Who wants to re-visit the ‘anti-smacking’ law?

NZ First wants to repeal the ‘anti-smacking’ law.

Or probably more accurately, they want to attract some votes from people who strongly opposed the law change. It’s hard to imagine either National or Labour (or Greens) wanting to go through another smacking debate.

This morning NZ Q+A will look at this with Tracey Martin and Sue Bradford.

It’s 10 years this month since the so-called “anti-smacking” law passed. NZ First wants to repeal the law. We’ll debate the issues with New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin and Sue Bradford, the former Green MP behind the bill.

It’s curious that Tracey Martin is representing NZ First here.

I can’t see NZ First spokesperson roles on the NZ First website, but the last Justice news is from Darroch Ball (although Denis O’Rourke feature’s on their Justice policy page),  and the last Law and Order news is from Winston Peters. Martin features in Education news and policy.

In March Peters stated in  a speech at Waipu (and repeated in ‘We Will Return NZ To: Crime Doesn’t Pay’):

We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.

I think that claim is highly debatable, albeit typically vague. I call it button pushing bull.

Peters followed up a few days later in New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants referendum on anti-smacking law

“From the word go, we said this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians,” he told Newstalk ZB.

“I said very clearly that we’ve got young people running amok up here and around the country. They can’t be touched. There’s a hundred reasons given by sociologists and apologists for what’s happening, but these people know what’s wrong, know what they’re doing is wrong, know they can’t be touched, know there’s no consequences.”

“What’s happened since then has been an explosion in violence towards children, the very antithesis of what these people argued would happen,” Peters said.

Without any evidence supplied I call bullshit on this.

The party’s policy was to put the matter to the people and repeal the law, he said.

I can’t find any mention of the anti-smacking law in NZ First’s policies.

Family First praised Peters’ commitment:  NZ First Repeal Of Anti-Smacking Law Welcomed

Family First NZ is welcoming NZ First’s pledge to repeal the anti-smacking law, and will be clarifying with the party as to whether it is a non-negotiable bottom line for any coalition agreement after the election.

In a speech on Friday in Northland, leader Winston Peters said; “We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.”

In 2014, NZ First said “NZ First policy is to repeal the anti-smacking law passed by the last parliament despite overwhelming public opposition. Accordingly, we will not enter any coalition or confidence and supply agreement with a party that wishes to ignore the public’s clearly stated view in a referendum on that issue.”

But Bob McCoskrie has linked a commitment made by Peters in March this year to a bottom line made for the last election. perhaps Martin will say whether this bottom line will also be in place this election.

McCoskrie also  implied links between the law change and increased violence.

“the smacking law has failed to convince anybody of its benefits or its effectiveness”

It’s certain that that claim can’t be substantiated, as I expect we will hear from Bradford.

If it had any merit, it would have proved itself by now.

Proving something like that – or the opposite – is very difficult with such a complex issue.

“A report at the beginning of last year analysing the 2007 anti-smacking law, “Defying Human Nature: An Analysis of New Zealand’s 2007 Anti-Smacking Law”, found that there was not a single social indicator relating to the abuse of children that had shown significant or sustained improvement since the passing of the law, and that the law has negatively impacted law-abiding parents,” says Mr McCoskrie.

That report was done by Family First, who are about as biased as you could get on smacking law. The author was Bob McCoskrie, so he is quoting himself.

While he links the law and “significant or sustained improvement” and “the law has negatively impacted law-abiding parents” he makes no claim about a verifiable link between the law change and levels of violence.

Police statistics show there has been a 136% increase in physical abuse, 43% increase in sexual abuse, 45% increase in neglect or ill-treatment of children, and 71 child abuse deaths since the law was passed in 2007. CYF have had more than 1 million notifications of abuse and there has been a 42% increase in physical abuse found by CYF since 2007.

That proves nothing about the impact of the anti-smacking law. McCoskrie is linking the two by association but not with facts.

Sue Bradford also responded:  Winston Peters a ‘dangerous old man’ – Sue Bradford

Sue Bradford, the former Green MP behind the law, told The AM Show on Monday she was “horrified” by his recent comments.

“What he’s advocating is the return of the legalising of assault on our children, which is the last thing our kids need and the last thing the kids of Northland need.”

“He’s talking about this on the back of the incident up in Kaikohe recently with the young people rampaging.

“Those kids probably see far too much violence I’d suggest in their lives already, far too much poverty, unemployment, a lack of opportunities for their families in their part of the country.”

The 2007 law change removed the defence of “reasonable force” in cases where parents and caregivers were being prosecuted for assault on children.

“It’s helped massively to change the idea that actually parents and other adults responsible for children are legally entitled to use physical punishment on their kids, that sometimes led to quite serious assaults,” said Ms Bradford.

Repealing the law would send the wrong message, she believes.

“We’ve got ‘it’s not okay’ campaigns about beating our partners, our wives, but on the other hand, children don’t matter?”

So it could be an interesting discussion this morning between Bradford and Martin.

It will be especially interesting to see if either of them produce any evidence of impact of the law change.


Leave a comment


  1. sorethumb

     /  18th June 2017

    The issue here (I think) is the way parliament over rode the 85%?
    I heard the previous (?) children’s commissioner on this pointing out that the Dunedin Study showed “fewer people smacking”. He ignored the fact that at the time of the referendum the study showed those who were smacked did the same or better as the other wimps.
    Here is the problem:
    Lisa owen:
    “would they do it though if the public wasn’t interested?’
    David Cormack:
    That isn’t a reason to do something. You don’t do what the public thinks is right: you do what is right. They don’t necessarily mesh up.

  2. Oliver

     /  18th June 2017

    Smacking is physical abuse. And teaches children that violence is okay. Being assaulted as a child (by the people who are suppose to care for you) can have a negative effect that has repercussions in later life. Those who say that they were assaulted by their parents, but turned out okay, don’t realise they have anger management problems, relationship problems, because having these problems are normal in nz society. Instead we should teach children how to reslove conflict, in a nonviolent way, by showing a good example. Parents who hit their children do so out of ignorance because they have never learnt how to deal with anger, and how to resolve conflict in a sensible way.

    • Blazer

       /  18th June 2017

      an irony of western society and the world at large…do not smack children….but bombing the daylights out of them….is acceptable…if the end game is…..percieved to be…noble.

  3. Chuck Bird

     /  18th June 2017

    There are two important issues here. Firstly, should a parent be committing a criminal offense for smacking a naughty or defiant child on the legs or backside? Secondly, should MPs be able to override the wishes of the vast majority of good parents?

  4. Zedd

     /  18th June 2017

    I saw Ms Bradford & Ms Martin butting heads; but if NZ1st are talking ‘a review & referendum’ then thats reasonable, but if Winston mean total repeal as was suggested, then I’m still with Sue & the Greens 🙂

  5. Pete Kane

     /  18th June 2017

    Agree Zedd. I quite like Winston (and Tracy) but at this sort of stuff, you just shake your head.

  6. Tipene

     /  18th June 2017

    I suspect that this is a strategic move to capture some of the the 3.9% Conservative Party vote from 2014. That vote isn’t going back to the Conservative Party, yet still needs to find a home in less than 100 days.

    What’s the bet BCIR will be a feature of a NZ First press release in the future?

  7. patupaiarehe

     /  18th June 2017

    Hmmm… As a parent of many, I didn’t agree with the ‘anti-smacking law’, and still don’t. The biggest problem I have with it, is that it implies that ‘the state’ knows better than a child’s parents, what is best for that child. Whilst that may be true, in a minority of cases, most parents want what is best for their kids, and act accordingly.
    Every child has a different personality. What works for some, won’t for others. Kids are kids, they are not ‘little adults’. And sometimes they need physical discipline. ‘Hitting your kids’, is one of those ‘weasel’ phrases, that implies wrongdoing. While no child should live in fear, they sometimes need to be reminded who is in charge.
    In my household, we have a rule. Nobody hits anyone else. Use words to solve your disagreements. But if someone does hit one of their siblings, there is an exception to the rule. Dad gets to slap the offender, in front of everyone else. And Dad hasn’t had to slap anyone for years. Which Dad thinks is great 🙂

    • PDB

       /  18th June 2017

      Considering the law change basically did nothing either way it isn’t even worth discussing again after the election.

      For Winston to suggest it has actually caused more violence to be inflicted on children is misleading and dishonest when he doesn’t provide evidence behind his stats.

      • patupaiarehe

         /  18th June 2017

        Considering the law change basically did nothing either way it isn’t even worth discussing again after the election.

        What the law change did, was undercut the authority of normal parents, over their own offspring. Normal parents, don’t beat the living daylights out of their kids. The minority who do, most likely couldn’t give a FF about any law.
        What Winston is doing, IMHO, is trying to appeal to the 85%, who didn’t want the law changed. And he will most likely succeed, with many of them.
        I’ve said it before, & I’ll say it again. NZF will get at least 20% of the party vote in September….

        • PDB

           /  18th June 2017

          Love your enthusiasm Patu but 20% is but pipe dreams……

          I personally think most people have moved on from the anti-slapping bill, wont make any difference what Winston says.

          • patupaiarehe

             /  18th June 2017

            Nice to see someone finally calling it what it is, Pants 😉 . Winston is just giving the populace a ‘timely reminder’. I wonder how long it will be, before the background to the NZF byelection victory in Northland is brought up. I’d love to elaborate, but I’m still prohibited by law… 😉

  8. I personally think it is ignorant nonsense to compare walloping a naughty child with bombing people or violent abuse, but some things can be better left alone. My impression is that hardly anyone takes the slightest notice of this idiotic law so it is probably best left that way. I suspect even the most recalcitrant of children realise that threatening to call the police on account of a concerned parental whack on the bottom is not likely to increase the quality of their lives.

    A famous English Agony Aunt once said: “Which is worse – a brief pain in the backside or a lifetime of psychological damage?” This law should be consigned to the same pigeonhole as the Florida one making it illegal for divorced or widowed women to skydive on a Sunday afternoon. The notion that it in any way improves the lot of children who are routinely beaten by violent parents is quite risible.

    • patupaiarehe

       /  18th June 2017

      The problem Sailor, is that some ‘recalcitrant’ children don’t realise this, until it’s too late.
      Some might argue, that the police will exercise discretion in such cases. Keeping in mind the recent prosecution of a cripple for possessing cannabis, I have no such faith…


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