Tuesday, 20 March 2007

20 March 2007 - Gisborne Herald - Public opinion building up against Bradford’s anti-smacking bill


Public opinion building up against Bradford’s anti-smacking bill

by Iain Gillies
Tuesday, 20 March, 2007

Opponents of Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking bill are optimistic they may yet stymie its intent through a groundswell of public opinion.

Parliament’s interrupted debate on the legislation has given a sense of urgency to petitioners striving for two citizens’ initiated referenda on related issues.

Co-ordinator Larry Baldock — a former United Future MP — told The Gisborne Herald the response has been "overwhelming".

"The biggest challenge is getting it in front of people," he said. "Once we do that, we’re getting a response of 80-90 percent."

The petitioners then have to gather the 300,000 signatures necessary to require a referenda, not an impossible task.

The first petition is: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" It is in the name of Aucklander Sheryl Savill, a mother-of-two who works with Focus on the Family and whose husband is a policeman.

Mr Baldock’s petition is: "Should the Government give urgent priority to understanding and addressing the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse in New Zealand?"

Organised groups and churches are helping; some radio stations have the petitions on their website, and individuals are downloading and distributing it.

It appears that a strong public response could be evident before Parliament resumes its interrupted debate on the bill on March 28, and a possible third and final reading on May 2. By that time, there could be enough evidence to suggest that a referendum is coming.

Mr Baldock has been visiting various South Island centres this week, reinforcing his work, on a previous circuit.

"The Government cannot be allowed to get away with this arrogance of not listening to the people of New Zealand," he said.

There is no doubt that the intention behind the bill — to protect children from violence — is well-founded. Children have been abused far too much in this country. But, sadly, nobody seems to know exactly where this bill starts and ends.

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