Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

The Referendum About Hitting Kids

August 24th, 2009

Diversion, as every parent knows, is a useful ploy in good parenting. You divert the angry child’s attention away – with a game, or another activity – from the thing that would otherwise lead to a violent confrontation. Basically, you change the subject. How ironic then that the entire smacking debate has now evolved into a golden diversionary tactic for the Key government for any public concerns about its wider activities. With luck, the government could string this issue out for its entire first term in office. OK, so you don’t like PPPs – but where do you stand on the smacking issue ?

Don’t get me wrong. Legitimising violence against children – even the so called ‘loving’ kind of violence that supposedly does them so much good – is a serious thing. However, it seems bizarre that New Zealand should be spending more energy on whether children can be properly disciplined than on whether they get enough food to eat, or can read properly, Reason being, this dispute has little to do with the wellbeing of children. It is all about parents, and their freedom to do as they see fit and proper. Hitting your kids is seen by many as a basic property right.

If it chose to play hardball, the government would be under no compulsion to comply with the wishes of the 88% of the 54% of the eligible population who didn’t want to see – in real life – the science fiction scenario of good parents getting hauled off to court for a tap on the arm. Along the way, the referendum deliberately begged the question it was purporting to test – in that under no current law, and under no current police practice, are good parents being criminalized for the reasons we have just spent $9 million to denounce.

Ah, but now the public has spoken. And regardless of the irrelevance of what it has said, politicians will feel the need to respond. This could, or should, pose a dilemma for the Key government. Key himself was heavily involved in shaping the compromises that made the current law possible – and during 2007, he won a lot of political kudos for doing so. Plainly though, a big chunk of the population doesn’t like the current law, Despite the fact that there is a distinct possibility that it has already shifted perceptions of good parenting away from smacking.

The crucial factor is that the most hotly aggrieved members of the public are seen to be part of the National Party’s electoral base, so they cannot be ignored completely. Nor can it suffice to remind them they have already been rewarded, with the appointment of Christine Rankin to the Families Commission. They want more.

Thus, the dilemma. How can the government basically do nothing, while still placating a large number of the voting public? Well, last time it did very well indeed out of focusing on Police guidelines. It could try that route again. It could tell the Police to exercise Extra Super Duper Size Discretion in future about smacking complaints, rather than just the Family Size Discretion they’ve shown so far. That might be enough.

Reportedly there is also a Bill sponsored by John Boscawen of the Act Party already written and ready to go that would legalise smacking for the purposes of correction. That could be a fallback position, if needed. Why not usher that Bill into Parliament (see, we are listening to what the public has said) and then quietly kill it at the select committee stage, when the idiocy of trying to define the relevant terms will become apparent to (almost) everyone ?

Another useful stalling device could be to wait for the Ministry report on how the current law has been working. This evaluation was promised to be carried out when the original law was passed. Let the current law and the Boscawen Bill be measured against its findings, and it will become obvious which option has more merit. Unfortunately for the MPs likely to comprise the relevant select committee, this route would undoubtedly expose them to ferocious lobbying by Larry Baldock and his minions.

In the end political machinations, and not common sense, will carry the day. Unfortunately, that is usually the result when blind ideology is allowed to contaminate the process of making law.


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    1. 80 Responses to “The Referendum About Hitting Kids”

    2. By brian marshall on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      Gordon, you are so out of touch with the majority of the population.

      Michael Laws summed it up quite nicely when his article in the sunday paper effectively stating those infavour for the yes vote, just can’t understand the difference between a smack and violence. And it’s likely you never will either.

      Or are you just bitter because the people have rejected your beloved Sue Bradfords bill, that striked into the hearts of the country’s loving families while doing NOTHING to stop the needless deaths amoung children.

      I also can’t see how it’s diversionary. This subject is likely to see Nationals popularity ratings plummet if they reject the will of the people.

    3. By Andy B on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      Brian. The bill isn’t to stop people from giving their children a smack and it is unlikely to be a successful deterrent to stopping kids from being beaten to near death. However, where we were before was that parents could get away with little or no sentencing if they used the defense of reasonable force. The new law is about making the issue black and white. I’m sure that you will agree with me that beating one’s children to a point where they are close to death is abhorrent, where there has been obviously more than reasonable force, and the new law tackles this issue.

    4. By Mike on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      There is an issue of proportion that seems to be missing here.

      To an adult a smack may not seem like violence. But from a small child’s perspective, a smack from a big adult hand is violent. That’s why it “works”.

      I think this law raises the bar in a good way, like getting rid of the provocation defence in homicide cases.

      People will get their heads around it in the end – the idea that children should have the same rights as family pets. Even the Dominion Post had an editorial admitting it made sense and will eventually be seen as a no-brainer.

      As for Michael Laws. He may have some valid points, but of course if you happen to disagree with anything he thinks you’re a “moron” etc. He seems such an angry person deep down. Just the sort who likes to verbally “smack”, “hit hard”, and “pummel” his imagined opponents. No wonder this issue goes to his heart.

    5. By stuart munro on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      The fact is that the law is intrusive – not at the level of the courts and on the borderline serious violence, but at the level of moderate safe punishment being grounds for police involvement. It was bad law, not at the level of courts, but at the level of families.
      A frustrated parent, with a child behaving wildly inappropriately, is not on the whole assisted by a police officer (who must be ignorant of the behaviour issues) questioning and undermining their authority. The police also probably have better things to do.

    6. By Sean on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      Hi Stuart

      ‘The police also probably have better things to do.’

      The law as it stands already clearly gives the police the power to decide if it is appropriate or inappropriate to intervene on the parent child relationship. The police are able to decide if an offense has taken place, and judging by the lack of a flood of prosecutions, the police have demonstrated that they are well able to exercise their judgement on this matter.

      There are laws against theft, they don’t stop theft, but they do give a framework for prosecution. This Act provides a framework for the police and courts cases of serious assualt, and worse, against children. And that is how it has been successfully used.

    7. By Daniel on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      If we want to live in a less violent world we have to start with our children.
      If we have to use violence to enforce boundaries, or just smack out of frustration and anger we simply teach them that might is right and violence is the ultimate way to get what you want.

      I recently attended a brainwave trust meeting and it was a real eye opener. I think all parents should have parenting courses available for those that take thier parenting seriously. The sad thing is that that those that might benefit the most don’t care our could not be bothered changing thier beahviour. This is where the law sends a clear message to these people of what is not acceptable parenting.

      The law won’t stop adults killing children but at least it is saying that we as a society don’t accept that parents have an automatic right to assult thier children. Society is evolving and we are trying to free ourselves of the mistakes of the past.

    8. By Pauline McIntosh on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      I am getting sick of these ill-informed devotees of the Bradford bill…I voted no because I know Parents need support and assistance not criminalisation, in their very important task.
      A smack is not violence that is playing with semi-tics to say it is….
      What I do see in the whinnying by pro Bradford’s Bil is these followers are put out..for they have gone around with an arrogance that their devine and often ill informed opinion was rejected by the vast number of NZers. And no we are not influenced by the money from US or are stuck in the old ways..most of us like me voted NO as we have raised kids we could see the law was an non-needed infringement on parents in their important work

      What Brad fords bill did was educate the kids as to their rights against the parents rights …and have made parenting extremely difficult ..”I know my rights haha you discipline me I will ring the cops!!!” yes this is and has been happening as one mother found out with a knock on the door next day by SYPS…to find they had come to take her kids away because she gave a very rude and cheeky daughter a smack

    9. By Will on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      I agree with Gordon, it is so all about the parents. Raising children by non violent methods is the most effective in terms of the kids development and their perception of how problems are solved. I can’t believe NZ dosen’t want to adopt a non-violent model which sends a strong signal as how our children should be treated by all parents in our society.

    10. By Kirry on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      Brian Marshall is everything that is wrong with our country. That we have groups of people effectively fighting for the right to hit children is beyond me.

      I wish the media had done a better job of explaining the reasons behind the original repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act. Tell the public that the “reasonable force” defence had been successfully used by parents who beat their children with planks of wood and riding crops, and the picture isn’t so pretty.

      And yes, it was juries of NZers that accepted that defence.

      Children should be loved and protected, and there are many other methods of disciplining your child that do not involve physical hurt.

    11. By Fortune on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      Smacking is a useful tool in teaching children in order for them to behave and respect. I believe without smacking, our children will never learn from making mistakes,for example: stealing, disrespect, attacking, fighting and other type of violence. I can see most good parents are so afraid to smack their children to stop them from getting involve in what will cause them in to trouble because of this Law. I recommend that parents have their rights to smack their children so they don’t have to do things that they shouldn’t been doing.

    12. By Robert McMurray on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      I agree with the above sentiments.

      However, the first sentence should have said, “…to behave and LEARN respect.”

      The word “respect” here requires an object, whether used as a noun or a transitive verb.

    13. By George on Aug 24, 2009 | Reply

      “Brian Marshall is everything that is wrong with our country. That we have groups of people effectively fighting for the right to hit children is beyond me.”

      I couldn’t agree with you more.

      Also no surprises whatsoever that there was no debate at all about the scientific evidence on whether hitting kids is effective in reforming their behaviour. It isn’t. No rationality in this debate, just hot-headed insistence on the “right” to inflict violence.

    14. By Rick on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      ““Brian Marshall is everything that is wrong with our country. That we have groups of people effectively fighting for the right to hit children is beyond me.””

      “I couldn’t agree with you more.”

      Yep, I’ll third that sentiment. Having completely (and no doubt willfully) misunderstood the intentions of the repeal of Section 59 (“Sue Bradford, oooh, political correctness, waaaah, the Greens, nanny state! why I oughta! protect children will they? grrrr!”), the fact is that the law is working (kudos to Key for telling ’em to get stuffed) and a smack is evidence of failed parenting. You must try harder to raise your kids like the adults you supposedly are.

    15. By Vicki on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      All I can say regarding this high number of supposedly “No” votes is congratulations to all the bullies who voted “No” and perhaps a few frightened parents (“oh dear I do not want to go to prison for being a good parent who hit a child” they may be thinking). I am aware there were a number of people who did not vote. A bully, in this context, is a person who will bully a child and adults in what they believe is the right thing to do to children and not by or for children’s well being and holistic development. The question really should be “Do we want children to have the same rights as adults?. There are far more positive ways to discipline children than smacking even light smacking. Let’s hope whatever the outcome by Mr Key that people are made more aware of positive ways of treating children. All children need love, care, support and positive guidance. Not a smack.

    16. By Richard Meroh on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      I think all parents should be given some smack to deal with their little brats. I know I’d need some sort of sedative.

    17. By Brian marshall on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Wow, when I posted my post, I expected to get a bit of counter arguement but apparently “I’m everything wrong with the country”.
      Well Kirry and George you both don’t know squat about me at all, so let me help.
      I’ve been with my partner 10+ years and have a lovely 6 year old daughter. She is very much loved and loves us back. We both have to work as we have a mortgage. It’s a decent sized one and because of our income, we get no government assistance. I’m not complaining as we like to be able to look after ourselves. In fact we didn’t have another child till we could afford it, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to have anymore children without medical assitance. So if I’m everything wrong with the country, maybe you could fu$k off and claim refugee status in that bastion of state mind control North Korea or maybe even Fairyland.

      North Korea is a winner state north of the prosperous democratic South Korea and Fairland maybe somewhere in the region of the bottom of Phil Goffs garden with the magical pixies printing money. My daughter has a book about fairies that I could ask her to let you borrow it. She does know how to share but she also likes to read so I won’t make any promises there.

      So anyway to counter a very feeble defence of Sue’s bad bill. It’s against the law to smack a child if they have done something naughty and it’s not to prevent it happening. So if I say to my daughter “don’t rock on the back of the chair or you will break it”, and she does, and I smack her for doing it, I am breaking the law. It’s up to the police to make the decision to prosecute, but the law makes me a criminal. As it is at the moment, I could smuggle drugs and not get caught and just as much be breaking the law regardless if I don’t get caught.
      That is why it’s a bad law and that is why nearly 9 out of 10 people that cared enough to vote said NO.

      If you struggle with that concept, please for the sake of the earth, don’t have children. They don’t deserve to have half wits for parents.

      To everybody who equates smacking a child as part of disicpline with violence, you just don’t get it. Michael Laws was/is right about it, and you never will get it.
      88% of 1.5 million does not equal ignorance, it equals a lot of parents that love their kids and know that kids learn limits when they learn consequences.

    18. By Ross McAllister on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Brian. Is that the sum total of your parenting skills? A smack?

    19. By Lindsay on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Brian, I realised early in my life as a mother that disciplining my children by smacking was an ugly and not particularly intelligent approach to parenting. It is possible, with patience, to correct children’s behaviour by choosing the words you say, “pitching” those words in the right tone and following through with consequences (loss of mobile phone, computer time, TV time, sleepovers, play time, favourite toy). As children get older, you can encourage them to explain calmly and objectively, why they should be allowed their particular choice of behaviour. This a) helps the child learn how to articulate a reasoned argument, and b) can be hugely amusing for the poker-faced parent.

    20. By David Wignall on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Actually Brian it is you (and Michael Laws but that man is not worth consideration) that have it exactly wrong. Smacking is violence. Hitting people is wrong. Always wrong.

      And don’t you dare impute my ability as a parent. My son is kind, generous, disciplined and above all honest and he was never hit in his life. Punished yes but attacked never.

      Consider a thought experiment: you are plainly wrong about this and by continuing to hold to this opinion you are wantonly defying me. So, should I come over and give you a firm but loving clip around the ear to make you behave? Or is that violence? If not, why not? Because you’re not a child? Or a family member? It’s alright to hit children and family members but not complete strangers, in particular if they are adults? If I can hit family members can I smack my mom because she won’t take her medication?

      And so on. If hitting people is wrong some of the time then it must be wrong all of the time. If hitting people is right some of the time then violence can be justified on every occasion. “I had to fly the plane into the building. It was the only way to teach those people a lesson and make sure that they didn’t harm me again”.

    21. By stuart munro on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      @ Sean – you just don’t get it. Assume a parent administers the traditional smack on the bottom to a misbehaving child in public. (for if they do so in private the police will never know) Police questioning of that parent immediately undermines the lesson, and covertly sides with the child against the imposed discipline. This is unfortunate because smacking, especially in public, is pretty much a last resort.
      Parental discipline is ultimately a judgement issue, and it is not reliably true that an unimformed stranger will be a better judge of the issues than the child’s parents.
      The legislation was entirely misconceived, because it was intended not to remedy an existing legal problem with violent parental offenders escaping punishment, but to criminalise a group hitherto considered inoffensive, or to bring about a major change in traditional parenting practices without the groundswell of public support.
      It is indeed preferable to raise children non-violently, but traditional punishments are traditional substantially because they work to some degree.

    22. By Jason on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      On a day when it’s reported that a third of women (and a fifth of men) will receive violence from the partners, it unfortunate to see that many such as Brian, Fortune, and Pauline see no problems with teaching children that violence is the solution when someone (you care for) does something you don’t like.

    23. By Sean on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Hi Stuart

      Actually, I still disagree. In my experience the police are a very practical bunch. Under this law the police wouldn’t even walk over in the case of what is obviously a normal smack. They would get involved when a 4 year old gets punched in the face by his father in public, such as in the case of Jimmy Mason’s actions. In short, under this law, police will not undermine discipline, they will undermine assault.

      As a parent myself, I understand your concern about being undermined, but I think it is an exaggerated fear. I agree that it is preferable to raise children without violence.

    24. By Brian marshall on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Lindsay/Ross, smacking is not the only method way parenting I use. It is one that is valid and is not a first or normally a second method of discipline.
      I don’t smack my daughter very often at all, but she knows that she has really done something bad when she gets smack. She’s also a lot better behaved than a hell of a lot of children I know whose parents do not use smacking at all. Thank you Lindsay for having a reasonable arguement rather than just attacking me without knowing me.

      Please note that the key point of my second post I was making is that the law makes criminals of good parents who may smack, even if they are not convicted, and Gordon and all the NO voters are in the small minority in this country.

      David. Are you a pacifist nut job? Police use violence to arrest criminals when it is required. Maybe they should talk nicely to the big bad men and ask them to hold hands while they walk down to the police station. Your arguement about violence never or everytime is so hard to begin to counter because your arguement and example is flawed to begin with. Smacking a naughty child does not equate with violence. Smacking a child or abusing a child is and was even before the law change an offence that lead to many convictions. For the record, I have never “attacked” my daughter. I’d sooner die than have her hurt.
      I would not comment on your parenting skils, as I do not know you personally and to do so would be just commenting like the Muppets above who have no idea about my parenting skills. It also detracts from sensible debate about the subject, but also Gordons article.
      I found this to be so biased and lacking balance that I had to comment.

    25. By stuart munro on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      @ Sean well, the cure for your view is, during your next public family discipline crisis, to have to explain everything to a police officer. However rational or sympathetic they may be, it will cost you time and stress, with the possibility of a misunderstanding with serious consequences for your family. I am not a parent, but if I were, would I want this kind of intrusion? No thanks!
      The referendum was not fair in terms of the legislation, but it was phrased fairly in terms of the objection which many parents have to it. Rephrasing, too, may alter a close result, but not an overwhelming one. It is fair to say the legislation lacked a supporting majority.

    26. By Rick on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      “Police use violence to arrest criminals when it is required.” Uh, no. Police restrain/arrest crims, they are certainly not allowed to hit, slap, or beat them with the jug cord. The only exception to this is when their own lives are in immediate danger, which is hardly analogous to dealing with a naughty child, is it now? I hope your parenting is better than your logic.

    27. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Mr Marshall what does your daughter think about smacking?
      Have you asked her if any of your smacks hurt?
      So when she is smacked does she say she doesn’t feel attacked?

      See this is not really about how Brian feels about being smacked.

      Does anyone care that they were “spanked” for the sum of $9 million.Can you not see the woods for the trees.

    28. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      P.S I think Mr Laws is a toss pot.

    29. By Sean on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Hi Stuart,

      Thank you for offering me a cure, of course I don’t need it for the reasons stated above. I have read Section 59 several times, and I am confident that I can perform my parental duties while remaining well within its boundaries, and any possibility of the police intervening in my family is completely quashed by clause four of Section 59 of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007.

      “To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”

      So in short, I’m safe as houses.

      As for the legislation, the police are happy with the way the act is doing working; and we haven’t had a flood of ‘criminalized parents’ in the courts. As for the referendum, I disagree, I found its wording very poor indeed. “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” not only reverses the responses expected* it simply does not address the legislation. What does this NO vote compel the parliament to do? Clause four clearly states that any event that the police consider inconsequential isn’t going to be prosecuted, so what does this referendum plan to change? And if it is some particular thing they want changed, that should have been the subject of the question.

      *See above – Mr Marshall’s position on this matter is very clear, but he makes the mistake of saying “Gordon and all the NO voters are in the small minority in this country.”, where I think he means the yes voters. This is a mistake many people have easily made because the question is confusing in that the yes and no answers are reversed from the outcomes the referendum’s initiators want.

    30. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Sean- the Clerk purposefully porked the wording of the referendum.As there is referendum policy that proves the Clerk had both the time and resources .

      It was a purposeful waste of the referandum and a big waste of our money.
      Not a mistake BUT deliberate.

    31. By richarquis on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Brian Marshall said “Gordon, you are so out of touch with the majority of the population.”

      Well, Galileo was also out of touch with the majority of the population when he suggested the earth was round, not flat. That didn’t make him wrong though.

      This issue is about more than popular opinion, and should be treated as such.

    32. By Pauline McIntosh on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      It would be interesting to know of these Yes voters who have actually experienced in raising kids themselves ….I expect most have NOT ..but they are not shy in been judgmental to parents like me who has raised FIVE kids. Yes all are “successfuly employed and in thier lives ” none proved to be a problem to the police or violent or have a problem with drugs alcohol .. Oh yeah these judgemental know it all !!!as the Tui add says YEAH RIGHT

      It is going to be interesting to see how their kids grow up and what problems they end up with !!!

    33. By Lindsay on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Pauline, I am raising six children, and I voted yes. They seem pretty good so far! Like your children, I was brought up in a “smacking” household, which was pretty much normal in the sixties and seventies. Now a mother myself, I don’t believe smacking is an appropriate method for effective discipline in the modern world. Have a look at my earlier post – you will see that there are alternative approaches that are much better for parent and child.

    34. By stuart munro on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      @ Sean, you still don’t get it.
      Prosecution is not the problem. A police intervention well short of prosecution is nevertheless a most unwelcome intrusion into the affairs of a family at the best of times. On one of those rare occasions when ill-discipline or acting out drives a parent to resort to the traditional smack, a police intrusion is even less welcome.
      This is not to say that there are not better parental discipline measures, but not everyone knows them, nor are they invariably effective in all cases.
      In the 90s, the MAF harnassed this effect to punish non-compliant fishing companies – they investigated them at length. The cost and stress of the investigations rapidly induced the changes the companies had been resisting, and which legislation had utterly failed to procure. Was it a good policy? Possibly – but it was almost certainly illegal.

      Meddling with the laws of a country calls for a rare level of discretion and wisdom, qualities that have not been seen in parliament in our country with anything remotely approaching frequency.

    35. By Anton Blank on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Gordon I think your piece is brlliantly written. The intention of smacking is to inflict pain on children, it’s barbaric. in the end the Yes Vote prevailed hooray!

    36. By David Wignall on Aug 25, 2009 | Reply

      Am I a pacifist? Yeah, I am actually. Brian’s characterisation of that as ‘nut job’ indicates clearly why people like me believe that people like him are indeed exactly the problem. Fair’s fair – he probably thinks the same thing about me.

      I’m not sure how the connection was made to police restraining violent offenders but I’ll play along. First thing is that I have nothing but respect for the police. Anyone whose job can include spending their Saturday night scraping up human remains deserve total support and it’s quite understandable that they can get tense and snappy. Actually, it’s probably one of the reasons. It was also ‘the police’ that restrained that bloke in England. You know, the one going home from work during the G8 protests except that he didn’t make it. The point is that someone, whatever side they’re on, starts this. If they didn’t, if instead they went ‘this is wrong’ then the problem doesn’t arise.

      Second thing is that I accept that violence may be the most efficient way to stop some other violence. Lesser of two evils, as they say. Still evil but a small stain rather than a big mess. But once again: someone starts this. That said, I wouldn’t do it myself – use violence on another. Clearly then I could not be a member of the police or armed services. I accept that and I’m sure that they really don’t care. Of course if everyone felt the same as me then their job would be much easier.

      Second thing, part 2: I love me a good fight. K1, UFC? Always worth watching. But in this case everyone knows exactly what they are doing and why they are there.

      Which brings me to the third thing. The is an unbridgeable gap between Brian and me. I think it’s wrong, Brian thinks it’s right and there is no argument, no low-level nastiness, and no amount of smacking that can convince one to the other point of view. So be it. If you really have thought it through and come to such a conclusion then I have no problem with you even though I will stand against you. What I do take issue with are the weasel words. The little qualifiers such as “only sometimes” or “if it’s done in a loving way” (dear lord, the irony in that phrase) or “a smack is not violence”. Hitting someone, anyone, is a violent act. Deal with it. If you believe that it’s an allowable way to impose your will on another then that’s what you believe but you must also accept full responsability for all outcomes of that choice. Let me emphasise that: ALL outcomes. I firmly believe that when the police snot someone they know exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and they accept responsibility for it.

      Personally accepting responsibility for your actions. What a nut job.

    37. By BJ on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      Gordon , It would be interesting to observe how you may have voted on other Social Issues that have caused similar division in our culture. A number of left leaning commentators have some notable inconsistencies

      Some behaviours we don’t like we classify as criminal.
      By way of example, once it was homosexuality now it is parents who smack for the purposes of correction.

      The new law says ‘Nothing…justifies the use of force for…correction.’
      The amendment to Sect 59 criminalised correction not abuse.
      During the mid 1980’s & a number of times thereafter our MP’s opposed big-government interference in people’s private lives in respect of homosexuality.
      But for reasons I am not able to grasp this crop of MP’s do not oppose big-government interference in the private lives of mums and dads in respect of their disciplining methods.

      This is what parents are so outraged about. It is not a matter of being charged and convicted; it is a matter of what they are doing, being labeled in effect a criminal offense.

      Surely the debate over a law that criminalizes parents should not depend on how many parents are charged, convicted and punished
      (Any more than it did with homosexuals) but rather on the injustice of the particular behavior being a criminal offense.

      “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence?” 88% of those who voted had no problem answering the imperfectly worded referendum With a NO.

    38. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      I am sorry Mr Laws for calling you a toss pot. I just thought it was what you do- all the MP’s, little kids & Finkelstein name call .

    39. By Pauline McIntosh on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      Lindsay what you are suggesting is the psychology approach in approaching discipline which is fine for kids over say about nine years by that time their minds are beginning to developing into young adults…..but under nine no it could end up been far more mentally damaging …children do not have the understanding and reasoning of adults that why they need parents to guide them etc.

      Under say nine a short pain for misdemeanors is far kinder a experienced mum I assure you Lindsay not all kids etc. fit into the same mould and for little’s the psychology method could be mentally damaging for life. They don’t have the mental mind to sort good from bad out yet.

      Its the role of the Parents to work what etc for who ..that’s why this law is totally wrong..its taking away the rights of parents to make judgements based on their kids which they know and understand themselves. Its making them criminals unless they are parents that fit into the one Sue Bradford mould

      You voting yes were voting for outsiders to interfere and take away a parents judgment you voted for a law that will make insecure parents become even more insecure .. you voted for kids to be smart and cheeky with their parents knowing that Bradford’s law will protect them ……..something I am sure you would hate if it happened to you … you may be super confident mum have a super amazing circumstances to raise your kids………BUT not all parents and homes etc fit into that mould

      Some kids you only need to make a sharp word etc ..BUT again not all kids are alike
      Bradford’s law is all about state intervention, by clouding and deliberately putting smacking into the same category as violence abuse. Which is a total nonsense abused kids are the result of social problems far more deeper than having been smacked.

      Nia Glassia was the result of selfish and self centered irresponsible biological DAD and Mum who were more interested in their own needs than their children..she was left to be raised with a 16yr immature boy who had also been abused .. it was no brainier she would end up as she did

    40. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      BJ /Pauline
      Nobody is suggesting/judging that you have a mental illness just because you like to hit small children to control them.
      Nor do we think you are a latent homosexual.

    41. By Lindsay on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      Pauline, you seem to be saying that the younger the child, and the less “amazing” their domestic circumstances, the more acceptable it is to hit them.

    42. By BJ on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      DR Strangeglove says “Nobody is suggesting/judging that you have a mental illness just because you like to hit small children to control them.”
      What does mental illness have to do with the discussion?

      Pre the 1980 reforms, Homosexuality was a criminal offence despite the fact that the police weren’t enforcing the law.Same as smacking today.Back then Homosexuals didn’t except the label of “criminal”,similarly today those parents who might smacxk for the purposes of correction dont accept the “criminal” label.

    43. By BJ on Aug 26, 2009 | Reply

      Smacking is not compulsory.
      If other methods work for you ,thats great.
      I have found it a useful method of correction, some times ,for some children, in some circumstances,

    44. By Jane on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      Legislating non-violence towards children was a huge step forward for New Zealand. Very impressed tonight to hear that John Key is standing by the law. The mind boggles that there are people willing to fight for the right to hit their children. Even a light smack does nothing but put fear into a child and show that the parent is a bully.
      There is no rationality to the argument that smacking is an acceptable form of reprimand. For example, if it is legal to smack a child for being naughty, what right does the child have if the patent is “naughty” as many are. Hmmm.
      Mum stays out all night, neglects her kids, Dad comes home drunk, etc etc.
      Adults are not allowed to hit other adults. For the parent who relies on smacking for discipline, what to do when the child becomes big enough to hit back? Is it just small children we should be allowed to smack/hit?
      It is ridiculous to defend this archaic practice.
      Parents smack their children out of frustration, not the intention to do what’s best for their child.
      Let’s all go forward and solve the appalling problem of child abuse that we have in this country. And in doing so, let’s tighten the alcohol laws.

    45. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      You were the one comparing your desire to use a smack to control a child, with a sexual preference- not me.

      Homosexuals did have the label.
      It was listed as a mental illness.

    46. By Sean on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      Hi Stuart

      I do get it, I just think you are wrong on this point. As I’ve stated earlier, I’m saying that the Police wouldn’t bother intervening in any case of obviously appropriate family discipline.
      Seriously, the law presently allows people to use force to on their children to

      “(a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or

      “(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or

      “(c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or

      “(d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

      What it stops is people hitting a kid as ‘correction’, the use of violence to to teach a child a ‘lesson’. Lessons need to be explained to a child, not belted into a child.

      As for people who don’t know, what you term, “better parental discipline measures”: every public library in this country has shelves of books dedicated to parenting. There is no reason why they can’t look into different measures.

      I am sorry you don’t have some faith in the parliament’s ability to pass laws, personally think the system is very robust with the multiple readings of a bill, as well as the ability of the public to enter submissions to the select committees discussions which are inclusive of all parliamentary parties. What would you like to replace parliamentary democracy with?

    47. By stuart munro on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      You and I must agree to differ on this issue.
      I have no confidence in Parliament and politicians because I had the misfortune to have to deal with a bunch of ’em. With a few exceptions they are ratbags, and addicted to imposing ill-conceived ideological obsessions upon others. NZ politicians are particularly bad, because most of the ideology is imported: Eurocratic PC lunacy by Labour, and Ultra-Friedmanite economic piffle by the Nats.
      It is important that democracies address the real issues facing their constituents, and the smacking/antismacking debate is not one of those issues. It is a displacement activity, and yet another indicator that our parliament is intellectually bankrupt in addition to its conspicuous moral failings.

    48. By Madeleine on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      What interested me, in perusing the No campaign’s examples of parents who felt aggrieved because they had been investigated, was that it was almost as if they would rather, when a passer-by noticed hitting or heard screaming, that the police have ignored the report and left them to it.
      This is remarkable given the situation of someone like Nia Glassie, whose torture was witnessed by many. If it had only been reported and investigated, that child might still be alive. So which is worse? Hurting somebody’s feelings a little bit, and using up some of their time (whatever must the neighbours think!), or having a child be tortured to death because their screams went ignored?

    49. By Sean on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      Okay Stuart

      We then disagree.


    50. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      Very well said Stuart.

      Madeleine you say there were people witnessing/ignoring, I’m sorry but a “bad bill” would have done nothing to save the young live.

      Trevor Mallard promoted violence. Every time a highly visible (MP) is seen “veitching”, bullying or using violence without any punishment it has a marked effect on people,(like the witnesses in the Nia Glassie case).
      p.S Gordon I am sorry I am such a nutbar.

    51. By nznative on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      What a joke the anti-sue bradford referendum was ………. all it proved is that you can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time.

      Good parents are not appearing before our courts and being convicted with the new law …….. its that simple.

      A couple of other points: Michael Laws is no person to take advise from about the dutys, rights and obligations of being a husband and father.

      He is a serial abuser of that position.

      Secondly, the police LIKE parents who can controll their children. They are never going to prosecute people who are being ‘good’ parents.

      As the ZERO convictions of GOOD parents under this law shows.

      Thats hundreds of thousands of parents with the law in force for over a year and ZERO convictions of ‘good’ parents.

      The referendum organisers were dishonest and ran a fearmongering campaign with their own agenda. It had nothing to do with what is good for our children.

      ….. and 80 odd percent of those who voted are those often known as dupes and suckers.

    52. By Pauline McIntosh on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      Dr Strange how many kids have you raised yourself to make such informed comments about my mental ability ?

      The arrogance I have seen her on this blog is totally appalling and is very disgusting you are so full of your own opinion ..get over it you losers your opinion is not what NZers agree with we see it as ridiculous crap re smacking is abuse ..

      Over 88% disagree with you and Keys this shows he is just another dictator I hope the Nats have the bulls to stand up to him or chuck him out.

      Lindsey by your comment I gather you cannot be rational in thinking. Just keep it in mind your kids are not YET grown bit early to brag so much about your parenthood. It may come back to bite you in the future when your undisciplined kids start going wrong.

    53. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 27, 2009 | Reply

      Pauline I said nothing about your mental ability.
      I do not know what you are mentally able to do.

      You think that for me to qualify to make an “informed comment” regarding your “mental ability” I would have to pop out kids(donate sperm) and raise them?
      That’s just silly Pauline.

    54. By Lindsay on Aug 28, 2009 | Reply

      Pauline, you miss my point. I suspect it is futile to hope that you miss it deliberately. My children are not undisciplined. They are disciplined successfully through non-violent means. Learn the difference, and be a better parent.

    55. By stuart munro on Aug 28, 2009 | Reply

      @ Dr Strangelove,
      I agree that “Trevor Mallard promoted violence. Every time a highly visible (MP) is seen “veitching”, bullying or using violence without any punishment it has a marked effect on people” but it is not simply violence but belligerent stupidity, and it was not just Mallard but that ambulant sac of fat Gerry Brownlee, and far too many others that routinely reduce the house to a dogpit were grown men bark at each other.
      The proof of the inefficacy of parliament is in our failing social and economic indicators. Suicide is the worst, which is why recent governments keep the numbers under wraps for as long as possible. But they are considerably higher than traffic deaths, and were they honestly debated many an axe would be sharpened for the MPs responsible.

    56. By David Wignall on Aug 28, 2009 | Reply

      A couple of comments have touched on this: if smacking is a viable option for disciplining people why do we, as a society, not smack adult offenders?

      Let’s say that I gain an arbitary number of demerit points for traffic offences – speeding for example. I am summonsed to court, the correct boxes are ticked and I’m taken out the back and caned for six of the best. A day or two off work for the wounds to heal and I’m on my way, presumably having learnt my lesson.

      This could be for ‘minor’ offences such as shop lifting, drunk and disorderly and so on. Assault, even 😉 The sorts of things that would currently be dealt with by fines, P.D., diversion or suspended sentences. I imagine that the cost savings for Corrections would be significant.

      It seems reasonable to assume that people opposed to smacking disagree with institutional corporal punishment fo the same reasons. It also seems reasonable that there are pro-smacking people who think that caning criminlas is in fact a good idea, again for the same reasons.

      Is there anyone here who thinks that corporal punishment is allowable in the family but not as a judicial remedy? And if so then why?

      I am not, for a change, being deliberately inflammatory. I am genuinely interested in the reasoning.

    57. By Dr Strangeglove on Aug 28, 2009 | Reply

      Public disgraces in parliament serving themselves ‘second’ helpings for their extremely poor performances.
      Poor returns for us as society, but ‘good’ returns for the Corporation.
      One would be forgiven for thinking that if Goldman Sachs developed a trading scheme that uses MP stupidity as a commodity- Weldon would be king.
      The ones chasing a failed economic model are selfish, deluded & greedy.
      ENRON comes to mind.

      For heads to roll, as they should, that would take the force of our desire for change. Now we are like the chronically abused wife remaining in an abusive relationship with ‘our’ MP.
      (And I am not saying that there are not some good back bench powerless MP’s).

      We are against sending troops back to an illegal War in Iraq- there was no ‘fake dead Iraq civilian ‘ put in Wellington harbor.
      Generating concern for what we should be concerned about is difficult.
      I imagine someone probably pulled a few handfuls of hair out watching Key’s protecting himself from any future war crimes charges.

      As we can see with the hitting/Worth issues most people are naturally distracted with the things they feel strongly about.

    58. By Pauline McIntosh on Aug 28, 2009 | Reply

      Lindsey your reply says it all ” be a better parent” this says to me you are extremely judgemental and need to come down of your high “I know it all” platform. I have never advocated violence in raising kids. I advocate a harmless smack “”when necessary””” especially to small children who are still developing their child minds. Such correction is far less harmful in teaching boundaries than your phycology to their minds approach. I realise your looser friends on this list who have no idea on what it is like to raise kids themselves like the ignorant Dr Strange would twist that as violence. But sad you cant reason with some people they are so full of themselves.

      Lindsay I suggest you stop been judgemental towards other parents the fact you voted yes and advocate state intervention in raising kids says a lot about yourself as a parent. Get it in your head Lindsey “one cap does not fit all” in child raising

      I have raised my kids I can comment … I have connections to people who deal with young adults on a daily basis ..they are very concerned at the anger and violence among these young people due to mostly as these kids have not been given boundaries and consequences from a loving parent from a young age. They are kids who are raised irresponsibly using physiological answers in child raising by your friends and are now very mixed up young people from broken homes and drug addictions. Where as the kids they tell me they know are raised with boundaries including where necessary a smack from a loving parent are normal natural adjusted kids not a burden to themselves their family or our society.

    59. By nznative on Aug 29, 2009 | Reply

      Yeah their is a lot of anger amongst our youth.

      Anger that one of the ADULTS walked out of the family home.

      Anger that one of their parents may be a viloent drug adult ( I’m talking mainly about the drug “Piss” here ).

      Anger that things like houseing and home owning costing hundreds of thousands are a far away distant dream for them made worse by ‘greedy’ baby boomers and older generation types.

      Anger at the fearmongering that goes on about ‘the youth’ of today.

      …… and maybe anger that they got hit to much by their parents.

      …… I’ve never met an angry person who wished they were smacked more as a kid. The opposite is far more common.

      And you certainly dont need to hit people to have “boundaries’.

    60. By stuart munro on Aug 29, 2009 | Reply

      @ David Wignal
      – why don’t we use corporal punishment on adult offenders?
      The real answer is that our society grew rich. Capital punishment is historically a feature of societies that cannot afford to imprison people for extended periods, and birching was a similar expedient. When New Zealand was essentially a frontier society we used both with great complacency.
      A related factor is declining public confidence in the law and in the courts. As the amount of legislation that does not enjoy public support or confidence increases, the enthusiasm of the public for such methods, but particularly the enthusiasm of professionals involved in the systems, decreases.
      Personally, I think that Phillip Taito Field and that ACT fraudster should have been birched. The object is a strong and painful lesson in not abusing the public trust. That such punishments no longer exist is a strong indicator that most MPs are involved in activities, that, were they brought to light, would be considered equally reprehensible.

      As the ultra-Friedmanite economic policies brought in by National and Labour complete their impoverishment of New Zealand, and when rising oil prices essentially destroy our accustomed lifestyles, we can anticipate a return to such measures in short order.

    61. By nznative on Aug 29, 2009 | Reply

      P.s anyone who calls me a devotee of anything to do with Sue Bradford is a shit stirring spinner ……..

    62. By nznative on Aug 29, 2009 | Reply

      Stuart you seem to confusing rich with civilized …….

      The RECENT fall in confidence in the police which was caused predatory rapist policemen amongst other things has NOTHING to do with the removal of flogging as a punishment ……. your only out by a 100 plus years.

      And I confidently predict that their will be no return to flogging in your or my lifetime.

      Wingnut survivalist hallucination is how I see your vision.

    63. By nznative on Aug 29, 2009 | Reply

      hhhmmm nissed the word by

      The RECENT fall in confidence in the police which was caused BY predatory rapist policemen amongst other things has NOTHING to do with the removal of flogging as a punishment ……. your only out by a 100 plus years.

    64. By David Wignall on Aug 29, 2009 | Reply

      Sorry Stuart but I’m not seeing the whole thread of your argument. I read you saying that birching was an expedient punishment that has been replaced by jail time as our society has grown to a point where it can afford jails. The rebuttal is that birching in today’s world does still exist in wealthy nations – certainly wealthier than New Zealand (hello oil-rich, I’m looking at you. Oh and as for capital punishment, one word: Texas). That said I do believe that ‘expediency’ in this scenario is a good point.

      However would birching have been eliminated if it was effective as well?

      Stuart argues that we have lost faith in the law and courts, the judicial system if I may put words in his mouth. I would argue that there is nothing new there. The Magna Carta comes immediately to mind as an example of people losing faith with the judicial system. You could probably make the argument that any revolution is at least part founded on a similar scepticism.

      But still that’s not the point I’m chasing. Would birching have been eliminated if it was effective. Even if you agree with Stuart consider this: I am the power elite. I want you, the proles, to behave. If caning, or the threat of caning, makes you follow the law then that’s a win for me. And I think that one thing that Stuart and I would agree on is that the power elite will do anything to remain in power. In which case why am I giving up this tool for control?

      If birching at a societal level is proven effective then I will agree that smacking at a family level is similarly effective. If birching is not then smacking is not. Expedient pehaps, which fits with my personal prejudices about parents who smack, but not effective.

      To throw something else into the pot: can birching/smacking be effective if the person being disciplined does not fear the punisher – either the courts and the government behind them or the parent/ grandparent/uncle/whomever?

    65. By stuart munro on Aug 31, 2009 | Reply

      That’s a real googly one! There are a few issues here. The broad trend of punishment is to become more lenient and liberal in response to wealth, and more vituperative in response to poverty. It has been reasoned that the severity of Islamic punishments for theft, for example, sprang from a time when scarcity was frequent, and stealing food might seriously endanger the victim, justifying a severe punishment.
      China too, has called for patience in reforming its capital punishment regime, because of the poverty of many people living under its rule, and their expectations of harsh punishment of malefactors.
      The oil states can be explained as essentially poor countries. They were always governed by super wealthy elites, the advent of oil only added more zeroes to the countable wealth of the top 0.01%. Broadly their society remains poor, hence the preference for draconian punishments. But the Koran is a by no means negligible influence on this choice.
      Texas is more problematic. I think it represents a reversion to a presumption of natural law, though there is an appreciable level of endemic poverty in Texas. We need to remember that the arguments against capital punishment – that the state should not conspire against the life of it’s citizens – substantially come from arguments about the use of violence by states, especially politically, during the Terror in France. Extending these arguments to criminals involved not a little legal fiction.

      I have long advocated a return of capital punishment – under very restricted circumstances. The person to be punished would have to plead guilty to a capital crime and request it. This would substantially reduce the opposition based on the problem of error, as well as the objections of judicial professionals.

      When we come to birching, I believe that yes, it would have been eliminated even were it still effective. I believe it is effective in some cases, and properly conducted could be expected to produce a degree of pain, humiliation, and fear appropriate to some kinds of grave offences.
      The difference between birching and smacking is, however, substantial. A cane or birch leaves a painful welt for perhaps two weeks, and if these overlap they create scarring and longer term damage. It is a grievous punishment for a strong adult.
      Smacking which would not constitute assault is confined to non-scarring blows with a much shorter period of continuing pain; it is therefore more appropriate in a more spontaneous context, to halt a current misbehaviour or to deter a very proximate misbehaviour.
      As you note, serially inappropriately smacked children soon lose their fear of the punishment. As far as I am aware, the birch (or the cat) does not breed a comparable complacency.

    66. By stuart munro on Aug 31, 2009 | Reply

      @ NZ native – I did not refer to loss of confidence in the police. That is a separate matter.

    67. By David Wignall on Sep 1, 2009 | Reply


      “The broad trend of punishment is to become more lenient and liberal in response to wealth, and more vituperative in response to poverty”.

      This would seem to fit with Richard Wilkinson’s thesis that social problems, or perhaps more accurately the degree of social problems, is related to the degree of inequality in a society. This is to say that the larger the gap between the haves and have-nots then the more pronounced the social issues.

      “We need to remember that the arguments … that the state should not conspire against the life of it’s citizens – substantially come from arguments about the use of violence by states,… (e)xtending these arguments to criminals involved not a little legal fiction.”

      So criminals and in the context of this discussion children are not citizens except as legal fiction?

      “I have long advocated a return of capital punishment … (t)he person to be punished would have to plead guilty to a capital crime and request it.”

      This is to all intents and purposes state sanctioned suicide. I’m not saying yea or nay; just noting. Anyway, to the meat of the matter:

      “When we come to birching … I believe it is effective in some cases, and properly conducted could be expected to produce a degree of pain, humiliation, and fear appropriate to some kinds of grave offences.
      The difference between birching and smacking is, however, substantial. A cane or birch leaves a painful welt for perhaps two weeks, and if these overlap they create scarring and longer term damage. It is a grievous punishment for a strong adult.”

      Leaving aside the out-of-control parent that everyone agrees is a problem, the difference you note is one of degree only. Adults are, well, adults and the punishment is naturally harsher in order to make an impact. It is the impact that I comment on. To quote again

      “… expected to produce a degree of pain, humiliation, and fear…”.

      And there we have it. The exact problem with smacking. In order for smacking to be an effective punishment then you must engender those same feelings in your child. If you want to inflict pain, humiliation and fear on your child then go for it but do not expect this society to approve and enable those actions. It is bullying. It is wrong to do this to another human being. Full stop.

      (As something to think about: if I as head of the household am entitled to smack my children for infractions against household rules then am I entitled to smack my mother if she too infringes? If not then why not? Certainly the humiliation she would likely feel would cause her to remember what exactly she did to deserve it, in which case it is an effective punishment).

      If you don’t instill fear then you should expect retaliation . Military drill instructors know this. You must teach recruits to fear you before they hate you otherwise there is no automatic discipline.

      “… serially inappropriately smacked children soon lose their fear of the punishment.”

      It doesn’t have to be serial. Inappropriate in the eyes of the punished will do it, as they lose respect for you. If I cast my mind back to being strapped at school (and accepting that anecdote does not equal data) my attitude, and of those around me, would be described as ‘is that all you got’. This is late 60s, at a nice middle class primary school in a nice middle class neighbourhood. It’s nothing new. Adolescent males are the wallking embodiment of this attitude, which is why whacking them achieves very little other than hardening resentment. Probably makes you feel better, though.

      “As far as I am aware, the birch (or the cat) does not breed a comparable complacency”

      Evidence? I would argue that people get used to anything no matter how outrageous, if it happens often enough. And there is plenty of evidence for that at both the personal and the community levels.

    68. By stuart munro on Sep 1, 2009 | Reply

      @ David, in the wealth and leniency stakes, I take more of a historical than a theoretical stance. Most western countries used both flogging and capital punishment until they became relatively wealthy societies.

      Equating the punishments administered by the legal system with those within a family is a legal fiction. The context makes a difference, and, as I noticed, a smack is not remotely to be compared with a flogging or birching.

      It seems that you think pain and humiliation have no place in a justice system. For my own part, some crimes, such as rapes involving monstrous violence, need not be exempt from punishments that make a significant impression on the wrongdoer.

      It seems your model of a flogging or birching is a soft one. Slaves in the American south carried scars for life. A proportion died. In part the problem with judicial flogging is that it came to be used for crimes of discipline rather than crimes of importance. It was the kind of punishment used in institutions like borstals, primarily on unruly young men. Because crimes of discipline (failure to respect the police or warder) do not deserve punishment, the punishment was steadily softened and ultimately abandoned.

      Properly, birching should be retained for people whose breach of faith is so overwhelming that it demands an extraordinary and humiliating punishment. Morgan Fahey – the abusing doctor and deputy mayor springs to mind.

      “And there we have it. The exact problem with smacking. In order for smacking to be an effective punishment then you must engender those same feelings in your child. If you want to inflict pain, humiliation and fear on your child then go for it but do not expect this society to approve and enable those actions. It is bullying. It is wrong to do this to another human being. Full stop.”

      Okay – I clarified some of the important differences between smacking and birching for you at some length, but you persist in trying to equate them. Smacking a child requires pain but not humiliation or fear.

      So you’re an anti-smacker: congratulations. But smacking used sparingly and appropriately is unobjectionable. Which is why the public resoundingly voted no. Perhaps you should read Kipling’s story of how the first letter was written.

    69. By David Wignall on Sep 2, 2009 | Reply


      “Okay – I clarified some of the important differences between smacking and birching for you at some length, but you persist in trying to equate them.”

      Let’s go to first principles: Person A infringes a rule. Person B, who has authority to do so, physically chastises Person A for the infringement. In a familial situation it’s called smacking while at a societal level it has other names such as birching.

      It is true that we have discussed the differences but at no point have you addressed the similarities. You have not answered my question about can I as head of my household smack my mother if she misbehaves. It does however appear that you consider that the amount of force used means that the two forms of punishment are categorically different and thus, for you, my argument is inadmissable. For you the parents right to smack is axiomatic and thus, by definition, cannot be argued with. So be it.

      “So you’re an anti-smacker: congratulations.”

      Thank you. More accurately I am anti-violence (more accurately still a ‘pacifist nut-job’) but it is nice to be recognised none the less.

      “But smacking used sparingly and appropriately is unobjectionable.”

      Again, axiomatic for you and thus impossible to argue. I claim that the axiom is wrong but you believe what you believe. I might point out history shows us that simply declaring something to be true hasn’t always meant that it was, but let’s not get distracted.

      “Which is why the public resoundingly voted no.”

      I willingly admit to not being clear on this. The majority of people who voted did indeed vote no. How many people voted?

      “Perhaps you should read Kipling’s story of how the first letter was written.”

      Kipling is a great writer. As far as I’m aware though the Just So stories are fiction? Kind of like Dan Brown but actually readable. Also, I don’t think that what Kipling wrote is currently accepted thinking by anthropologists as to the development of writing. What’s your point here?

    70. By stuart munro on Sep 3, 2009 | Reply

      David – your desire to beat your mother is not my problem.

      Your description of smacking as based on the infringement of rules is also inaccurate. Families have implicit as well as explicit rules, and one of the learning tasks of children is to recognise the majority of implicit rules.

      Don’t be disigenuous about the no vote – about 50% of eligigible voters voted, and I think it was 78% or so ‘no’. Talk to a statistician if you don’t understand that this means the legislation lacks public assent – even if you adjusted for the phrasing.

      The fictional or otherwise status of Kipling is neither here nor there. Stories encode culture, and moderate smacking is part of our culture, and has been for millenia. The Swedish experiment has established that the use of smacking can be greatly diminished – but it has established also that there is no miraculous flow-on effect on adult violence.
      Which substantially nullifies Sue’s argument.

      What we have here is, like the legalisation of brothels, a liberal presumption foisted on a relatively socially conservative society by executive fiat. It is most improper.

      Run off and beat your mother and stop trying to apologize for this abuse of executive authority.

    71. By Dick Whyte on Sep 3, 2009 | Reply


      You said: “Don’t be disigenuous about the no vote – about 50% of eligigible voters voted, and I think it was 78% or so ‘no’. Talk to a statistician if you don’t understand that this means the legislation lacks public assent – even if you adjusted for the phrasing.”

      Well, if we went by this logic then slavery would have never been abolished because the dominant population felt otherwise. The dominant culture often believes what they are used to and are afraid of change. Women’s rights would never have been a question, because the dominant culture felt women had no rights (except as property of their husband). Dominant culture like things to stay the same. But it is clear that things need to change and that this will be unpopular when it is first introduced. Every social right we take for granted today had to be fought for.

      Why don’t we actually ask the children to vote on what smacking is, whether it works, and how it makes them feel. These are the real issues: how does a child feel when they are smacked, and what effect it has on them as a person. I find it ironic that a bunch of adults are speculating on the effect of smacking on children, and we have children who could answer this question for you. You’ll probably think I am taking the piss – but I am not. Children have the right to decide.

      And if legislation could save just one life – don’t you think the rest of us can just lump it?

      The fact is – violence is woven into the fabric of contemporary society (punishment is the norm rather than the exception). And though the dominant population is too defensive to realise it, in 200 years time humans will look back on us and think we are monstrous barbarians who hit children, punish rather than have compassion for people, and do little more than create war with one another.

    72. By David Wignall on Sep 3, 2009 | Reply

      “… your desire to beat your mother is not my problem.”

      Poor choice of words, Stuart, but I’ll bite.

      If I hit my children then it’s smacking but if I hit another family member then it’s beating? Or is it instead that if I do it then it’s beating but if you do it then it’s smacking?

      See what I did there? I would accept it as nothing more than an unfortunate phrasing but you do rather spoil things by repeating it below. Also, you haven’t actually answered my question. I’m guessing from your obvious annoyance that the answer is no? Why not? Am I not the head of my household?

      On another tangent, people beating other people is your problem. It’s everyone’s problem.

      “Your description of smacking as based on the infringement of rules is also inaccurate. Families have implicit as well as explicit rules, and one of the learning tasks of children is to recognise the majority of implicit rules.”

      And in some cases infringement of these rules, implicit or otherwise, leads to a smacking. Right? “Don’t do that or you’ll get a whack”. Isn’t this how some people teach their kids a lesson? Or do we not use that phrase anymore? Parents don’t teach, children have to learn? In any case how does what you wrote prove my description inaccurate? And if children don’t get smacked for breaking rules then what the h*** do they get smacked for? Just because? You’re not showing your working here.

      “Don’t be disigenuous about the no vote – about 50% of eligigible voters voted, and I think it was 78% or so ‘no’. Talk to a statistician if you don’t understand that this means the legislation lacks public assent – even if you adjusted for the phrasing.”

      I wasn’t being disingenuous; I really didn’t know the number. I’m not denying there is a number of people, possibly even a plurality, who voted no. That still doesn’t equal a ‘majority of people’ as you claimed. Let’s ask ourselves how many people who might have voted (for either side) didn’t vote at all because John Key said that the government wouldn’t get the law changed regardless of outcome. As for talking to a statistician, I will when she gets home. I won’t report back though. I rather get the feeling that you’ve stopped listening.

      “The fictional or otherwise status of Kipling is neither here nor there.”

      Sorry, but I can’t pass up another poor choice of words: Kipling was most certainly not fictional. In any case you were the one to introduce him to the discussion. I’m just pointing out that fiction is made up and plenty of people make up stories expressly to support their viewpoint. And that’s not even considering what baggage readers bring to that particular table.

      “Stories encode culture, and moderate smacking is part of our culture, and has been for millenia.”

      Old does not automatically equal right. Old does not automatically mean to be continued forever. There’s this thing called progress and another called civilization. You may have noticed them going on around you. My culture believes that hitting children is wrong. Yours doesn’t. It wasn’t so long ago that your culture felt that someone bashing their wife (or husband) wasn’t any of their business. I can remember it and I’m not quite yet fifty. I suspect that particular change is something that we can both agree was for the best? Cultures evolve, Stuart.

      “The Swedish experiment has established that the use of smacking can be greatly diminished – but it has established also that there is no miraculous flow-on effect on adult violence.
Which substantially nullifies Sue’s argument.”

      References for that claim, please.

      It’s still wrong to hit people even in Sweden. You, however, have discussed your belief that in certain, controlled, and approved conditions it’s not. Fair enough. I do wonder though what your solution to adult violence is. Surely it’s not hitting them until they stop.

      “What we have here is, like the legalisation of brothels, a liberal presumption foisted on a relatively socially conservative society by executive fiat. It is most improper.
      Run off and beat your mother and stop trying to apologize for this abuse of executive authority.”

      You have a very odd definition of socially conservative society if you think New Zealand is an example. I would argue too that that should be (big ell) Liberal presumption above rather than (small ell) liberal. Brothels are businesses and it’s the Right who stand up for the entitlements of business owners. But ok, so you’re not opposed to anti-smacking proponents so much as the democratically elected government, which represents the views of a majority of people (because after all that’s how they get to govern – they’re voted in by people who agree with them) making legislation that you disagree with. Is that correct? You think most people, as expressed by their elected representatives, are wrong and you are right?

      Don’t answer that. I am clearly and rather unsubtly trying to push your buttons. However your anger at abuse of executive authority should not be directed at this legislation nor those who support it. It was John Key who said that that the government would not react to the outcome of the referendum. You want an enemy, Stuart? There’s one right there. The radical, bloody minded, not listening to the public National/ACT/Maori Party government. Who voted for them anyway? Apart from most people.

    73. By stuart munro on Sep 3, 2009 | Reply

      @ Dick White

      The foundational principle of democracy is agreement. It’s origins are in the consesus democracies of band cultures. When a government makes a law that is diametrically opposed to the wishes of the greater part of their society, they shoot both themselves and their society in the foot. If the police enforced this law strictly, there would be riots – but fortunately the police are not that stupid – they also lack the resources.

      You say “If the legislation can save just one life, shouldn’t we have it?” It depends at what cost to the wider community. We could easily save about 300 lives a year by banning cars, but we consider the social disruption of that solution excessive.

      Rare, principled stands, like that against slavery, are of course a fine thing. But slavery was a minority commercial enterprise in which most of society were not involved. Had the reverse been true, the law would most likely not have been passed.

      The properly conducted use of smacking to discipline children is not a wrong comparable to slavery.

      You are naive if you believe violence can be eliminated from human society – and attempts to do so need to be mindful of the effects of lack of violence in childhood. Indeed, single parent families are a frequent source of extraordinarily violent individuals. This is believed to be caused by the lack of a male parent who extablishes appropriate boundaries for violence while engaging in “roughhouse” play.

    74. By stuart munro on Sep 4, 2009 | Reply

      @ David,
      Before we continue our discussion, I want you to think about this statement of yours:
      ” I really didn’t know the number.”
      Does it not occur to you that being reasonably well informed about an issue is a prerequiste for anything resembling a sound argument and a productive debate?
      The Swedish anti-smacking experiment is widely discussed on the net. I posted a link on Pundit, but you can search for the Save The Children report, which seems less bad than most.

    75. By David Wignall on Sep 4, 2009 | Reply

      Here’s a straw Stuart, feel free to clutch at it.

      You have scarcely throughout this time answered any of my questions. Instead you make assertions about topics that are not germane, with the occasional snippy ad hominem remark for good measure. When I challenge you on them you move to a different topic.

      Alright then. When you talk of the Save The Children report I suspect you actually intend to refer to:

      Sweden’s smacking ban: more harm than good
      Robert E Larzelere
      Published by Families First, Essex, and The Christian Institute, Newcastle upon Tyne 2004

      From the forward

      “… Save the Children has published a report – A Generation Without Smacking by Joan Durrant. The report claims the Swedish experiment has been a success.”

      And from the conclusion

      “At every point, the evidence contradicts Dr. Durrant’s conclusions.”

      This is not a Save The Children report. It is a rebuttal of this report:

      A Generation Without Smacking: The impact of Sweden’s ban on physical punishment
      Joan E Durrant
      Published by Save The Children Fund 1999.

      Durrant’s report was quite positive about the outcomes of the ‘Swedish experiment’ hence Larzelere’s rebuttal. (I would suggest that as the legislation in Sweden came into force on 1 July 1979 terming it as an experiment is… oh what’s the word… disingenuous). Another report from Save The Children:

      Listen Up! Children Talk: About Smacking
      Anne Crowley and Cea Vulliamy (no publication date on the document viewed)

      This report includes in it’s conclusion

      “Save the Children repeats its call for principled law reform to accord children the same legal right of
      protection under the law as assault on adults.”

      Then there is “S59_SwedishExpertsComment_27Jul06.pdf” available at

      “In summary, law reform in Sweden has not led to greater government intrusion into family life. Rather, it has set a clear standard for which parents now strive and it has reinforced the value of positive parenting. In Sweden, law reform has been a vital and effective tool for public education and child abuse prevention. Our law has been essential to our ability to protect children while supporting families.”

      So when you wrote

      “The Swedish anti-smacking experiment is widely discussed on the net. I posted a link on Pundit, but you can search for the Save The Children report, which seems less bad than most.”

      did you intend to direct people to researched, editorially reviewed and solidly reasoned arguments that oppose your views?

      In return I quote you from a reply above to Dick White

      “Indeed, single parent families are a frequent source of extraordinarily violent individuals. This is believed to be caused by the lack of a male parent who extablishes[sic] appropriate boundaries for violence while engaging in “roughhouse” play.”

      First thing: defend the use of the words ‘frequent’ and ‘extraordinarily’. In order to be convincing you will need to compare and contrast both the frequency and the ‘extraordinary’ violence to non-single parent families. You will also need to define ‘extraordinary’ violence as opposed to an ordinary level of violence. Bonus points for comparing and contrasting against the ratios of non-violent individuals in the two groups.

      Second thing: believed by whom, Stuart? Who said this? When did they say it and where did they say it? Did they say exactly this or are you paraphrasing? Where there any caveats? What study was this conclusion based on? Was the methodology of the study peer reviewed? What have follow up studies shown? Do they continue to support this conclusion? Was the initial study done in New Zealand? If not has there been any research to show that the conclusion is valid for New Zealand?

      Allow me to play your game:

      The quite astonishing levels of often lethal violence in England can only be seen as a damning condemnation of the Thatcher experiment. It provides a salutary lesson of what happens when a nation’s government abdicates it’s responsibilities and refuses to provide clear and meaningful legislative guidelines for social good. Anyone who disagrees is plainly deluded and probably smells funny too.

      There has been no discussion between us, Stuart. There has been you making some quite interesting statements that provide a fascinating glimpse into your personality. There has been you not answering my questions, and that done poorly as well. I still don’t know if you think that it’s allowable to smack members of my family other than my children. Larry Baldock apparently smacks his grandchildren, so there is precedent.

      Over to you Stuart. What nit will you pick this time?

    76. By stuart munro on Sep 4, 2009 | Reply

      I will nitpick your laziness and intellectual arrogance in refusing to inform yourself properly before indulging in a rant.

      Here is the Save the Children Report:

      I am not your Benson, David – if you cannot be bothered to take the trouble to keep yourself informed, you cannot expect to persuade others.

      And I will return the question – who does talk about the missing male role model and the use of rough house play? You have an internet connection, go out there and learn something.

    77. By David Wignall on Sep 5, 2009 | Reply

      Once again Stuart you have chosen to not answer a single question and instead attack the questioner. These are your statements, Stuart. You have made them. Just you and only you. It is up to you to prove them and not for others to disprove them. Do you understand what I am saying or is it just so much ‘blah blah blah’ to you?

      Yes, Stuart, here indeed is the Save The Children report. Clearly you missed my reference to it in my last comment. Do you even read what I write or do you not want to make your brain hurt and so make up your mind before you start? I will also take a guess that you haven’t actually read this report. Final sentence:

      “While social problems continue to exist in Sweden, the measures proposed in 1979 by the Children’s Rights Commission to combat some of them can certainly be deemed successful.”

      I’m confused, Stuart. This is not in any way even hinting that the ‘Swedish experiment’ is a failure. I thought you opposed this legislation, in which case it’s Larzelere’s rebuttal that you should point to. This is the one that argues, with some validity, that Durrant’s interpretation of data is not sustainable and thus Durrant’s conclusions are incorrect. I rather helpfully pointed that out in my last comment too. You have some nerve calling me lazy.

      And further: I have repeatedly presented one question, Stuart. A question the answer for which is either yes or no. I have given you every opportunity to take a stand and present your position. You have refused each and every time, instead making mumble-mouthed references to just about anything else. Kipling, for heaven’s sake. The one authority you refer to before today is a children’s story published in 1902. Pathetic. Man up, Stuart. Carry your colours with pride. Kipling would doubtless have approved of such a man whether he agreed with him or not.

      You are a poor, poor advocate. I have mentioned already the ad hominen remarks and the refusal to actually engage with the opposition. What arguments you attempt to marshal are ill thought out, lack any sort of logical progression, and littered with non sequitur. The wildly and needlessly emotive language you use serves only to incite opposition, obscure any truth to your point, and undermine any belief that anything you say may be valid. If you have achieved anything it is to harden in your opposition the cliched perceptions of those who contend that they have a right to use corporal punishment. Nice work. If you were on my side I would be quietly hoping that you just stop talking.

      The alternative, I suppose, is that actually you don’t exist at all but are instead a finely honed satirical character in the manner of Sacha Baron Cohen or Dan Lyons. That would be interesting. And funny.

      One final thing, Stuart. I can not unequivocally support any legislation such as this that curtails an individual’s right to choose. But I can unequivocally oppose anyone who believes that hitting is in any circumstance an allowable and effective tool in raising a child. If we are to live without rulers, Stuart, we must first learn that the fist is never an option.

      I say no more, Stuart. Do you realise what this means, Stuart? You won, Stuart.

    78. By stuart munro on Sep 7, 2009 | Reply

      Oh David,
      You are such a drama queen.

      The report shows with reasonable certainty that there is no miraculous flow-on between smacking and societal violence. Which means, as I stated before, that our legislation is essentially unimportant in terms of reducing societal violence. Which renders all those self-righteous arguments by anti-smacking advocates (such as yourself) rather less persuasive.

      As regards your beating your mother – this is a matter of spurious logic. Substantially, we do not hit our parents, so that drawing an analogy based on it creates problems.

      You’ve made more than your share of ad hominem attacks yourself – but you are especially deluded in two areas – in supposed that I care what you think, or that I care to persuade you. You are part of a tiny minority – the absolute anti-smackers, and you are evidently immune to reason – no doubt your learning abilities sclerified thirty years ago.

      I’m not surprised at your distaste for Kipling – few modern pc types can stand him. I guess growing up in India precludes the pretension that race and class do not exist.

      “If we are to live without rulers, Stuart, we must first learn that the fist is never an option.” I would suggest that neither is actually possible, human societies inevitably include violence, and rulers.

      If I won David, it was because David, you tried to pick a fight, David, with someone who doesn’t care what you think David. This because you are manifestly ill-informed. There are no prizes for lecturing to idiots.

    79. By Joey on Sep 11, 2009 | Reply

      My goodness, people really do talk a load of rubbish regarding this issue. You should all be smacked.

    80. By Terry on Oct 29, 2009 | Reply

      I have never had Kids of My own, but I have had many times been in charge as a baby /Kid sitter. I’ll be blunt about this Abuse Hitting issues/ spanking is also being prosecuted.
      I PERSONALLY was spanked as a KID who deserved
      it as the “brats our modern kids generation” have become.I have enough humanity sense to
      know the difference between being beaten or
      hit in destructive ways as opposed to “CONSTRUCTIVE” (CORRECTIVE) spanking on the .NO-Where-Else… on any child
      is appropriate to spank ,slap, or smack. I got
      spanked in the 1970’s and ’80’s and I still live tell the story. (Back then there was no POLICE ..Help Me.. I’m being beaten.. just
      Because the law said)I can’t be spanked for
      being doing wrong.NO KIDS I EVER heard of was shooting others and getting aaway with it, beause the justice system was in effect by correct family /teacher ,etc methods back then. Only morons of society today confuse /distort this spanking taboo story
      as being abuse of children. Whoever started the law to BAN spanking on the BUTT was evidently being FAVORED by his peers/parents and became “brats Galore Society” President.

    81. By Terry on Oct 29, 2009 | Reply

      ALL I Have to say is (Agreed!!!) I wonder what part of appropiate spanking to prevent MISBEHAVIOR these others desperately try to ignore in the Justice SYSTEM>>

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