Vote Yes

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, April 20th, 2009 - 32 comments
Categories: child discipline - Tags:

Why are the questions in citizens-initiated referenda always written by idiots? You want people to vote for your cause, right? So frame the question so people who agree with your position tick the ‘yes’ box. Simple? But they keep getting it backwards. Remember the first one?

“Should the number of professional firefighters employed full time in the New Zealand Fire Service be reduced below the number employed on 1 January 1995?”

So, if you agree with the referendum organisers that firefighter numbers shouldn’t be reduced you have to say ‘no’.

Then there’s the question for the child-beaters’ referendum:

“Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

‘If you agree with me, vote no on my referendum’. How dumb is that? And, oh yeah, a smack isn’t illegal as part of good parental correction now, so the question doesn’t actually ask for a law change. Guess they couldn’t just write ‘do you want it to be OK for adults to assault children with horsewhips, belts, and pipes just because they’re the kids’ parents?’

Anyway, Barnardos, Save the Children, UNICEF, Plunket, and probably some other pro-child wackos have set up a campaign to vote ‘yes’ on the referendum. I wish them luck. They’ll be helped by all those people saying to themselves ‘yep, I wanna be able to hit me boy when I gets angry, beats using me brains’ and ticking yes.

PS. You’ll get to vote yes by postal ballot in July and August this year.

32 comments on “Vote Yes”

  1. Graeme 1

    And, oh yeah, a smack isn’t illegal as part of good parental correction now, so the question doesn’t actually ask for a law change.

    You’re right that it’s a poor question (but I’m guessing you didn’t submit to have it changed?), but you’re wrong about the effect of the law.

    A smack as part of good (or bad, or any) parental correction is illegal. It is a criminal offence. If you smack your child (for any reason) you are breaking the law. If you are charged, you will not have a defence. etc. etc.

    [if a smack is inconsequential then the law says the Police must not prosecute, a consequential smack can hardly be part of good parenting]

  2. I agree that it is a poorly drafted question and the overwhelming urge most people will have is to vote “no”.

    You could justify doing this however if you do support the current law.

    Section 59 of the Crimes Act clearly states “[t]o avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”

    It is hard to imagine there being any “public interest in proceeding with a prosecution” involving a “a smack as part of good parental correction”.

    So voting “No” may be consistent with agreeing with the changes made by Bradford’s bill.

    Rather than voting “Yes” and suggesting that all examples of physical discipline should be prosecuted we have the option of spoiling our vote by ticking both options. I am considering doing this.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      Fair enough, but the politics of how your vote will be interpreted won’t be effected by why you vote the way you do. The percentage of ‘no’ votes will be read and spun as the percentage of people that want the law changed to explicitly allow smacking.

      • mickysavage 2.1.1

        Agreed but it feels like the right is (yet again) defining the parameters of the debate and somehow we need to break out of this and redefine the issue. God knows how, the informed part of this debate appears to bypass most of the population.

        The latest Police report on the effects of the change to section 59 (http://www.police.govt.nz/district/central/release/4606.html) suggests that there was ONE smacking event prosecuted and four prosecutions for “minor acts of physical discipline” in the 6 months to the end of 2008.

        The changes are hardly ripping families apart as has been claimed by some.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    I don’t think it’s “dumb” at all, for the smacking one anyway.

    The question is very simple and direct, and clearly states that the smack is part of “good parental correction”, whatever that means, and that it is illegal. Given the wording, you can easily interpret the question as about smacking parents/adults (“correcting” the parent), as opposed to children.

    They are hoping that people who otherwise haven’t thought very much about the whole situation will read it and say “that’s insane!” and vote no, without actually properly considering the issue.

    I think the question is perfect as-is. Asking “should a smack be legal” isn’t as rabble-rousing as asking “should a smack be illegal”, IMO. People are much angrier about their “rights” being “taken away” by “the government”.

    micky – I think I will spoil my vote by voting yes and no, thanks for the idea.

    • QoT 3.1

      Not “whatever that means”, Lanthanide. The concept of “good parental correction” is at the heart of the question, and if we’re just going to say, “Oh well, given a hypothetical situation where smack = good, sure, it shouldn’t be illegal!”

      What if the question was “Should beating kids into unconsciousness for giggles, as part of rational childrearing, be a criminal offence?”? I mean, you’ve immediately set a situation where beating kids into unconsciousness is assumed to be part of rational childrearing – so it must be good.

      Government funds shouldn’t be spent finding answers to unproven hypotheticals.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        I was pointing out that “good parental correction” can be interpreted in any way that reader wishes it to, making it useless as a referendum question because it is too subjective.

        Edit: I’ve just re-read my original post, and I think it need to make my point clearer. The question is of course complete rubbish and hence my thought about intentionally spoiling my vote in protest. I do think that the question serves the intent of those who organized the referendum very well – it will likely generate more outraged ‘no’ votes than if they had presented the same question in a much more fair and balanced form. The original post by Eddie is acting like the people who chose the questions are idiots – on the contrary, I think they are quite calculating.

  4. Hey I can see that some people might like the spoil vote option since the referendum question is so misleading but a strong YES vote is the best way to make a stand for positive parenting, the law, and for the protection of children.

    The referendum question is misleading because a smack is NOT part of good parental corrrection and the use of the word “good” suggests that it can’t possibly be bad / criminal.

    The question and the petition supporting the referendum were devised long before the final shape of the law was confirmed by Parliament and long before the impact of the law was known.

    As it happens, the Police are administering the law so that “good” parents are not being criminalised. Only people using high levels of force and who have prior convictions for family violence are being pursued by the Police … and so they should be!

    Parents need to know the law supports the best possible outcomes for children, parents and families. A YES vote is the way to go!

    Deborah

    • r0b 4.1

      Hear hear Deborah! It’s great to see Barnardos and other child focused organisations taking such a strong stand on this. With all these organisations saying vote Yes what else needs to be said! Keep up the great work…

      • Tigger 4.1.1

        I started donating to Barnardos after they made their stand. I figured if they were standing up for Kiwi kids the least I could do is stand up for them.

  5. Bill 5

    Under pain of sounding remarkably thick, are non votes taken into account in the tally?

    I ask because if a relatively small number of voters respond, the law could be changed on the weight of a minority of voters.

    So, does the law change if (say) over 50% of eligible voters vote for it or merely if 50% of the votes cast vote for it?

    • Graeme 5.1

      Bill – the law doesn’t change even if everyone in the Country votes for it to. It is a non-binding inidicative referendum.

      The results will be announced as the number of votes cast for “yes”, and the number of votes cast for “no” (and, probably, the number of informal votes).

      At binding referenda in New Zealand, a measure passes if more people vote for it than against it.

    • Ari 5.2

      Generally no-votes and non-voters are disregarded from reporting.

  6. Rich 6

    I’m inclined to abstain, since I object to both the entire concept of government (as opposed to constitutional change) by referendum and to the way its implemented.

    Not being beaten up by adults is a fundamental human right of children. I don’t care if 99% of NZers disagree, I don’t think the law should be changed.

  7. Rich 7

    Also, does anyone want to sign a petition calling for “deep tax cuts, increased public spending and no more government borrowing as part of a sensible economic policy”?

  8. Rex Widerstrom 8

    Part of the problem with referenda in New Zealand is that the wording must be approved by the Clerk’s Office. They spend much of their day telling backbenchers that their hopeful questions to Ministers are in fact imprecise drivel and to go away and re-word it or else it won’t get added to the Order Paper.

    They’re very good at their job (alas they have no control over the imprecise drivel that often forms the basis of every subsequent supplementary).

    But the wording of a Question for Oral Answer and the wording of a referendum are two very different things. A Parliamentary Question needs to be as short and precise as possible – a referendum question can afford to be a more “relaxed” in its structure in order to be more explanatory (for instance the smacking referendum could have outlined the present situation, as described by Graeme above, then asked simply “Do you agree with this, or would you prefer a return to the previous situation, where smacking was legal but harsher punishments remained illegal?”*).

    In my view the Clerk’s only role should be to check whether the wording is obscene or otherwise unacceptable, doesn’t incite people to a criminal act, and doesn’t call for something that’s actually impossible (e.g. “Should the government sack John Key?”).

    * I’m not suggesting this as an ideal alternative wording, as I haven’t even had my first coffee yet. But hopefully you get the idea…

    • Maynard J 8.1

      Explanatory: guiding? Difficult to remain neutral.

      Maybe the Clerks should add ‘idiotic’ to obscene and impossible.

      Is anyone else annoyed with the waste of money this referendum is?

      BTW what’s wrong with the question ‘do you think s59 should be repealed’?

      • Graeme 8.1.1

        Nothing, as a question, but it doesn’t give you a very good indication as to what the public thinks about the issue.

        The two options would be “yes – I support the repeal of section 59, which would mean smacking is illegal” and “no – section 59 should stay, which would mean smacking is illegal”.

        Family First and others are *not* pushing for the status quo ante.

        Section 59 used to allow parents to get away with beating their kids. Now the law bans all corporal punishment, including light smacking.

        Family first wants a middle ground – where light smacking is legal, but violent abusers don’t have something they can use as a defence in court.

        They don’t want the law as it was, and they don’t want the law as it is. They want something else – something that has never been the law in New Zealand. They want a law that allows a smack, but nothing more, thus, they have drafted a question around that.

        • Rex Widerstrom 8.1.1.1

          That’s another weakness. There’s no reason at all a referendum can’t put more than a yes/no choice to people – except that the legislation prevents it.

          A set of options ranging from a return to the previous situation, the status quo, and a number (though a reasonably small number) of other options is quite feasible. After all, we’re not restricted to choosing between the myriad and complex policies of just two parties on polling day.

          And the fact is, most of life’s questions aren’t black/white, yes/no.

          A conspiracy theorist might say the enacting legislation was deliberately drafted in such a way as to ensure most referenda became a frustrating morass and a pointless exercise, thus enabling politicians to eventually declare them a waste of time… as if emasculating them by making them non-binding wasn’t sabotage enough.

        • Maynard J 8.1.1.2

          I see your point, Graeme. I was trying to give a question that at least meant something useful – and I think I disagree with your view of their intent. FF & their nutty co didn’t mind the original s59 in the slightest, and fought hammer, tongs, tooth and nail to keep it – maybe they want a middle ground now but I haven’t seen evidence of that. Have not been looking though.

          If you have time for a quick question:
          In your view is this simply a failure of those groups to understand how law works? Doesn’t the Crimes Act (or whatever the law is that makes it illegal to punch or tackle someone) make boxing and rugby illegal, or is there an exception loaded?

          If there is an one, does that exception cover every instance where someone might have a legitimate reason for physical contact with someone that could be interpreted as an assault or similar under said Act?

          Rex: also understood. Not sure about the conspiracy – a decent operator (i.e. one with the ability to be conspirational) would not have let the issu become so whopping in the first place.

          Not sure multi-choice referenda could be anything but misleading either. If they gave a few options, it is still leading people into choosing one pre-determined option, and 100% of people who chose any option might have preferred some unstated option. It’s a tricky one 🙂

          • Graeme 8.1.1.2.1

            Doesn’t the Crimes Act (or whatever the law is that makes it illegal to punch or tackle someone) make boxing and rugby illegal, or is there an exception loaded?

            If there is an one, does that exception cover every instance where someone might have a legitimate reason for physical contact with someone that could be interpreted as an assault or similar under said Act?

            There are common law defences of consent and implied consent to assault charges.

            FF & their nutty co didn’t mind the original s59 in the slightest, and fought hammer, tongs, tooth and nail to keep it

            Certainly some were happy with the current law, but Chester Borrow’s amendment was the popular compromise. If you go back and look, I’m confident you’ll find the Family First were fighting “hammer, tongs, tooth and nail” against a law banning smacking – not in favour of the then status quo.

          • Maynard J 8.1.1.2.2

            There are common law defences of consent and implied consent to assault charges.

            So there are defences when you’re playing some code, but it is still illegal. Just like all smacking was always illegal, but now there’s no defence because you were only hitting your sprog.

            FF, I’m equally confdent, were against the repeal of Section 59. Smacking was already illegal, so techincally, at a stretch, you could argue they were against removing the defence for an otherwise illegal action, but that was far from their comments at the time and thereafter. If that was truly their position, they were pants at articulating it.

  9. Irascible 9

    Unfortunately this referendum is loaded. Whichever way you vote it gives ammunition to the fringe dwellers that support NACT.
    YES = NO to the act that repealed section 59 in the minds of the framers of the referendum.
    NO = agreement with their proposition that the Act repealing section 59 should be repealed and the situation that existed before the legislation be reintroduced,
    It is a feature of this present Government that agreement to such a nonsensical proposition was signed into.
    The referendum result, as the proposition is framed, will not benefit the children or preserve any remains of political sanity in New Zealand.

  10. Ianmac 10

    Brian Edwards covered the question very well on his blog
    http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2009/04/to-smack-or-not-to-smack/
    I wondered too what would happen if I crossed off both choices? To vote yes would be to agree with the “good” parenting part.
    Thinking back to that referendum about stronger penalties becoming entangled with research about the cause of violence and looking after victims gave a 90% (?) response so justifying longer sentences (like this one 🙂 )
    Actually it gives referenda a bad name!

  11. jarbury 11

    The stronger penalties referendum was a classic, in that it became impossible to choose no, as yes covered everything from harsher sentences to a greater focus on rehabilitation (isn’t that the opposite?).

    Obviously the “no” vote here is going to get 80% or more. For the reasons outlined by Deborah above I feel compelled to vote yes, but I do feel odd voting ‘against’ something that is says it is ‘for’ good parenting. The government should say that the referendum actually has little to do with changing the s59 law. Perhaps we will see some sort of amendment, although I think the law is OK as it stands. I hope we don’t get to a point where we’re saying “it’s OK to bash your kid this hard, but not that hard.”

    • I agree with Jarbury and Lanmac

      I see that Lanmac (Ianmac?) suggested in Brian Edwards’ blog that the third option of spoiling your vote was possible.

      I think it should be considered. The pro cannabis movement used to use it with prohibition votes. The number of spoilt votes will be recorded and publicised on the results website and should be reported by any media outlet doing its job.

      Oh, I see what the problem is …

    • Graeme 11.2

      I did not support a change in the criminal justice system to introduce hard labour, so I voted no on the “law and order” referendum. Not hard =)

  12. wren 12

    Guys, don’t get so worked up about the semantics of ‘will I be voting against good parenting?’. You have a choice, vote with the child beaters or against them. Everything else is just a distraction and won’t matter a damn at the end of the day.

    • Maynard J 12.1

      Or you could take the view that the referendum is asking a question regarding an act that is impossible, and to vote against can be of no consequence to conscience. Just replace ‘smack’ with ‘good bloody thrashing’ in your mind if you need to.

  13. toad 13

    Eddie, it is a good argument for the amendment of the CIR Act – so that there has to be some independent determination to eliminate bias in the referendum question.

    Both the current one re the right of parents to whack theor kids, and the firefighters one, were extraordinarily biased in their wording. And the sentencing one deliberatly confused two sepate issues in its wording,

    The CIR law is an ass – we need to reform or repeal it. That might be something we could get the vast majority of Parliament to agree to do – let’s ask them.

  14. jarbury 14

    Start a referendum on the issue toad…. LOL

  15. Awful left-liberal parent 15

    If there was no Yes Vote campaign, I would be spoiling my ballot to make the point that I support the law as it now stands.

    With the emergence of the Yes Vote campaign, I’ll be voting Yes and hoping that every good-hearted person in this string who is considering a spoilt ballot will do the samee thing.

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