be an interrogator to have an opinion on torture. Your experience as a person is more than sufficient to draw a conclusion on either.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/18/2007 01:55:00 PM

Not when a great number of people consider smacking to be not harmful, unlike torture.

If you have had no experience at parenting, and you want the status quo changed (which the majority supports) - your opinion is pretty close to worthless.

Posted by Lucyna : 4/18/2007 02:06:00 PM

Informed opinions are precious indeed, but it is a big call you make muerk, questioning idiot’s ability to speak credibly on this subject.

Philosophical positions are often best tested in the material world where their essence is soon revealed to be either of some use to humanity or better left in the classroom.

I think idiot’s position on child assault has well passed the usefulness test.

Posted by 427 : 4/18/2007 02:14:00 PM

John Key and his fundamentalist Christian mates want bad parents to be able to continue to assault their children.

I very much doubt that John Key or any of his associates, Christian or otherwise*, want any such thing, but surely what is more important is what over 80% of ordinary New Zealanders want. I think it is pretty clear by now that only a very small minority want parents who use smacking to correct their children's behaviour, to face the possibility of being prosecuted for it. On the face of it, this is nothing more than common sense. Most of us were smacked as children, and for most of us our parents weren't dysfunctional psychopaths who lashed out at us in a fit of rage, or beat us into submission. While many of us (myself included) might choose to use different parenting techniques on our own children, in the end being smacked did us no harm and was effective in teaching us the limits of acceptable behaviour. We don't think our parents committed any crime in the way we were raised, and we don't think others who do the same today, deserve to be made criminals either. Also, perhaps some of us suspect that Sue Bradford and other supporters of the anti-smacking bill aren't being entirely honest about what they intend the bill to achieve. Certainly, we have been given very mixed signals. On the one hand we are told that the bill "won't criminalize good parents who occasionally smack", but on the other they reject proposals to make that explicit in the law.

Peter



* Something tells me that I/S would be the first to protest if someone were to refer to Muslims in this manner, as if the fact of their being Muslim were reason to discredit them.

Posted by Peter : 4/18/2007 02:16:00 PM

"The brute fact is that John Key and his fundamentalist Christian mates want bad parents to be able to continue to assault their children. We don't."

Strange, because I don't seem to recall the part about agnostic half-Jewish John Key being a strong supporter of fundy christians. Good lord IS - are you really that blinkered? Is the argument that clear cut that John Key is in cahoots with Christian child abusers and you are not?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/18/2007 02:25:00 PM

You don't have to go to the moon to know its not made of cheese, and not being a parent is hardly a disqualifer that prevents you from having a valuable position on the entrenched child violence culture in this country. After all, I've never owned a slave but it doesn't stop me from commenting on that subject either. The thing is, we were all children once and we are all human beings (well maybe not the loathsome andrei). The fact that a fundy looney tune like Lucyna is dead set in favour of smacking is surely an indication of the rightness of I/S's stand.

Oh - and I get sick of that 80% thing. When you whip up hysterical campaigns based on fear mongering and lies, then take self-serving polls based on leading questions in an inflamed and poorly informed electorate, the results are meaningless. I recall similar claims to the support of the dim witted mob in all previous social legislation in the last decade - and in every case, once the law was changed, the troglodytes who lead the reactionary charge find public opinion swings against them.

Posted by Sanctuary : 4/18/2007 02:35:00 PM

This comment has been removed by the author. Posted by Sanctuary : 4/18/2007 02:35:00 PM

"... the status quo ... (which the majority supports)"

how much of the resistance to the repeal bill is due to people having completely the wrong end of the stick due to the media's desire for a good catch phrase or sound bite?

My guess is its quite high.

also (not trying to pick on you :-))

"Not when a great number of people consider smacking to be not harmful, unlike torture"

does this mean that the value of specialty knowledge is linked to severity of action?

Posted by fraser : 4/18/2007 02:40:00 PM

"We don't."

If only you were speaking for those favouring the bill in its present form.

Helen Clark and Sue Bradford have said they do not want to parents who lightly smack their children to be considered as breaking the law.

This is something that, publically at least, everyone in Parliament seems to agree on.

The bill currently does not recognise this broad agreement. One way of ensuring that the legislation reflects this consensus is Chester Borrows' amendment, which has been rejected by Sue Bradford, Labour and other supporters. Thus, Key wants a compromise - a recognition that the bill currently criminalises behaviour that most people and most politicians do not want criminalised, and a change to ensure it does not.

Your position, that the difference between light smacking and vicious child abuse is one of degree not substance, and that the entire spectrum falls within the concept of beating, is a valid and defensible one, although it is not one which I or any MP (in public at least) shares.

That one of the purposes of the bill is to criminalise the behaviour of parents in lightly smacking their children has been expressly denied by the bill's promoter, and by the government. Repeatedly.

Rather, they say that this bill is about combatting child abuse (which in their opinions, does not include a light smack).

Given this, if John Key proposes wording to the effect that "nothing in this Act, or any other Act, criminalises parents for lightly smacking their children)" he will meet the avowed purpose of the bill.

Certainly, the bill would not then ban light smacking, and you might oppose that language, and might consider the law, if less flawed than the present law, still an appalling abrogation of the rights of children etc. But it would meet your test - wording that does not subvert Sue Bradford's and Labour's public stated rationale.

Posted by Graeme : 4/18/2007 02:40:00 PM

I may not have kids, but like everyone else, I used to *be* one.

Plus, I, like everyone, have to live with the damaged kids of you childbeating wingnuts.

Posted by Rich : 4/18/2007 02:43:00 PM

"the bill currently criminalises behaviour that most people and most politicians do not want criminalised"

correct me if im wrong, but arent our assault, alcohol and other laws also worded in a simillar way? (eg: its illegal to be drunk in public, but you dont see the cops rounding up every pisshead on a sat night - only the really pissed ones)

Posted by fraser : 4/18/2007 02:51:00 PM

Gee, I/S, get a grip, won’t you?

Why don’t you provide evidence - or even indication - that Key has “fundamentalist Christian mates” before posting such drivel. Furthermore, if parents who lightly smack their kids on the odd occasion are “bad parents”( but of course shouting or swearing at them isn’t so bad, is it), why, then do most MPs and members of the public think that lightly correcting kids on the odd occasion is okay? If you think that this bill is likely to pass, and given that you say there is “nothing to compromise over”, why then did you say earlier that this bill “does not deserve to pass”? If the bill doesn’t deserve to pass it should be either scrapped or fixed. You don’t want to scrap it, you don’t want to fix it and you don’t want it passed in its current form. What DO you want?

Posted by Dave : 4/18/2007 03:03:00 PM

"correct me if im wrong, but arent our assault, alcohol and other laws also worded in a simillar way?"

Well, it's no longer illegal to be drunk in public, but I get your point.

I do not believe, whichever wording is adopted, that there will be a large number of convictions or charges laid against parents who lightly smack their children.

That does not mean, however, that lightly smacking one's children will be legal - it would be illegal, and this is something most people and most/all MPs say they do not want. The bill as presently written will criminalise those who lightly smack for corrective purposes irrespective of whether they (or anyone else) is charged. Just because someone is not charged does not mean that their behaviour is lawful; they've just gotten away with it.

Posted by Graeme : 4/18/2007 03:28:00 PM

The brute fact is that John Key and his fundamentalist Christian mates want bad parents to be able to continue to assault their children.

I hate to say this, I/S, but I think you are losing the plot.

My father smacked me and, although I think he shouldn't have, he most certainly had my best interests at heart. I oppose any law which criminalises (or would criminalise) my dad.

Posted by Richard : 4/18/2007 03:30:00 PM

Without wanting to offend the various sides, there are a significant number of laws that are worded in a very open way. One of I/S's favourites, the sedition laws, is worded such that this type of criticism of our honorable parliamentarians is quite possibly a criminal offense.

I would also draw your attention to the use of speed cameras, which have conclusively proved that the overwhelming majority of New Zealand motorists are happy to break the law, and in fact get quite upset at the suggestion that they should not do so. I would like to hear the pro-smacking team explain how speed limits are so hugely different from anti-smacking laws. In both cases, the law says one thing and the majority says something different. You will note that the Police allow a generous "tolerance" on speed limit enforcement. "I'm breaking the law, but not very much" seems to be acceptable to most people.

Posted by Moz : 4/18/2007 04:05:00 PM

the diference with speeding (the law says one thing and the majority says something different) is that when Parliament passed laws they intended to have them enforced, with the bradford bill they dont. Legislation should reflect the intent of Parliament, according to John Key, who considers that law and the public can conflict but not the law and parliamentary intent

Posted by Dave : 4/18/2007 05:00:00 PM

Dave, parliament does not intend that the speeding laws be enforced. I recall various MPs coming down firmly against enforcement, and even against the use of speed limits entirely, on the basis that "dangerous driving" (and presumably "murder") were adequate.

If parliament did intend that speed limits be enforced, why have they not tried to fix the non-enforcement problem? It's not that hard to fund the enforcement and demand that "near enough is good enough" not be the guideline. And it's hardly secret that in many places 100% of motorists are breaking the law, and we're talking big numbers - Auckland Harbour Bridge IIRC being one of the easy ones.

Posted by Moz : 4/18/2007 06:01:00 PM

The biggest difference between driving at 110km/h on the open road and savagely beating* a child with a stockwhip is that an act of speeding does not have a victim. An act of assault does.

* the word "smacking" is irrelevant here as that is not the behaviour that Bradford's bill is designed to address.

Posted by Spectator : 4/18/2007 06:19:00 PM

Moz,
It is not Parliaments job to fix non enforcement problems, that’s why.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/18/2007 06:24:00 PM

Spectator - "designed" maybe. However, what's written is quite different to the professed "design".

As for the "histeria" claim, that the debate is about people not understanding the bill, this survey puts paid to that.

Posted by ScrubOne : 4/18/2007 06:41:00 PM

I'm pleased to hear that speeding in a victimless crime. All this time I've been the victim of misinformation about the correllation between excessive speed, death and injury. For me, it's actually as much a quality of life issue - I would prefer to have motorists travelling at the speed limit, and I'd prefer a lower limit in many places.

As for it not being parliaments job to decide which laws get enforced... who do you suggest does have that job? The Queen? Or is that the p*lice discretion thing - and you don't trust their discretion with respect to beating children as mich as you trust it with speeding and so on?

Posted by Moz : 4/18/2007 06:42:00 PM


how much of the resistance to the repeal bill is due to people having completely the wrong end of the stick due to the media's desire for a good catch phrase or sound bite?


The old left-wing false consciousness theory again. I wonder if you've considered that perhaps over 3/4 of New Zealanders (as multiple polls have consistently shown) are actually at least as capable of thinking for themselves as yourself? It could be that the reason only a small majority of New Zealanders support Sue Bradford's bill, isn't because its supporters have failed to communicate their intentions adequately, or haven't launched a sexy enough media campaign, it's because they sense an extremist trying to impose something on them which they do not want, based on ideology and values which they do not share. Perhaps if the law could be made to focus on real abusers who cause lasting harm to children, instead of trying to preach to normal parents, it might have more support.

Posted by Peter : 4/18/2007 06:53:00 PM

Moz you fool, have you ever been given a speeding ticket because CYFS has pushed for you to be ticketed? I wouldnt trust police discretion when CYFS are involved, getting people before the courts already for trivilous acquittals, as these rivilous aquittals will end up beng unecessary convictions.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/18/2007 06:59:00 PM

I have a lot of experience of p*lice discretion, thanks all the same for asking. Most of it comes from being an upper-class white guy who hangs around with scum, I mean "activists", many of whom conspicuously fail the p*lice "good citizenship" test due to being brown, female, poor or some combination thereof.

The idea that CYFS would be given access to sufficient resources to make a dent in the number of slightly ineffective parents strikes me as nuts. I expect (demand) that this law makes a difference in their ability to punish violent dolts. If some of those are rich white people who don't normally have the law enforced against them, I can't say I see that as a bad thing.

I have seen far too much evidence to the contrary that I will take a lot of convincing before I accept that frivolous prosections are likely.

Posted by Moz : 4/18/2007 07:23:00 PM

Oh, and FWIW, I have never heard of CYFS issuing a speeding ticket, or of traffic cops counselling poor parents. Trying to make bizarre connections between unrelated examples doesn't help your argument, IMO.

Posted by Moz : 4/18/2007 07:27:00 PM

"All this time I've been the victim of misinformation about the correllation between excessive speed, death and injury."

Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Death and injury are the result of dangerous driving causing death, or dangerous driving causing injury, respectively. Excessive speed (which is more than merely travelling in excess of a posted speed limit - and, in fact, a speed much less than the posted limit can be grossly excessive whilst still being legal) may in some cases be an indicator of dangerous driving - but not always.

Posted by Spectator : 4/18/2007 09:01:00 PM

You stirred the pot well and good this time I/S!! You may or may not be a parent, and as you quite rightly point out - it is not necessary to be one - to know what is and isn't right! Well Muerk - for your info - I am a parent, and have been for over 30 years. And NO I have never had to smack!
I have also had over 30 years experience in education. In the first few years I taught, corporal punishment, as a discipline tool, was available to me. I admit that I used corporal punishment (legally) in two instances. Following its abolution I, and many other teachers, had to rethink our classroom management practices. I believe I became a much better teacher as a result, and discipline within the classroom was not an issue.
If parents are forced to rethink their parenting practices as a result of removing the "reasonable force" excuse in correction, then all the better for our society. All a child learns from being hit is that violence is an acceptable way to deal with a difficult situation. It is NOT. And can, in extreme instances, lead to such regretable examples of this week in the USA. The young fellow who perpetuated this disaster thought that violence was they way to control his situation.

Posted by Macro : 4/18/2007 09:33:00 PM

Whether or not any of you are parents, we've all been children. From my perspective as a former child, here's what I say to adults who want to whack my former self but not be labeled 'bad': fuck'em.

Posted by tze ming : 4/18/2007 09:55:00 PM

fuck'em.
Nice to see somebody injecting a little class into the discussion.

Posted by Peter : 4/18/2007 10:49:00 PM

Now heres a little test:

Your child is very very naughty and you choose to discipline them, where do you stop?

Do you tell them off?
Do you remove privileges?
Do you ground them?
Do you shout at them?
Do you smack them?
Do you insult them?
Do you cause bruises?
Do you ridicule them in public?
Do you tie them up?
Do you beat them with a jug cord?
Do they need stitches?
Do they need hospitalisation?
Do they die?

_All_ of these outcomes are _defensible_ with section 59, hence can lead to what would otherwise be considered a violent offender be let off on a technicality. Crikey I bet if someone who was _not_ the child's parent did these things and they got off you'd be screaming for tougher sentences and public inquiries. Double standards can set dangerous precedents in law.

It is _not_ about the rights of parents, it's about the rights of children.

PS. IMHO qualifiers such as 'reasonable force' is best left to the discretion of judges and juries and not parliament. Even in assault cases there are degrees of reasonable use of force. I say this because my parents used corporal punishment, and I probably will too, but I do not believe that repealing section 59 will make me a criminal.

Posted by Bloodrage : 4/18/2007 11:33:00 PM

bloodrage,
I think respect for the law is a key part of society. So even if I don't think this bill is a good one I think you should be tested if you do smack your kid and we can see if you are a criminal or not. I also note that those who take dubious legal actions are a worry to me. What we ned is more enforcement rather than just more laws.

moz,

> I would also draw your attention to the use of speed cameras

The problem with speed limits is you are trying to use one number to describe both an upper and lower limit to speed. This is effectively done by saying somthing like "10 km on either side is ok or slower in certain circumstances" (and +5km as the upper limit around schools). its simple and its effectively how people understand the law.

If a large amount of people think that the law is "go over 50 and your a criminal" then someone should fix the law. It would not be rocket science.making one mistake should not force us to make other similar mistakes.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/19/2007 07:12:00 AM

Bloodrage: "All_ of these outcomes are _defensible_ with section 59". That's nonsense

Posted by Anonymous : 4/19/2007 07:40:00 AM

"The old left-wing false consciousness theory again"

oh for christs sake.

its a perfectly valid question.

I do think people are intelligent enough to make a conclusion based on evidence, and no, i dont think im above the general populace.

Its merely an observation/question on the role the media plays in our society. Our views are shaped by the media. If they are publishing misleading or incomplete information (which does happen - quite a bit), then that will have an effect on how the general populace forms their opinions.

And when talking to people about this there is a huge amount hand wringing, fist waving and rhetoric, most of it completely off the mark.

Quit making partisan assumptions. Remember assume makes an ass out of both you and me :-) - yeah its corny but you get the point.

Posted by fraser : 4/19/2007 08:38:00 AM

"The old left-wing false consciousness theory again"

oh for christs sake.

its a perfectly valid question.


Sure, it's a valid question and indeed the media does have a role in shaping opinions. But I don't believe 3/4 of the population are incapable of evaluating the media critically, or that if coverage had been different the polls would be different.

_All_ of these outcomes are _defensible_ with section 59

I suppose it's possible that if the Kahuis ever end up in front of a judge they could say "I did it to correct their behaviour yer honour" and the court would have to go through the motions of considering whether reasonable force was used under the circumstances. There is only one possible answer.

Posted by Peter : 4/19/2007 09:02:00 AM

Peter responsed, more sensibly than anon:
_All_ of these outcomes are _defensible_ with section 59

I suppose it's possible that if the Kahuis ever end up in front of a judge they could say "I did it to correct their behaviour yer honour" and the court would have to go through the motions of considering whether reasonable force was used under the circumstances. There is only one possible answer.


Are you sure about that. With section 59 that line of argument gives enough room to wiggle in that sense of doubt, enough uncertainty that a case that should be tried as Murder can't be 'beyond reasonable doubt'. It's technicalities like this that lead to acquittal or conviction on lesser charges (like manslaughter), exactly the scenarios that the Sensible Sentencing (who don't seem to want to pay for new prisons BTW) really get agitated about. Here's the government going 'Here's a crime you wanted us to get tough on, so we are." and the whining is just pathetic.

Another PoV, the same people were making the same noises when we reviewed the Animal Welfare Act in 1996 (I think) because they believed it was their right to beat their dog. That got passed (and because the Govt. had other things to do it wasn't a media circus at that time). Currently your dog has more protection under the law from being beaten by it's guardian than your child.

Posted by Bloodrage : 4/19/2007 09:44:00 AM

You allege "John Key and his fundamentalist Christian mates want bad parents to be able to continue to assault their children."

The only fact about this claim is that it contains no facts whatsoever. It is a tissue of lies.

Not one person leading the majority opposition campaign wants bad parents to be able to continue to assault their children. If you knew anything about the Christian community, which clearly you don't, they are opposed to any kind of bad parenting and child abuse.

Smacking is not child abuse. The Christchurch Developmental Study, a world reknowned research project, finds that smacking is not harmful to children.

The "majority in Parliament" is an attack on democracy as representation of the electorate's views. Labour has their gay rights wing whipping up the opposition to anything with even a faintly Christian tag attached to it. That is not democracy either; they are only a small part of Labour or the electorate.

The campaign is more about Labour being seen as increasingly draconian and tyrannical in their grip on power, just as electoral law reform is.

Posted by Swampy : 4/19/2007 09:58:00 AM

sanctuary said "When you whip up hysterical campaigns based on fear mongering and lies, then take self-serving polls based on leading questions in an inflamed and poorly informed electorate, the results are meaningless."

Well then, you explain why the campaign against the civil unions bill didn't generate such a widespread level of opposition. That would be the nearest contemporaneous example.

The level of opposition to this measure has been unchanging over a number of polls over years, without any campaign being "whipped up".

Posted by Swampy : 4/19/2007 10:01:00 AM

rich said "I, like everyone, have to live with the damaged kids of you childbeating wingnuts."

What is that? Smacking does not harm children.

Posted by Swampy : 4/19/2007 10:03:00 AM

Swampy (comment 1 in particular):

Smacking is a form of assault. As is almost any touching of a person without their consent. The question is what defences parents should have against the charge of assault for physical discipline (from smacking on up) of their child/ren.

On the issue of harm, if you smacked me then it probably wouln't leave any lasting harm either. But you would still have assaulted me.

Lasting or even temporary harm isn't the key question.

I do tend to agree that the comment about John Key's alleged "fundamentalist mates" was OTT though.

Posted by dc_red : 4/19/2007 10:13:00 AM

I/S: That you would equate a light smack with beatings displays that your scale is either hyperbole or that you are ignorant (or foolish) about parenting.

The discipline that is involved when I smack my children is not actually physical pain, it is the knowledge that they have been punished and the subsequent shame of that.

Smack yourself lightly on the arm, feel the slight tingle, not pain? That's my smack. Over clothes btw. And only done once.

I could achieve discipline via time out, or removal of toys, or a naughty chair. But these strategies (which I have used) are more time intensive and less effective IME. They allow for greater negotiation and they punish for far longer (eg. removal of lego for a day is pretty severe and affects all the boys).

The short, light smack sends the message that their behavior is unacceptable. It causes them no pain, but they understand it is their punishment. In five minutes we have all moved on and the incident is over.

I could no more consider as reasonable behavior forcing an adult to stay in their room, or removing their favorite object, as I do a light smack. If we are judging how we treat children by how we treat adults how then should I teach my children acceptable behavior?

I could no more keep you in your room for 5 minutes than I could place you over my knee and smack your bottom.

If not needing parenting knowledge is meaningless to the quality of your opinion, then please... do go on... What is acceptable discipline and punishment? What should I be doing? How can I do it better?

Moz:

As an aside... I feel that the speeding law should be enforced given that speed is such a factor in accidents.

Posted by muerk : 4/19/2007 12:19:00 PM

"But I don't believe 3/4 of the population are incapable of evaluating the media critically"

fair enough - i just dont like the whole left/right labelling exercise, because its very black/white and it usually isnt representative of the whole truth.

Posted by fraser : 4/19/2007 12:21:00 PM

I just dont like the whole left/right labelling exercise, because its very black/white and it usually isnt representative of the whole truth.

That's a fair comment. It isn't only the left who have theorized that the average punter isn't capable of thinking for themselves.

Posted by Peter : 4/19/2007 01:41:00 PM