Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Family Integrity # 165 -- Wagner eletter discouraging

Family Integrity # 165 -- Wagner eletter discouraging


I just received a form e-letter from Nicki Wagner, one of National's two MPs on the Select Committee which looked at Bradford's Bill to repeal Section 59.

Sadly, it looks to me like National have pretty much swallowed the repeal lobby's propaganda that Section 59 is all wrong and needs changing. They only disagree in how it should be changed.

Here is an excerpt from Wagner's email:

"Sue Bradford’s Members Bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act, commonly known as the Anti-Smacking Bill is a response to the widespread belief that “something has to be done” to stop child abuse in New Zealand and the public have been extremely interested in shaping this legislation.

Many of the submissions heard were reasonable and rational. Many were impassioned. Some conclusions came from in-depth study and expert research, and others from deeply personal and traumatic experience. Some submitters quoted the bible, and its texts were used to support all shades of opinion. Some arguments were sophisticated and scholarly. Others were simple, but based on valued family traditions. Knowing that many children were living in violent homes, we were looking for a way to keep them safe, without interfering in the thousands of households where ordinary parents are doing a good job in bringing up their kids.

And that of course was the problem. How do you make a law that can control or shape the personal and very intimate relationship between parent and child? A relationship that involves 24 hour, 7 days a week, care and attention over a period of years. How do you devise a law that is relevant at all times, under all conditions, and in each and every circumstance? Logic, says you can’t, unless it is a really general statement and, of course, the law requires specifics if you want to enforce it objectively."

So Wagner appears here to be happy to help formulate a Bill that seeks to allow the state to "control or shape the personal and very intimate relationship between parent and child". While she admits logic is against the task, it is not the logic of "the state has no business trying to control or shape the way I relate to my own children." It is the logic of how to do it. She then answers the problem: "a really general statement." That is precisely what Section 59 is today as it stands. That's why it has served NZ so well for so long.

But even National appears to approve of the state controlling or shaping your family dynamics. This is totalitarianism at work.

Wagner goes on to take a shot at what the Green and Labour members of the Select Committee came up with and then offers National's amendment they hope will be accepted after the second reading: an amendment written by Geoffrey Palmer, and ex-Labour MP. I do not like this amendment. Wagner wrote:

"So after nine months of agonizing over this bill, hours of hearing submissions, debate, argument, and expert advice, the majority of the select committee (not the National party members) has come up with a nonsense, a long string of words that says everything and nothing. At present, if the bill passes, a boy throwing a tantrum and bashing his little sister around the ears with a hearth brush can be taken to his room, but cannot be given a smack on the hand or the bottom and told not to do it again. This is because any use of force for the purpose of correction is made illegal by the bill.

In an attempt to find common sense middle ground National is proposing an amendment which Criminalises force which inflicts harm that is more than transitory and trifling. (A common law phrase which is limited to reddening of the skin - but does not allow any bruising or worse injury.).

Only allows a section 59 defence to operate on the most minor of assault charges - on the basis that serious assaults would incur more serious charges and section 59 would not apply.

Prevents the use of implements to discipline children- because even a wooden spoon can inflict different degrees of injury in different hands.

Does not allow force to be used in a manner that is cruel, degrading or terrifying, and so deals with the emotional and psychological aspects of punishment.

The amendment has been drafted by Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer and the Law Commission. Sir Geoffrey has said that the amendment would “ lower the bar considerably on what is covered by section 59, and would be a very significant change to the law as it currently stands.”

We believe that this debate is not about whether smacking children is the best form of correction, it is about whether parents should be safe from prosecution if they decide to smack their children. We think that the law should be clear and that prosecution should not be left to the whims of CYFS, the police or any other individual with an axe to grind.

Nicky Wagner MP
National Party Parliamentary Office
Room 2.045 Parliament Buildings
Nicky.wagner@parliament.govt .nz
For the latest news "

Well, sadly, since Palmer's amendment will "lower the bar considrably on what is covered by Section 59", it will also lower the type of whim CYFS will need to justify interfering in families than ever before. And people like this present writer who believes implicitly in Proverbs 22:15, will be thoroughly criminalised because I believe an implement is necessary.

Why can't they just leave Section 59 as it is?


Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

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