Kiwi Polemicist

August 27, 2009

• Referendum on anti-smacking law: John Key gives the finger

The comments button is at the bottom right of this post.

So, 87% of those who sent in a referendum response said that smacking should not be a criminal offence. Then John Key said:

John Key's response to the referendum on the anti-smacking law

"Up Yours"

John Key also said

“The referendum result reinforces the message that New Zealand parents do not want to see themselves criminalised for a light smack” (source)

Ten out of ten John. For your information, section 59 of the crimes act does criminalise those parents who give a “light smack” for the “purposes of correction”.  You cannot “give parents comfort” that they will “not be criminalised for lightly smacking their children” unless you repeal the law. When you try to give comfort to parents whilst refusing to repeal the law you are like a fireman who tries to give comfort to a person trapped in a car whilst refusing to attempt to free that person.

87.4% of a representative sample of New Zealanders have sent this message to you. Why are you ignoring the message? Perhaps you have purchased Helen Clark’s jackboots. Perhaps you have forgotten that you are appointed to serve, not to rule.

I see that John Key will kill John Boscawen’s bill which aims to amend the anti-smacking law. Boscawen’s proposal would be a great improvement on the present situation, but it is still totalitarian in so far as it allows the state to control how parents respond when their children misbehave. When the state defines our “rights” it in fact limits our rights, and Boscawen’s bill would have this effect. Consider this: how did people become so dependent on the state that they think that the state must define what is good and acceptable parenting?

As I say, Boscawen’s proposal would be a great improvement on the present situation, but there are a couple of major flaws in it:

  1. It would criminalise cruel and degrading punishment. Whilst I am not in favour of this type of punishment, the problem is that these are subjective intangibles and thus the interpretation of the meaning of them is wide open: for example, a judge might decide that was degrading to smack a child in public and send a parent to prison for doing so.
  2. It would not allow the use of instruments. A good purpose-built smacking instrument, an example of which I have seen used, delivers trifling and transitory pain with extremely low risk of injury (because only a light swat is required to induce a corrective effect and the design makes it difficult to inflict injury). On the other hand, it is very easy to inflict bruising when smacking with a hand, and if Boscawen’s bill was passed you’d be a criminal for doing so.

The bottom line is this: the state has no right to control how parents respond when a child misbehaves. John Key should heed the message and decriminalise “light smacking”.

What do you think about John Key’s response to the referendum result?




  1. I think the issue now is what kind of electoral backlash can John Key expect by not addressing the clear wish for a law change by those who voted “no”. We know that John Key had a hand in developing amendments to Sue Bradford’s original bill, so he may consider that he has a personal interest in ensuring there is no law change. So which political party (in addition to ACT) will come out and say that they will change the law to meet the desire of parents to allow the light smacking of children?

    Comment by Ruz — August 29, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

    • Ruz: I find Key’s stubbornness mystifying and his hypocrisy contemptible (he formerly condemned the anti-smacking law). Perhaps he does have a personal interest, or perhaps he’s under pressure from the UN to comply with the declaration of children rights. That’s UNCROC, and it’s definitely a crock.

      As for the back lash, it’s early in the electoral cycle so I doubt that it will have much effect in 2012.

      ACT is our only hope, but they’ve been turncoats since the election so they can’t be relied upon.

      Comment by Kiwi Polemicist — August 29, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  2. And here we are a month later, KP, and the issue has died right down — which is what Key would have been anticipating, in typical political style.

    Unfortunately, Larry Baldock’s intention to start another referendum; this time seeking to make ref outcomes binding; is a completely separate issue, and one I happen to oppose.

    I still believe this issue will *not* go away, though, as Key et al obviously wish. Every time another child dies violently at the hands of his relatives, the issue will automatically rear its head …

    Comment by Sus — September 29, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

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