Smacking petition runs out of time

NZ Herald June 24, 2008

Prime Minister Helen Clark has virtually ruled out a referendum on smacking at this year’s election, saying there will not be time to organise one. Campaigners trying to overturn the anti-smacking law yesterday handed in their second attempt to gather the numbers required to force a referendum. But the Prime Minister indicated that any referendum was likely to be later, rather than sooner. Asked why it could not be held at the same time as the election, which must be held by November 15, she replied: “Just in terms of sheer organisation, I do not think that is possible”. Helen Clark said Parliament had spoken on the issue with a near “unanimous mind”, and the most dire predictions about the changes had not come true.

Kiwi Party leader Larry Baldock handed over more than 390,000 signatures backing the call for a referendum on the question: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Another attempt this year failed when too many signatures were ruled invalid. The Office of the Clerk of the House will now have two months to check that the petition has been signed by 10 per cent of registered voters, or about 290,000 valid signatures. If it is, the Government will have one month to name a date for a referendum. But it can delay any vote on the issue for up to a year.