Superb commentary on John Key and the Mai Chen smacking analysis

Stuff 22 November 2014
OPINION: If there is one dreadfully boring topic in the news this week it is most certainly anything to do with the latest Labour leader.

It is exhausting, truly, to be going through this all again. It seems there is more politics in the Labour Party than there is in Parliament, and it is long since time that changed.

I have no idea how Andrew Little will fare, and, to be honest, after more than half a decade of Labour leadership incompetence, I don’t care.

Until his party shows any sign of being serious about using the wages I pay them to make New Zealand a better country, I’m not going to waste my breath discussing them.

I have more important things to think about – like who is going to hold Prime Minister John Key to account while Labour uses our money to destroy itself? He needs to be.

This is a man whose greatness is also his biggest downfall. Key is uncannily able to pick the public mood, but he uses popularity as his moral compass.

If enough people think it is right, Key will agree with them. If what is right isn’t particularly interesting to you and me, Key won’t worry about setting it straight.

Take the report Family First commissioned from one of the country’s foremost constitutional law firms on the anti-smacking amendment. The results came out this week.

But before we look at them let’s see if the amendment has stopped or slowed violent parenting. According to a 2013 report by the dreadful Child Poverty Action Group, incidents of physical violence against children have increased every year since 2008, although 2011/2012 saw a tie in statistics.

According to a 2013 presentation published on the Office of the Children’s Commissioner website, substantiated abuse cases (violent, sexual or otherwise) have increased every year to 2012.

According to the Child, Youth and Family (CYF) website, that increased again in the 2013 year.

According to the Ministry of Social Development’s white paper for vulnerable children, substantiated abuse cases (of all kinds) were on the increase between 2007 and 2012.

Put simply, the amendment hasn’t stopped or, from what I can tell, even slowed child abuse trends. Bad parents are still parenting badly.

The difference is in what Chen Palmer found – that now good parents are being punished for parenting well.

According to the report, “statements made by politicians to the effect that ‘good parents’ will not be criminalised for lightly smacking their child appear to be inconsistent with the legal effects of the amendments to section 59 . . .”

That means the politicians got it wrong: The amendment does not achieve what they intended it to. Key promised if that was the case he would repeal it. He won’t, because he knows he can get away with it on this one.