Commissioner backs anti-smacking law

NZ Herald June 10, 2009

New Zealand’s new Children’s Commissioner, John Angus, says he occasionally smacked his sons on the hand – but supports the new law that would have stopped him smacking them for “correction”. Dr Angus, 60, a former top bureaucrat at the Ministry of Social Development, has been given the commissioner’s job for six months after anti-child abuse campaigner Christine Rankin turned down the job because she didn’t want to move to Wellington. Ms Rankin, who was then made a part-time Families Commissioner instead, helped to organise the campaign for next month’s citizen-initiated referendum seeking to overturn the controversial 2007 law that bans parents from using force against their children “for the purpose of correction”.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who voted for the law as part of a last-minute deal between Labour and National, indicated personal sympathy for the referendum on a radio talkback show last week. Asked for her view on the referendum question, “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” she said, “No, I don’t, I believe that actually good parenting should be left to do that in their different ways in their different homes and I don’t have an interest in going into people’s homes and telling them how to parent.” But Dr Angus said Ms Bennett had not given him any “riding instructions” on what to say about the referendum, to be held by postal ballot between July 31 and August 21, and he supported the new law. “It’s up to the Government to determine how they respond to the outcome of the referendum, but it won’t change my advice to the Government and my statements that I think the law as it currently stands is satisfactory and is a good piece of law for the children of New Zealand.”