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Time for Key to show some backbone

Written By: - Date published: 4:06 pm, August 24th, 2009 - 63 comments
Categories: child discipline - Tags: , ,

John Key thinks there’s no need to change the law in the wake of the smacking referendum, but he does think there’s a need for ‘increased safeguards’ to prevent parents who mete out ‘inconsequential’ smacks from being prosecuted. He’s also stated that he agrees with the result of the referendum, stating that it is ‘totally inappropriate for a New Zealand parent to be prosecuted for lightly smacking a child’.

I think we should be suspicious of this response for three reasons. First, when the referendum question was first posed, Key said he thought it was ambiguous and agreed with Phil Goff that the poorly worded question was a waste of taxpayer money. Why he is paying attention to the result now is a bit of a mystery.

Second, the question was, whether Key now admits it or not, ludicrous. It was loaded, leading and complex. It’s simply not a reliable measure of public opinion.

Third, why is Key so obviously kowtowing to the smacking lobby? The acceptability of even light smacking is clearly far from a consensus in New Zealand, and there’s good reason to think it’ll be pretty hard to draw a legal line between acceptable ‘light’ smacks and unlawful ‘too hard’ smacks. Key’s ‘safeguards’ won’t clarify that line, they’ll only invite argument as to where it should be drawn.

The repeal of s 59 was an opportunity for New Zealand to evolve a progressive attitude to parenting. It was an opportunity to give our children unconditional protection from physical violence.

It’s a shame the current government doesn’t appear to have the backbone to see it through.

63 comments on “Time for Key to show some backbone”

  1. Lew 1

    You’re right, anonymous guest poster – guidelines are worthless here – but the reason he’s paying attention is obvious: even if the question was stupid, more than a million people think it wasn’t, and those people have votes. Any government who ignores a result that strong will lose elections, and Key certainly doesn’t care enough about this issue to accept that.

    I think at this point that continuing to oppose the anti-smackers will be counterproductive. They have a strong tailwind and their referendum result will be used as a riding crop against anyone who stands in their way. The way forward is to starve them of publicity – pass the Borrows amendment and be done with it. Principle has lost on this issue.

    L

    • Ag 1.1

      Who are they going to vote for if Key does nothing? Hardly anyone is going to transfer their vote to a minority party over this one issue, and it will all have blown over by the next election anyway.

      New Zealanders have proven gutless when faced with a united front of politicians. I can’t see this being any different.

      • Tim Ellis 1.1.1

        While I agree with the thrust of your point Ag, New Zealanders haven’t proven gutless when faced with a united front of politicians and really that approach is a pretty arrogant way to treat voters. When politicians try to band together to exclude groups of voters, that tends to give rise to groups like the Maori Party, at one end, and Winston Peters at the other end.

      • Lew 1.1.2

        This is a good point as well, and Key might just stare ‘em down – but I don’t think he has the bottle for it, and he certainly doesn’t have the support of his caucus.

        This has a lot of sound and fury behind it. Last time we had this many people up in arms about something was Foreshore and Seabed, and we know how that turned out.

        I’m worried. Call me a scaredy-cat, but there it is.

        L

        • RedLogix 1.1.2.1

          Well if you want me to draw a brutal comparison with the S&F debacle, it turned out very badly for the party in power at the time.

          Maybe we should roll over and let National reinstate the right for parents to hit their children (however ‘lightly and lovingly”)… and when the eventually the rising tide of dead and abused children finally sickens this nation to it’s stomach, and we finally wake up to the fact that the root cause is our love affair with violence in all it’s forms… then maybe National would finally get hung with the albatross.

          Call me cynical if you like.

          • jcuknz 1.1.2.1.1

            “Risng tide” … must be a spring low of all time. Relate the 11% ‘Yes’ vote to the 54% who posted in and you get less than 6% …tail wagging the dog comes to mind. People in the main are too sensible to confuse a smack with abuse.

  2. RedLogix 2

    So how many more principles are we going to roll over for Lew?

    I’ll tell you what. If one smack with an open hand is ok, then is two? Or ten? Or a hundred?

    Can I smack a two year old twice, and a three year old three times?

    How hard? Do I have to smack girl less hard than a boy?

    Can I do it until red marks appear, or bruises? Am I allowed to hit a brown child harder if the bruising doesn’t show? Or just hard enough so a teacher doesn’t notice the next day?

    Can I use a ruler, a hairbrush (big one or little one), a wooden spoon, a light leather belt, or a heavy one. How about specially made little electric shock prods with an adjustable dial for differing levels of ‘correction’?

    I’ve never seen any of the pro-smacking lobby ever answer any of these questions honestly. And the NZ Parliament is going to make a total arse out of itself if it tries to legally define ‘acceptable force’ because no-one will ever agree on it.

    • Lew 2.1

      RL, I’m not advocating rolling over, I’m advocating damage mitigation. I think there’s a very real likelihood that if the anti-smackers are ignored – or feel ignored – then they’ll push for a full reinstatement or something very closely resembling it, which allows for people to be hit with a wooden spoon as one of those nutters wants. On the numbers they have, they just might get one. That’s a worst-case.

      On the other hand, I think if the Borrows Amendment is passed with due haste, the whole thing will die down and things will remain more or less as they are now – more or less; with only slightly reduced protection for children, but at least no chance of substantially-reduced protection. That’s a second-best solution.

      L

      • lprent 2.1.1

        The problem is that Burrows amendment is ambiguous as the original clause that got removed in the eyes of the law.

        What exactly is a light smacking? Enough to cause blood blisters or so light you cann distinguish it from a caress. That was the reason that judges were writing such nasty judgments as they had to acquit people under the old clause because of that level of a difference of opinion. That is also where the s59a repeal came from in the first place – getting rid of ambiguous legislation that was resulting in crazy people getting off beating their kids excessively.

        Leaving it up to the police and the courts is the correct thing to do. Then a series of people have to be convinced that it is worth charging and convicting over. Binding the judges hands is more likely to result in injustices to kids than the other way around.

        Besides most of the arguments of the No lobby are just spurious. Any parent who is so gutless as to not do something required for their kids regardless of consequences probably doesn’t deserve them anyway. I cannot think of a parent who wouldn’t do what is required to bring up kids. But there are a *lot* of alternate ways to do anything.

        • Lew 2.1.1.1

          Lynn,

          The problem is that Burrows amendment is ambiguous as the original clause that got removed in the eyes of the law.

          I don’t agree. For one thing, ‘not transitory or trifling’ is much clearer than ‘reasonable’; and for another thing, there’s been so much discussion by the pro-smackers about the definition being intended to specifically exclude cases such as the Timaru riding crop that I think the courts and juries will be in much less doubt as to what it means.

          I don’t think it’s ideal, but I do think it is worse than risking a return to the bad old days.

          L

        • jcuknz 2.1.1.2

          Leaving it up to the police and the courts is totally unsatisfactory becuase the police are a closed society away from the public view and to go to court effectively means the expense of lawyers etc. In the later case I think it very bad that a good parent has to spend money to prove they are justified.

    • oftenpuzzled 2.2

      and aren’t we back to the problems of the original Act the definition of what is ‘reasonable force’? We seem to have come a complete circle!

    • Steve 2.3

      RedLogix.

      Can I use a ruler”
      You mean a rule that is used to measure? A ruler? who is this ruler?
      You smack of illiteracy.

      • Tigger 2.3.1

        ruler
        Noun
        1. a person who rules or commands
        2. a strip of wood, metal, or plastic, with straight edges, used for measuring and drawing straight lines

        Steve, get some new put-downs – your current ones are full of holes.

        • Lew 2.3.1.1

          Heh, reminds me that the aphorism “give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a foot, give ‘em a foot and they’ll think they’re rulers” certainly applies with regard to this sort of thing.

          L

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Any form of discipline taken to an extreme will result in dangerous and criminal behaviour.

    For instance, shutting someone in a room for a week without food or water would be criminal and dangerous behaviour. This does not mean that shutting someone in a room for twenty minutes is in the same category.

    Given that most of you would consider that “time-out” cannot be equated with the abusive and dangerous behaviour mentioned above, then how is it that a light smack as discipline be put in the same category as vicious assaults on children.

    Therefore, if the logic is to hold, “time-out” should be illegal along with light smacking. Or both should be legal.

    That is not to say I actually prefer smacking as a desirable disciplinary method.

    • Maynard J 3.1

      I find this argument to be a bit straw-man-ey because there is no real way to define when a smack stops being a smack and becomes abuse, but if you ‘time out’ till someone checks out then you have clearly withheld the necessities of life which is an offence in its own right.

  4. outofbed 4

    One of the main reasons i didn’t vote was for the same reasons that Key and Goff stated, that it was an ambiguous question.
    If the leaders of both major parties were in agreement on this prior to the vote.
    I felt it was pretty safe that the referendum would be treated for what is was a waste of time and money. However if It appears I was wrong and now feel I should have voted. I wonder how many other people felt the same ?

    • Ms X 4.1

      I do, for one. I feel quite let down having been assured by the PM that he wouldn’t vote because of the bad wording, that it would be meaningless. Now it’s not?

    • Steve 4.2

      Only stupid people like you feel like this.
      The question was clear. Time and money? ask Clark why it was not done at the last Election

  5. RedLogix 5

    The idea that we can legally define ‘light smacking’ is ludicrous. It’s the same reason why the law on assault between adults does not define any minimum acceptable force. ANY unwanted, intentional contact between adults is technically an assault, yet I’ve never seen a wave of hysterical panic over ‘criminalising’ ordinary people for ‘trivial’ light contact.

    It’s stupid to even think about trying to define what would be a legally acceptable contact between adults, yet for some reason we think we can do it when the victim is a powerless, voiceless child.

  6. outofbed 6

    Its a continuum, a light smack on the hand at one end, a severe thrashing at the other.
    Most people will be at one end but some will have a different definition of what a light smack is. As the whole point of smacking is to cause pain to a child it is a good idea to draw a line in the sand and not allow anything at all on the aforementioned continuum particularly when there are other very effective non violent methods. Smacking is completely unnecessary
    If no hitting of children is allowed at all
    There is no ambiguity, no grey areas and very slowly we can make inroads into stopping child abuse
    eg If I want to beat the fuck out of my kids i Ican justify it because the middle class tossers down the road are allowed to hit their kids

    The whole no vote thing is completely and utterly selfish its obviously not about children’s welfare its about “my right to do what the fuck I like’

  7. no leftie 7

    “so obviously kowtowing to the smacking lobby?”

    That’s a stretch isn’t it. Maybe if they’d decided to change the law. But a review of procedures?

    There will be a lot of the 87 percent of people who voted against the law who will be very unhappy to see their views being ignored.

  8. bobbity 8

    “Second, the question was, whether Key now admits it or not, ludicrous. It was loaded, leading and complex. It’s simply not a reliable measure of public opinion.”

    Oh FFS how long are you going to continue running the meme that all those that voted are so retarded they didn’t know what they were doing. Take Lew’s advice on board it’s considered and sensible – unlike the hysteria from either end of the spectrum on this issue.

  9. Ianmac 9

    To define a smack is to invite legal argument down the line. As most are saying, if you say a light smack is OK then it defeats the purpose because in court I could argue that the smacking was legal. Only matter of degree. As Outofbed says, no hitting of kids at all would eliminate ambiguity.

    • Lew 9.1

      I agree, buit this might be a choice between unpalateable alternatives. If you had to choose between ‘light smacks are ok’ and a return to ‘reasonable force is ok’, which would you choose?

      L

      • RedLogix 9.1.1

        If you don’t mind Lew can I offer a little technical criticism around your “use your terminology” and in the interests of “making sure your methods are rigorous’… could you please define:

        1. “Light smacking”

        2. “Reasonable force”

        I would want to be certain that I understood rigorously what it was you were asking me to choose between.

        • Lew 9.1.1.1

          RL, happy to oblige.

          The former, under the Borrows Amendment, is force which is trifling and transitory according to the ordinary definitions of those words. The courts have already defined the latter as including, in some cases, force exercised using implements such as riding crops and leaving bruising.

          Seems an easy choice, to me.

          L

          • RedLogix 9.1.1.1.1

            Somehow I don’t think that ‘trifling and transitory’ is going to satisfy the nutjobs who believe it is their Divine Right and Duty as parents to ‘beat the fear of God’ into their children.

            Marginalise them as extremists if you like, but you cannot overlook that they are the ones who have organised this reactionary petition and kept the heat in the issue.

            • Lew 9.1.1.1.1.1

              RL,

              I don’t either – but it will satisfy the vast majority of the rest of the population. It’s not the extremists we have to convince – it’s those who are on the margins of buying what they sell.

              L

            • QoT 9.1.1.1.1.2

              THIS. The argument that on the one hand smacking is an effective disciplinary technique but also doesn’t actually, you know, do anything is ludicrous.

              It’s like trying to say “I demand the right to put my child in time out but only, you know, as long as they want to stay there.”

              ASW: “hits”.

        • no leftie 9.1.1.2

          That’s the 64 thousand dollar question isn’t it.

          What is this mythical “light smack”, which is apparenly OK and when does it become a “heavy smack”, which is assault.

          I look forward to twisting and turning from the Government to come up with a definition that will equally piss off both sides in this debate.

  10. Tim Ellis 10

    My wife smacked our kids occasionally when they were young and it didn’t do them any harm, but times have moved on and I think now there are much better methods of disciplining a child. I don’t think the smacking debate is really very helpful or constructive as it just gives air time to the lunatics from both sides. I would really like to see the heat go out of this issue, and it seems there will always be heat in the issue as long as 88% of the population’s view is ignored.

    I think there are much better things that we should be talking about to improve the lot of at risk children rather than whether an occasional smack should be lawful.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    Maynard “I find this argument to be a bit straw-man-ey because there is no real way to define when a smack stops being a smack and becomes abuse, but if you ‘time out’ till someone checks out then you have clearly withheld the necessities of life which is an offence in its own right.”

    No, not straw man at all.

    The argument used against smacking is that ‘if it is illegal to hit another adult, why should it be legal to hit a child?”

    By the same logic, if it is illegal to shut an adult in a room against their will, it should be illegal to do the same to a child. I am not a criminal lawyer, but I suspect it is a criminal offence to force an adult into a room against their will and confine them there. This being the case, time-out is illegal.

    This logic seems fairly water-tight to me.

    • RedLogix 11.1

      It’s legal for consenting adults to have sex together, so it must be ok for adults and children to do the same, even if the child consents?

      The logic seems fairly watertight to me. Stupid yes? We can twist ourselves into this kind of pointless knot all night.

      The fact is that NZ does not currently have a problem with adults locking children into rooms and starving them to death. We do have a problem with children being beaten to death. The root cause of this is that violence is far too many parent’s first and only resort to problems with their children.

      How about sticking to the problem at hand rather than creating a false dichotomy with another problem we thankfully don’t have.

  12. outofbed 12

    88% of the population’s view is ignored.?
    I don’t think that’s right its less the 50% isn’t it

    • Lew 12.1

      Yeah, schoolboy error of assuming the non-voters break down along the same lines as those who did vote.

      Or not an error, but used for polemic purposes. Either way, wrong and stupid.

      L

      • tsmithfield 12.1.1

        I understand the turn-out was about the same as the referendum for the change in the electoral system, so it shouldn’t be sniffed at.

        I agree, it is wrong to make assumptions either way about the intentions of those who did not participate. We can only base assumptions on the responses of those who did.

    • jcuknz 12.2

      If you use the same argument you find that the ‘yes’ vote is less than 6% of the population. Maybe it is safer to say 89%/11% and have a ‘margin of error’ like the polls do. They pronouce on much smaller samples.

      Unless a smack hurts then it is the proverbial ‘wet bus ticket’. It really is quite simple that abuse is the repeated use of force past that required to discipline the child. Discipline is measured administration of justice to correct a wrong doing by the child. It should also be done before the parent looses their cool …idealistic that but …..

  13. Ruth 13

    Well done John Key. He hasn’t caved in to the baying mob.

  14. Ianmac 14

    If it was me choosing between the two, I would do a Rodney trick. There will be neither because I will stick to my principles and if I do not get my own way, I will um, um, refuse to feed the sparrows ever again! Take that!

  15. tsmithfield 15

    Redlogix “The fact is that NZ does not currently have a problem with adults locking children into rooms and starving them to death.”

    But we do have a problem with theft.

    So, perhaps you could advise me on this:

    It is illegal to take someone else’s property without their consent. That is theft.

    My child has purchased a cellphone with their own money. Am I allowed to confiscate it if he misbehaves? Or am I committing the illegal act of theft by doing so?

    • Ianmac 15.1

      TS. This could go round and round…… But if I confiscated my son’s pocket knife because he was threatening his sister with it would I be acting responsibly or would I be taking the knife illegally? I think that legally it has to be shown it was taken for my own use or to profit from it. Round and round…….

    • RedLogix 15.2

      My child has purchased a cellphone with their own money. Am I allowed to confiscate it if he misbehaves?

      Legally whose property is it? Can a minor ‘own’ property independently of their parents? Maybe someone can tell us the correct answer, because I really don’t know the answer for certain.

      If the answer is no, then the parent has every right to confiscate the cell-phone as it is not the actual property of the child, but of the parent.

      If the answer is yes, then it amounts to a ‘trifling and transitory’ confiscation of property, that the police would almost certainly use their discretion not to prosecute.

  16. David S. 16

    I supported the changes made to the law regarding child discipline,
    and I voted “Yes” in the recent referendum to confirm that support.

    Although I believe that the current law is an improvement over the old
    one, there’s a great deal of confusion about what effect subsection
    (2) and (3) have on (1). My take on it, and I’m reasonably certain
    that this was the intent of the law, was that the acts layed out in
    subsection(1) and ‘correction’ were meant to be different
    justifications for the use of force on a child.

    It’s an improvement over the old law, but it’s certainly not perfect.
    The main issue is the fact that it’s confusing, surely if you use force to prevent a
    child from harming themselves or acting up, it’s a form of
    ‘correction’ as well? This is what has lead to the widespread belief that smacking has been banned. The two subsections need a simple guideline to
    differentiate between the concept of ‘correction’, and the acts layed
    out in subsection(1).

    Personally I think subsection(3) should be changed to say something
    along the lines of -

    “If the amount of force used is more than what is necessary to perform
    the acts layed out in subsection(1), then subsection(2) prevails over
    subsection(1)”

    This would more clearly differentiate between the purposes of the two
    subsections. The word “necessary” provides a more objective separation between the the two concepts.

  17. tsmithfield 17

    Ianmac “TS. This could go round and round But if I confiscated my son’s pocket knife because he was threatening his sister with it would I be acting responsibly or would I be taking the knife illegally? I think that legally it has to be shown it was taken for my own use or to profit from it. Round and round ”

    But if I discipline my child by confiscating something they own aren’t I teaching them that you can solve your problems by stealing things? Just like smackers teach their children that you can solve your problems through violence. Right?

    I don’t see this as going round and round. I just see this as arguing a principle consistently. Thats what you pride yourselves in doing here, right?

    • Armchair Critic 17.1

      There is a difference between stealing and confiscating. You could return the knife, but you can’t unsmack the child.

      • nic 17.1.1

        I think the legislation as it stands is perfectly clear. Force for the purpose of correction is illegal. This includes all smacking, light or otherwise. The other stuff is really only in the the legislation to ensure parents can use “force” to physically remove children from dangerous situations, restrain them where appropriate, etc. This is still “force” and between adults would be considered assualt.

        For the record, I think that using pain to alter a child’s behaviour strikes fundamentally at their dignity as a human being and should absolutely be illegal. But I also think the spin from Bradford et al. has been bordering on absurd. It’s pretty clear from the result of the referendum that 1) even light smacking is a criminal offence in law, despite the very slim chance of prosecution, and 2) the vast majority of NZers don’t think smacking should be a crime, despite the very slim chance of prosecution.

        I disagree, but I think liberals who stand up for the rights of the child should be realistic about how much support they have from the wider population.

        (As an aside – I find this post presents an interesting contrast with the supercity post immediately above it. It seems, for both the left and right, that when popular opinion is on their side they are all for “democracy” and “the will of the people”. When popular opinion isn’t on their side, it’s suddenly more important to “have a backbone” and “do the right thing”. Just sayin’.)

  18. Ron 18

    Gutless. Gutless on the Maori seats, gutless on this.
    As gutless as Labour was on the Seabed and Foreshore issue.
    Gutless.

  19. RedLogix 19

    I just see this as arguing a principle consistently.

    No you are not. You are merely putting up a bunch of false comparisons that have nothing to do with the issue.

    What you are really getting trying to do is assert the question of parental rights and responsibilities.

    As a society we impose various responsibilities upon parents to feed, shelter, care for health, educate and generally protect the children from harm. In order to do this the law explicitly admits to parents various right to caregivers to direct and control many aspects of their children’s lives that they would not have over other adults. The right to direct what they eat, where they live and so on. None of that is in question.

    What is also clear is that those rights are not absolute, nor unlimited. The wider community already places many limits on what parents are allowed to do wrt their children.

    What we are discussing is whether or not it is reasonable for the law to tell parents that it is not permissible to use force to ‘correct’ their childs behaviour. If society expected parents to teach children moral values and social norms , BUT hypothetically there was no other option known to mankind to get children to behave other than to beat it into them… then outlawing corporal punishment would be unreasonable.

    But frankly ts you have other, more effective choices. I urge you to avail yourself of them.

  20. Ianmac 20

    Redlogix. Agreed with all of your thoughts above.
    There was a Probation Officer who had remarkable success/rapport with young people reporting in on probation. I asked what was the common factor. He said listening to the kids when they reported in. They soon arrived on time and even after their time was up they kept on dropping by. He reckoned that whether from rich or poor families, these kids felt disconnected and that they welcomed someone to just notice them and listen. So please add that to your above summary. Ta :)

  21. tsmithfield 21

    Redlogix “In order to do this the law explicitly admits to parents various right to caregivers to direct and control many aspects of their children’s lives that they would not have over other adults.”

    Quite agree. So you would agree that the argument that “we don’t do it to adults so we shouldn’t do it to children” is flawed with respect to smacking?

    Don’t assume that I am personally fond of smacking, however. I just think the law is a bit of an ass, thats all.

  22. RedLogix 22

    So you would agree that the argument that “we don’t do it to adults so we shouldn’t do it to children’ is flawed with respect to smacking?

    Not at all. As I’ve pointed out above, parents and caregivers do have SOME specific rights over their children that they would not have over other adults, but those rights are neither absolute, nor unlimited. And those rights are subject to change as society’s attitudes and expectations change.

    For instance it was once taken for granted that husbands could beat their wives, pretty much with impunity. That changed and the world is a better place as a result. (Note carefully that the same fundie nutters who backed this referendum will quietly admit to a hankering to have this ‘Biblical right’ restored to them as well… but don’t let me digress too much.)

  23. tsmithfield 23

    Redlogix “Not at all. As I’ve pointed out above, parents and caregivers do have SOME specific rights over their children that they would not have over other adults, but those rights are neither absolute, nor unlimited. And those rights are subject to change as society’s attitudes and expectations change.”

    I agree with you. However, the results of the referendum do not show any evidence that societal attitudes have changed with respect to light smacking. In fact, quite the opposite. Given the result of the referendum, and your own argument for discipline practices subject to societal norms, would you agree that the referendum result suggests that society is enshrining a parent’s right to lightly smack a child?

  24. RedLogix 24

    However, the results of the referendum do not show any evidence that societal attitudes have changed with respect to light smacking.

    Well no. All the rather foolish referendum question has confirmed is that no-one really wants parents to be actually prosecuted for light/ trivial/inconsequential/trifling/transitory [insert euphenism of the day] smacking. (Me included.)

    Which stupidly enough is EXACTLY how the law is written at present. So what precisely what did you want changing?

    • Lew 24.1

      RL, at the risk of worsening your already-low opinion of me by playing the devil’s advocate:

      If the law already permits [euphemistical] smacking, why not make it explicitly say that, and solving the issue so we can all go back to bickering about whether Smith or Marx had it right?

      L

  25. tsmithfield 25

    Redlogix “Which stupidly enough is EXACTLY how the law is written at present. So what precisely what did you want changing?”

    At the moment police are guided by guidelines from politicians on how to apply the law. Probably at the moment the law is working fine and not causing too many problems. However, it would be very easy for an incoming government to change the guidelines without going through any political process. An explicit law change would create a higher barrier for politicians to cross in order to change the way in which the law is applied.

  26. RedLogix 26

    No Lew, not so much a low opinion, as low level exasperation that you so consistently piss away your undoubted talents in hair-splitting sophistry. I wouldn’t mind the constant criticism, if only it more often took us some place constructive.

    Motor vehicles are capable of harming people at ANY speed. From a safety point of view the ideal speed limit is zero km/hr. But because most people don’t want to give up their beloved cars (and they have few other options) we tolerate the fact that cars kill 4-500 people and main thousands more every year. Instead we explicitly define acceptable speed limits that we permit people to drive within.

    Cool. The speed of a motor car is a single scalar number, you can measure it, and with some decent engineering analysis, make some reasoned judgements about what speeds create acceptable injury and death rates, in various environments. So a speed limit (ie a zone of legally acceptable speed) is a reasonable, if still fundamentally flawed thing. It would be better if we had an alternative universal transport technology to motor cars that didn’t kill people at all… but we don’t.

    But as we’ve said over and over, how do you go about reasonably defining an ‘acceptable smack’ in law? You can’t. So you do exactly the same as was done with the law around assault between adults and make ANY unwanted, intentional contact technically illegal…. and leave it to the Police to use their nonces.

    Besides, it’s not like you HAVE to hit your children, you have a choice.

    • Lew 26.1

      RL, that’s just what Chris Trotter said, but there’s an argument for another day.

      I agree with your argument about the difference between speed and smacking, but ultimately you’re missing the point: this is not a policy question; it’s symbolic. People voting weren’t voting yes or no to the question; they were voting yes or no to what they reckoned the question represented. The sanest policy in the world will be of no use in convincing people who are symbolically engaged with a matter like this unless it addresses their deeper, less rational concerns. I’d argue that the repeal we have is just that policy: perfectly functional by any objective standard, but unpalateable to a large chunk of the electorate for more ephemeral reasons. Hence: the Borrows Amendment, which takes the wind out of their righteous symbolic sails by making some kinds of smacking ok, and yet should have a minimal impact on children.

      I didn’t back the Borrows Amendment at the time because I figured NZ had to thrash these issues out, and I did entertain the hope of an indecisive response; but with NZ having had the argument and being alert to the issue, and having no electorally-realistic alternative, I think things are different now.

      L

    • RedLogix 26.2

      this is not a policy question; it’s symbolic. People voting weren’t voting yes or no to the question; they were voting yes or no to what they reckoned the question represented.

      Not forgetting the 46% who either couldn’t be arsed answering or thought the question too loaded and/or stupid to be worth answering.

      Yes I agree the real issue is symbolic. The problem I have with the Borrows Ammendment is not the rather mimimal legal impact it would have, but the much larger symbolic message it would convey, i.e. that ‘hitting your kids is actually ok, just don’t get too carried away and get caught’.

      Until as a nation we face up to the reality that hitting children is fundamentally NEVER ok, the horrors stories will keep on decorating the front pages month after month. Bradford never said that she thought the S59 repeal would technically change much, but that it represented a much larger, as you rightly say, symbolic challenge to the attitudes of NZ’ers.

      One that we are dismally failing.

  27. So Bored 27

    The result of the vote did not surprise me, I have long been aware that the Kiwi psyche has a very dark undercurrent of violence that backs authoritarianism. We profess to not like being told what to do by government (especially by women) but we as a nation meakly follow the strong. We cut down tall poppies, and crush dissent socially by ostracism. We love conformity so long as it is mainstream, that which our conservative nature dictates. And now as a spineless pathetic bunch we enmass follow the Old Testament dictates of the Christian right, our homegrown version of the Taliban. Smack our children into obedience, imprison crims and throw away the key etc etc.

    I think it time we promoted the counter to these authoritarian patriarchal nasties, namely kindness, inclusiveness and forgiveness. And perhaps just a littl more love for our children, not do as I want you to or I will smack you.

  28. oscar 28

    So Bored

    I agree with your sentiments.

    We seem to have a long way to go before are into the brightness of enlightenment.

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