Kiwi Polemicist

October 10, 2008

Gross incompetence from the editor of the New Zealand Herald

I have no objection to a newspaper editor giving a personal opinion, but I do object when an editor presents lies as facts because the lies fit in with his own opinions.

In this editorial Tim Murphy says:

The proposed referendum on the “anti-smacking” law (1 – refer to my note below) graphically demonstrates all these shortcomings. It is probably pointless to repeat the inconvenient fact that the referendum’s sponsors have wilfully ignored – that the law change did not ban smacking, but removed the defence against a charge of assault available only to parents (2). It is probably equally futile to remark that, the police having been given discretion not to prosecute inconsequential cases, the courtrooms of the nation have not been bulging with bewildered mothers (3). But it remains important to highlight the futility of the entire process of the referendum (4).


So it is with the present referendum, which asks whether “a smack as part of good parental correction [should] be a criminal offence?”. (Never mind that it is not (2); the law change is aimed at those who regard a beating with an iron bar “good parental correction” (5).)

But if the wording had been “should parents be allowed to get away with beating their kids so badly they require hospitalisation?” (5) they might have been less pleased. More likely they wanted one that said “Should the Government be able to tell you how to raise your kids?” (6).

It sounds like Murphy has been reading a press release from Sue Bradford:

“There is no specific law relating to smacking on New Zealand’s statute books. People like Mr McCoskrie have fostered a myth that what has happened is that a new law has been created that specifically outlaws smacking. This is simply not true.

The amendment of Section 59 removed a defence that has in the past allowed some parents get away with seriously assaulting their children, some with weapons, on the basis that they merely used ‘reasonable force’.

1) it is an anti-smacking law – Sue Bradford calls it that.

2) Here Murphy peddles Bradford’s lie. The law change clearly did ban smacking: section 59(2) of the Crimes Act says:

Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

Thus the law bans smacking that is correction, and correction is the purpose of smacking.

3) True, but police cars have been bulging with bewildered parents since the law changed. A list of examples can be found here.

4) the election process is only futile if the government ignores the referendum result. In this case we are only having a referendum because the government ignored the will of more than 80% of the population.

5) again Murphy is echoing the Sue Bradford line and using the same twisting of words. Bradford called it an anti-smacking law (see point 1), so the law clearly targets those parents who smack, not those parents who beat. Bradford and her cohorts in the media try to tell us that smacking and beating are the same thing, but as I said in my earlier post, anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that a smack (e.g. a swat on the rump steak) is different to a beating (e.g. a baseball bat applied to the head).

A few parents who did beat their children got away with it under the old law, but no law is perfect and that is not sufficient reason for changing the law. 

6) here Murphy finally arrives at the truth: the government is telling parents how to raise their children.

It is irresponsible for a newspaper editor to be penning such untruths; journalists are supposed to think independently and criticise the government, but that is rarely seen nowadays.


Use the category selector on the right to view my other posts on the anti-smacking law.


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