Monday, 2 July 2007

2 July 2007 - hbtoday - EDITORIAL - All feeling smack in checkout

EDITORIAL - All feeling smack in checkout

With two suspicious deaths of infants at the weekend the controversy over whether cabinet minister David Cunliffe smacked his child in a supermarket seems obscenely petty.

But therein lies the point.

Mr Cunliffe - who denies he "smacked" his child - and his family are distressed by the attention received from "Families First", which has lobbied against the anti-smacking legislation.

And who could blame him?

His parenting methods - and, no doubt, those of all who have supported the anti-smacking legislation - have become hostage to politics. Such scrutiny, though unkind, is not surprising.

The law's opponents would relish the chance to test the new law on one of its high-profile advocates. However, all parents are in the same uncomfortable position as Mr Cunliffe, who was in fact congratulated by Families First, which said he "did what any half-decent parent would have done in the circumstances".
While the Government's accommodation reached with National for its support of the bill exempted "inconsequential" events from prosecution, that level has yet to be determined.

And despite repeated assurances that good parents won't be hauled before the courts, how can anyone know?

Is a small, corrective smack in a supermarket a forgivable "technical breach" or might it be eligible for prosecution if drawing a complaint or witnessed more than once?

How much discretion might police be allowed if the precautionary principle gives authority to finger-pointers and mischief makers (who appear to be the beneficiaries of the new law)?

The triviality of the Cunliffe affair seen beside the baby deaths - the importance of which it has all but eclipsed - is instructive because it underlines the worthlessness of sending messages with a prescriptive, intrusive law.

Most New Zealanders believe that not only the new law fails to honour its promise to protect the young but it will also hit the wrong targets.

Meanwhile the real problem will remain unaddressed.

Sue Bradford's bill won endorsement from many disgusted at the level of child abuse in New Zealand and who rightly believed something needed to be done. However, instead of focusing on baby bashers and killers (collectivist ideology absolves individual wrongdoers by making everyone else accountable) Parliament found blanket disapproval was far more convenient and put all parents on notice that they had better be on their best behaviour.

So disconnected have our politicians become from their constituents that they just cannot understand why they have deeply offended so many - even when one of their own is used to make the point.

No comments: