Monday, 19 November 2007


Hands off our lives say voters
By TRACY WATKINS - The Dominion Post | Monday, 19 November 2007

Voters fear Government is exerting too much control over their lives - and they believe it has got worse in the past two years.

The finding in the latest Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll suggests the backlash over the so-called anti-smacking bill has left its mark, but could also be a response to the campaign against Labour's bid to overhaul electoral finance laws with a regime criticised as draconian and a limit on free speech.

Two thousand people protested in Auckland at the weekend against the Electoral Finance Bill, due to be reported back to Parliament today after being watered down by a select committee.

In a poll of 1082 voters, people were asked whether the Government had more control over people's daily lives than they would like and 57 per cent answered yes. A further 37 per cent of voters rejected the proposition and 6 per cent did not know.

When asked whether the level of control had increased, decreased or stayed the same over the last two years, 61 per cent said it had increased, which points to the smacking debate as a major factor.

Civil unions, Labour's push to decriminalise prostitution and even sensitivity over the recent police raids may be other factors.

Labour has come under concerted attack from National and conservative Christian groups for running a "nanny state" agenda.

Family Party co-leader Richard Lewis said the Labour Government had continued to ram through unpopular policies.

"The message I've been getting for some time now is that the Government has been stepping into areas they shouldn't be when it comes to parental responsibility and the balance of rights of New Zealanders," he said.

Labour's backing for the smacking legislation - which removes the defence of reasonable force for parents facing child abuse charges - sparked one of its biggest declines in popularity since it got into government.

The latest poll shows Labour back on the path to recovery, with 40 per cent support, just 5 points behind National. But it suggests some concerns about government interference have stuck.

Six months on from the introduction of the new smacking laws, however, those working at the coalface say fears that sparked the backlash have proved unfounded.

Police are due to release a major review of the change within weeks, but family law and child welfare experts say there has been no noticeable change to the way child violence is being reported.

There have been just two media reports of possible cases of parents being reported for smacking, with no action taken, while Child, Youth and Family reports there has been no significant rise in child abuse notifications since the law change....

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