Saturday, 29 December 2007

Media - tvnz

Smacking law political issue of 2007

Dec 27, 2007 7:56 AM

The smacking debate was politically the biggest issue of the year, with politicians pitted against parents who say they are sick of being told by the government how to run their lives.

The anti-smacking legislation was introduced by Greens MP Sue Bradford and she says what followed was a lesson in just how brutal politics can be.

For months, New Zealand screens were bombarded with news of the Anti-Smacking Bill, with some supporting the bill and seeing it as a means to help stop the rampant child abuse in New Zealand and many others seeing it as a means of the government controlling how parents bring up their children.

Those who were against the bill were more louder and showed their discontent by protesting up and down the country, but the protests were in vain as by May, MP Sue Bradford's anti-smacking law became a reality in parliament by 113 votes to seven.

It was a hard won fight for the Green MP and for Labour, which removed the defence of reasonable force for parents who hit their kids.

National opposed the bill but agreed to a compromise, leading to one of the strangest moments at parliament with Helen Clark sharing the podium with her number one political rival John Key.

There were a lot of whacky moments during the Anti-Smacking Bill becoming law.

Death threats were issued to Bradford and there was also a smack free town, with Ngongotaha claiming to be the first in the country.

MP Gordon Copeland quit his party because it supported the bill, but then forgot to go to parliament for the final vote and was slammed for not understanding the bill after he claimed that the average parent in New Zealand would be subject to criminal charges for even a light smack.

But nothing of the sort has happened - not yet at least.

In fact Bradford says there have been just two prosecutions since the bill was passed and one other case where police investigated but went no further.

"The law appears to be working perfectly and in line with what we intended... there were gross exaggerations and ridiculous lies about what would happen as a consequence of my bill going through. Those fears, those lies have not come to fruition," says Bradford.

But her opponents disagree.

"I think the politicians were suckered into an ideology that it felt good. It seemed like the solution to our child abuse problems but our experience is that it's had no effect on child abuse rates and we've had five child abuse deaths since the passing of the bill... In fact while the bill was being passed Nia Glassie was being hung on a washing line," says Bob McCroskie from Family First NZ.

The debate continues to goes on and many are saying it could heat up once again as a petition is already doing the rounds, which could mean the issue comes up in a referendum when voters go to the polls next year.

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