Will a flick of the finger become a smack on the bum?

Colin Craig continues to promote his smacking crusade. He is getting a lot of media attention, again. Time will tell if his obsession with physical child discipline (hitting kids) will turn around and smack him on the bum.

NZ Herald Colin Craig targets anti-smacking law:

He said mostly his discipline consisted of “a flick of a finger on the back of a knuckle”.

“It’s hurts for a moment,” he said.

He doesn’t say what the rest of his discipline is. To hurt an eight year old would take quite a “flick of a finger”. He doesn’t make it clear but this sounds more like a punishment than an intervention. By the time a child is eight it’s parents should have worked out there are far more effective ways of disciplining than hitting.

He risks teaching his child that you hit someone when they do something you don’t want them to do.

He said he did not believe that other people should break laws they did not agree with, such as people smoking cannabis.

Flouting the law (and most parenting manuals) to hit a child is good, but adults choosing to self administer a mild drug is bad?

Rule breaking for him is ok, rule breaking for others is not.

I wonder how old his daughter will be before Craig stops smacking her. I hope he doesn’t catch her puffing weed. What if she becomes one of “the most promiscuous in the world”. That’s not uncommon for children of authoritarian parents. What sort of flick on the knuckles will it take to hurt his daughter then? Maybe he will think it’s real ratbag behaviour.

“Light smacking is for those kids that are already good….ratbags need thrashing.” (Dazzaman at Kiwiblog)

Apart from the absurdity of hitting good kids this highlights a major problem for parents with a smacking habit. If a light smack doesn’t work, what then? Escalate? Lose your temper?

Or try something else. I suggest trying something else before the flicking/smacking/hitting and hurting your kid option. It’s safer and more effective.

There’s a high chance of Craig coming unstuck on this, sooner or later. He’s able to attract media attention but he has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth.

Craig is keen to promote his flicking fingers, but it might end up smacking his political bum.

Smacking a dead horse

Family First and Colin Craig continue to try and rehash the smacking laws but are the trying to flog a dead horse? Is the law passed over five years ago really a priority for families?

Or is it more of an obsession with an ideological group and an ambitious politician?

Both sides of the smacking debate will probably always make opposing claims from any news.

Fewer parents being investigated despite ‘anti-smacking law’

Supporters of the controversial “anti-smacking” law are claiming victory after a dramatic fall in the number of parents being investigated for hitting their children.

But opponents of the 2007 law change have accused the Government of fudging the numbers.

Ministry of Social Development data shows fewer parents are being investigated for smacking their children. The number dropped by almost third over the past financial year, with 176 parents dobbed in to the MSD, down from 277 the year before.

Police say they have prosecuted just eight parents for smacking children in the five years since the law came in. Seven of those parents had smacked their child in the head or face.

The eighth parent was discharged without conviction for striking the child on the hand. Police said they were also being called to fewer smacking incidents though they stopped counting smacking prosecutions after the Government’s five-year review process came to an end.

Key, who personally voted for the legislation, has consistently refused to entertain a law change, even after a referendum on the issue found 87 per cent of those who voted did not believe smacking should be a criminal offence.

While it’s difficult to measure actual effects it seems like the law has nor made a significant difference, not many prosecutions, many still unhappy and the campaigners continue.

Family First plans to campaign strongly on the issue during the election buildup. “It’s a big issue because it was a law that came into every family home. Politicians want it to simmer down and go away, but it’s not,” McCroskie said, adding figures on falling smacking notifications are “fudged . . . It doesn’t identify cases where parents are being ransomed by their own kids.”

Changing voting based on one relatively minor issue that’s already been thrashed with little change is unlikely.

Surely there’s far more pressing issues for families than the smacking laws.

The economy and who can best manage it is likely to remain the single biggest election issue, along with the associated personalities.

If Colin Craig makes smacking his bottom line as he has indicated he may swing the election away from the centre right, which would be ironic as economically he’s more left.

Craig effectively rules out coalition

Colin Craig seems to be effectively ruling out any possibility of reaching a coalition agreement with either National or Labour.

Newstalk ZB reports:

Mr Craig says his party will demand the so-called anti-smacking law be repealed, in return for its support in a coalition government.

“If we need to be part of a coalition to form a government, I think getting the anti-smacking thing changed is obvious, something a vast majority of New Zealanders want.”

I don’t see how National or Labour would agree to that demand on an issue that was dealt with emphatically (113 votes to 7) by Parliament seven years ago – Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 .

So that would effectively rule out a coalition agreement for the Conservative Party with any combination of parties.

It seems odd to make a single issue of insignificant consequence a bottom line policy. Many people opposed the law but it has caused few problems. I think voters will see much more important issues in this year’s election.


Craig wants smacking change but would leave gay marriage

Colin Craig still wants to change the smacking bill due to a four year old referendum but is happy move on after opposing this year’s marriage bill.

Conservatives would seek repeal of anti-smacking law, says Craig

It was a response to a 2007 act which abolished the use of reasonable force by parents as justification for disciplining children, although police have the discretion not to prosecute in the use of force against a child when it is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in prosecuting.

“I do think there is a mandate from the people to change that and I do think that is something we could reasonably ask for a change.”

There is no current mandate to change it. The referendum was four years ago, in 2009. Labour don’t still have a mandate to govern from 2008.

Mr Craig said the smacking law was clearly not working because child abuse rates had not gone down.

I haven’t seen any evidence that it “was clearly not working”. It’s possible publicity over the bill and referendum may have lead to less abuse but more reporting of the abuse that still occurs.

It’s interesting that Craig is fixated on the smacking bill, still.

On the questions of same-sex marriage, he said it would be “rather naive to think you are going to change the redefinition of marriage” given the overwhelming vote in the House on it in April, with 77 votes in favour and 44 against.

He is already dropping opposition to the marriage bill which passed with a far smaller majority than the smacking bill. This is inconsistent.

Family First folly – slanted on smacking

Another slanted smacking poll, a further futile Family First folly …

Poll: People want smacking law changed

The poll of 1000 randomly selected people was undertaken by Curia Market Research for advocacy group Family First.

Respondents were asked whether the anti-smacking law should be changed to state that “parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law”.

Of those asked, 77 per cent said yes, the law should be changed. Asked whether they thought the anti-smacking law had had any effect on child abuse, 77 per cent of respondents answered no.

They were also asked whether they would still smack their child to correct behaviour, despite the law.

Two out of three respondents, or 68 per cent, said they would.

Interesting, but the question is ambiguous and far from neutral – it is loaded to get the response Family First want.

“parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law”

Without defining “for the purpose of correction” the question is vague to the point of being useless.

And what is seen as “reasonable” can be very different to different people. To some people a tap on the hand or the bum is as far as reasonable would go, but to others think using weapons (sticks, belts etc), hitting to the extent of bruising or smacking on the ear is reasonable.

And this all seems pointless apart from self justifying the Family First smacking stance, I don’t know of any plans to change the “smacking” law.

Asset petition good, smacking and marriage petition bad

Green MP Kevin Hague supports the asset sales petition/referendum but opposes having a referendum on the marriage equality bill. Do Greens think that democratic processes can be used selectively to suit their preferences?

Asset Bill

The Green and Labour parties are currently pushing the anti asset sale petition/CIR for all it’s worth (actually for all the taxpayers are worth, they’re using our money, but that’s another story).

MPs from both parties are demanding that the asset share floats are halted until the results of the referendum are known, and then the Government should scrap the share floats as opponents are confident the referendum result will be favourable to their argument (and to their politicking strategy).

It is obvious the referendum (presuming it will go ahead) would be ignored and will be too late anyway, asset shares will have already been sold.

Smacking Bill

It has often been pointed out that these same Green and Labour parties (and other parties) ignored the last referendum, on smacking.

Voter turnout was 56.1%. While 87.4% of votes answered ‘no’, the question drew widespread criticism from the public, parliament, and even the prime minister John Key for being a loaded question and for the use of the value-judgement ‘good’.

I thought the question was poor too, I could have justified answering either Yes or No depending on how I looked at the question. Because the referendum question didn’t directly address the Bill it could be (and was) easily ignored.

Marriage Bill

There have also been calls for a referendum on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

Some want it to be a Government initiated referendum and it be made binding. It is a conscience vote in Parliament so there is some justification for this.

Others say that if ‘the people’ want a referendum they should start a petition. Like the others this would take massive effort and resources and take far too long.

There is not going to be a gay marriage referendum, but if there was should Parliament abide by the result? There are valid questions about whether the majority should be able to impose possibly discriminatory will on a minority.

All bills are not equal

Obviously all bills have different aspects to them.

The Asset bill is Government policy that was a major issue in the last election.It has been debated on strictly party lines, Government (National, Act and UnitedFuture) versus Opposition.

The Marriage bill was a private members bill so has only been debated since the election, and is a conscience vote, with mixed support and opposition from National and Labour MPs (Greens have all agreed with it but they tend to block vote anyway).

Green support for referenda is not equal

Green MP Kevin Hague commented on the issue of a marriage referendum on his facebook page:

Maybe 1% of submitters to the Select Committee thought there should be a referendum on marriage equality. As we get into the final stages of the parliamentary process these referendum calls have become stronger.

There are two reasons for this: one group of MPs believes their supporters are mostly opposed to the legislation, so want to be able to vote against without having to use homophobic or irrational arguments, while another group is opposed to the legislation for homophobic or irrational reasons, and sees a referendum as a means of delay.

There’s some irony here, as some views on the asset referendum go along the lines of “while another group is opposed to the legislation for political reasons, and sees a referendum as a means of delay”.

Joshua James comments:

The very idea of a referendum is ridiculous. The concept of the ‘majority’ voting on minorites rights is disturbing. There are elected members for this purpose.

Also ironic, claiming “very idea of a referendum is ridiculous“. There is some merit to this argument, but it assumes what the ‘majority’ would say.

Yes, there are elected representatives for this purpose, that’s our model of representative democracy.

Also, comparing a referendum of the sale of assets to a referendum on marriage equality is ridiculous. Every New Zealander owns these assets, no one but me and my partner own my relationship.

Kevin Hague agreed:

Very well put Joshua!

Comparing referenda on different issues is ridiculous? Or is this a case of supporting a referendum that you think will benefit you and opposing a referendum that you fear might give you a result you don’t like?

Seems like selective support of democracy – when it suits.

Future Referenda

Green’s past opposition to taking notice of referenda (smacking) and current mixed support – for the asset referendum anmd against one for marriage – raises questions about their commitment to democratic processes.

Would Greens commit to abiding by the result of any future Citizen Initiated Referendum?

Or would they select which referenda suit them to support?

I think this is an important question – particularly when the Greens openly express pride about being a party run on sound democratic principles.

Question for Greens

Would Greens support the will of the majority in any future CIR, or will they decide which referenda are ridiculous on a case by case basis?

Precisely worded smacking legislation?

There’s been a difficult smacking case in the news – Parents’ hell after choice to strap child – which ended up Smacking conviction overturned on appeal. It was a very difficult family situation where the mother was “convicted after they strapped their 8-year-old son, over his pyjamas”.

Anti-smacking law critics say the case is an example of good parents being criminalised, contrary to assurances from politicians when the law came in.

Family First director Bob McCroskie says…

…the case involved an extremely difficult child for whom the mother had repeatedly sought help, but none was available. He says there is a lack of support for parents who are struggling.

I’m sure he’s right there.

Mr McCroskie also says…

…the legislation is confused and needs to be precisely worded.

First point, this prosecution could have happened under the old version of the law.

And second – how can a smacking law be worded precisely so it caters for every varied situation? Does McCroskrie think the law should specify that any smacking using a belt is legal? Any smacking using any device or implement? Where would he precisely draw the line?

Even the word “smack” is imprecise. It could be used to refer to a tap on a nappied bum. It could also be used to describe a smack over the head with a four by two.

I don’t see how smacking laws will ever be able to be precise.

Smacking will always require discretion by parents. And police.

Smacking getting out of hand

The problem with smacking getting out of hand:

Child beaten for mispronunciation

A Wanganui man beat a child who could not pronounce a word properly, using a slipper and drumstick, in an attack that left the child needing hospital care.

The man, who has name suppression, turned himself in to police the day after the August incident.

Whanganui District Court was told he was attempting to tutor a child and became frustrated with the boy’s inability to pronounce a word. He punished him with a slipper, and then a drumstick, with repeated blows to the back of the hand, and then to his head.

The assault stopped while the child tried to improve his skills, but continued again with a smack on the backside. The child again tried to pronounce the word, and when he couldn’t, the man slapped him around the head.

The next day the boy had swelling about his body and the man arranged for him to be taken to hospital.

Good that the man dealt with the situation appropriatelt when he’d gone far too far (or realised he would be found out).

But this incident illustrates the danger of promoting smacking as a means of punishment. Not everyone is smart enough and always in control of their emotions enough to know when to stop – and in any case physical punishment in this case was totally inappropriate.