PR war for anti-smacking bill

NZ Herald 03 Apr 07
The Government is relying on child welfare groups such as Plunket and Barnardos to convince the public of the merits of Green MP Sue Bradford’s so-called “anti smacking” bill. Yesterday, Prime Minister Helen Clark ruled out the government taking over the private member’s bill, saying it “just has to take its course”.Labour had been widely expected to adopt the bill as its own to push through the controversial legislation, which if passed would stop parents using the defence of “reasonable force” to defend a charge of assaulting a child. Labour strongly supports the bill, but has been daunted by polling numbers that show overwhelming public opposition to a measure many feel would intrude on parents’ ability to discipline a child as they see fit. Labour will not drop its support for the bill, which is destined to be passed thanks to the support of the Maori Party and two New Zealand First MPs.However, yesterday’s announcement means the final vote could be months away, with debate not scheduled to resume until May and delaying tactics from opponents of the law change likely to postpone the bill’s passage until June or July. The bill has been a public relations nightmare for Labour, which has found itself inextricably linked with the proposal and suffering a political backlash as a consequence.