MPs slate smacking poll words

The Dominion Post 17 June 2009

A $9-million referendum on smacking is descending into farce, with MPs from across Parliament claiming the wording will not deliver a clear verdict on the law. Prime Minister John Key has indicated the Government could review the rules for referendums after growing criticism of the question in the postal ballot, to be held from July 31 to August 21. The referendum asks: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Critics say the question is loaded, implying that people who do not smack are not good parents and that smacking will end up in prosecution. Police have prosecuted only a handful of cases since the defence of reasonable force for smacking was removed in 2007.

Mr Key said the wording was ambiguous and it would “make sense” to look at whether stricter rules for referendums were needed. Labour leader Phil Goff said he would not vote in the ballot because the question did not make sense. “The question implies that if you vote `yes’ that you’re in favour of criminal sanctions being taken against reasonable parents actually nobody believes that.” UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said the wording was “bewildering”. Green MP Sue Bradford, who sponsored the bill that changed the law, said: “It’s confused and confusing. We’re wasting $9m of taxpayers’

..Family First director Bob McCoskrie, who organised the petition that raised the necessary 10 per cent of voters needed to force the smacking referendum, defended the wording. “The law is that if a good parent raising great kids uses a smack on the bum, that is a criminal activity and they’re subject to possible investigation and possibly prosecution. That’s a dumb law and people will be voting no.” Opponents had been given a chance to challenge the wording but had not bothered because they believed the petition would not get enough support to force a poll, he said.

AUDIO – National Radio Checkpoint 16 June 09