Green MP Sue Bradford is reported today as having conceded that her bill removing the defence of “reasonable force” when disciplining children should not outlaw light smacking.
While this might sound like progress, the Family First Lobby has 2 concerns.
Firstly, when asked on TVNZ’s “Eye to Eye” programme last year, “Do you accept [the use of] mild physical discipline [on children]?” Green Party MP Sue Bradford did not answer the question. However, she did make it clear that her long-term legislative goal was to criminalise smacking. “I accept that at this time it’s too soon in this country to criminalise parents who lightly smack their children, therefore I’m simply wanting to repeal existing [legislation].” The question was restated: “But do you think it’s OK to smack your kids?” Bradford replied. “Personally no, but I’d like to see the day when we no longer use that [light smacking] but I think we have a long way to go. We have a lot of education to do.”
“Secondly, why remove a legal defence, yet still try and persuade parents that they will not be prosecuted,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of the Family First Lobby. “The Police have made it quite clear that they will have to investigate complaints of smacking under the Crimes Act if s59 is removed. What Sue Bradford, the Children’s Commissioner or the Prime Minister intend or desire is irrelevant. Either it is legal or illegal.”
“Even now, with the protection of “reasonable force” still in place, Child Youth and Family are removing children from their parents and caregivers who use smacking as a discipline tool when necessary. If s59 is removed, good parents trying to do a great job will have every reason to be concerned,” says Bob McCoskrie.
“We all want to get rid of child abuse. Sue Bradford (and hopefully the organizations that have blindly supported this proposed repeal of s59) needs to acknowledge that a blanket ban of s59 isn’t the answer, and work on the real causes – the breakdown of families, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and other factors,” says Bob McCoskrie. “Section 59 has not been able to be used to defend a child abuser. It’s working, and always has worked.”
The Family First Lobby repeats its call to Sue Bradford to immediately withdraw the Amendment Bill about to go through the costly and time consuming Select Committee stage, and to divert the time and resource towards supporting good parents trying to do a great job, and investing in the early intervention of families who are deemed at-risk.