Correcting incorrect “corrections”

Bob McCoskrie of “Family Fist” fame has an opinion piece supporting the repeal of the amendment to Section 59 of the Crimes Act in the Dom Post today. It can be found online too. His piece is in response to a regular column piece by Linley Boniface, whose column is often apolitical but usually runs pretty centre-of-the-road politics when she does swim into the shark tank.

Before we get started, I of course advocate people vote YES in the upcoming referendum to be as clear as possible that they think the law is working and that violence against children is inappropriate. Now, let’s address Bob’s major points one by one, shall we?

Linley Boniface (A question smacking of deceit, June 8) is right on one thing. We should not be spending $10 million on a referendum on the anti-smacking law. But we are for two reasons.
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Second, the previous government failed to hold the referendum at the more economical time of a general election because it knew the issue would bring about its downfall. It did anyway.

The government did not have time to hold the referendum simultaneously with the election because the referendum’s supporters missed the deadline due to illegitimate signatures the first time they submitted their petition. Your own fault, Bob- people shouldn’t try to cheat petitions, especially given how often they’re simply ignored anyway. And in case you forgot, this wasn’t even a government Bill, and it would pass almost as overwhelmingly in the current parliament given the same parties have committed to supporting a law that works.

But Boniface needs correction on many other things. A total of 113 politicians did vote for the law – after being whipped to vote that way by Helen Clark and John Key. Phil Goff and Paula Bennett have now admitted they don’t agree with the law as stated.

I think avoiding the truth is bad, Bob. Both of these politicians support the law as it is.

The question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in NZ?” was publicly notified for submissions in 2007 but there was no opposition from these groups at that time. They never believed that more than 300,000 voters would sign a petition demanding a say on this issue, the majority of whom signed the petition after the amendment was passed.

Nobody thought they needed to object to a question that described the position it supported as “good”, because it was so obviously biased. As it is the question cannot be reasonably interpretted as even opposing the current law no matter how you answer it, as smacking as part of “good parental correction” should by definition be inconsequential- and any inconsequential assualt against a child is explicitly protected under the amended version of the Crimes Act.

At least you didn’t try to defend the question as actually being a meaningful referendum on the Section 59 Amendment Act.

Bob goes to claim studies don’t show harm from light smacking as part of correction, however he seems to ignore studies that show any smacking at all is a risk factor for child abuse- most likely because of the problem of escalation. (a little smack can become a big smack or even a punch easily enough even without conscious intent) There is also the fact that there are many positive parenting strategies that avoid the need for any “corrective” violence at all- why bother smacking children when you can achieve the same results without having to bring violence, however small, into your home?

The law as it stands is confusing. In research done in March, respondents were asked whether the new law makes it always illegal for parents to give their children a light smack: 55 per cent said yes, 31 per cent said no, and 14 per cent didn’t know.

Even 71% of people having a definite opinion about a technicality like a single defense against assualt of children is pretty impressive Bob, even if 55% of the total were wrong.

Meanwhile, the rate of child abuse continues. Sue Bradford said her bill was never intended to solve the problem of child abuse. She was right.

No law change will be a magic bullet, but this law has already resulted in a conviction that probably wouldn’t have gone ahead and will probably result in a Dad that needed some help with his parenting getting it, without spending any time in jail. I’d say even that one result is great, even if this law hadn’t taken part in a sea change on our attitudes to parenting and assault against children.

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