Referendum looms on smacking law

Sunday Star Times 27 January 2008

The rancorous smacking debate is set to be reopened this year, with an election day referendum looking increasingly likely. Anti-smacking campaigners are closing in on the number of signatures they need to force the referendum. Family First director Bob McCoskrie said activists have gained 273,000 of the 300,000 signatures needed to trigger a Citizens Initiated Referendum. Activists, including Christians, libertarians and Act supporters, were working hard to get the remaining 30,000 signatures by the March 1 deadline.

“We are totally confident we will get there. We are going to make it the issue of 2008,” he said. Also heavily involved in collecting signatures is new group Unity for Liberty, led by Craig Hill, who says he has a Christian background. “It’s going great guns,” he said. While any referendum would be indicative only, not binding, it would have the potential to be a powerful rallying point for anti-Labour forces in election year because of Labour’s role in backing the legislation. It could also put renewed pressure on National to reconsider its position on smacking.

Read Sunday Star Times Editorial – Beware Extremists with loaded questions
The Right has found a heavy club to beat the government with: a referendum on smacking at the next election. This is a brilliant ploy by the religious extremists of Family First. It will gather not only libertarians, Act voters and other motley fanatics of that kind, but many decent and ordinary people. It is as though the Brethren had found a cause that appealed to the mainstream. The political and social effects are likely to be large and wholly malign.