Anti-smack bill reform possible, says Key

NZ Herald September 09, 2008

The National Party will consider changing the anti-smacking laws if New Zealanders demand changes in a referendum, leader John Key says. The law was hot on the agenda at the NZ Forum on the Family in South Auckland yesterday, with Mr Key saying a strong referendum result should give a National government the confidence to change the legislation. Family First NZ hosted the event which gathered around 70 “pro-family groups” to listen to party leaders present their family-based policies.

Much of the discussion focused on the anti-smacking law which motivated former United Future member Larry Baldock to successfully petition for a referendum on the legislation. Mr Key said he supported New Zealanders’ right to a referendum. He criticised Labour’s preference for a stand-alone ballot, rather than holding it with the upcoming election. He said if National gained power it would consider reforming the anti-smacking law. “If I can see compelling evidence that the legislation is not working, I will change it,” he said. “To this day I haven’t seen this evidence.”

Act leader Rodney Hide said: “You don’t need a referendum to convince me that this legislation is wrong. “We are the only party that voted against that bill. The idea that Helen Clark and a bunch of goody-good politicians, most of whom have never had children, would put myself and my mother in the same category as someone who beats their child with metal piping is a disgrace.” Mr Hide said he had changed his mind in favour of binding referendums on conscience issues because he believed Helen Clark should not be the moral conscience of New Zealand.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he would not change the existing law because of his belief in the worth of the child.

The other key concerns raised were whether civil unions would be abolished and whether abortion law would remain the same under a new government. Mr Key, Mr Hide and Mr Dunne all said there would be no changes made to civil unions. Mr Dunne said United Future would review abortion law.