SMACKING REFERENDUM: PRAGMATISM, LOSING FACE, THE MYTH OF DEMOCRACY


I guess John Key must have felt better of staying in Australia with all the heat going on: Rodney Hide and the Maori seats and on top of the smacking debate. New Zealand voted against “a smack as  part of good parental correction” being a criminal offence, whatever the media and even the pro and anti smacking are crying in the media. John Key took a series of proposals to Cabinet today following Friday’s referendum victory for opponents of the 2007 child discipline law change.

I am still wondering whether most of the people that voted no, despite my own preference for that, actually understood that it was not about whether a parental correctional smack should be allowed, but whether or not it should be classified as a criminal offence.

I again point out that it does not necessarily mean when you voted NO that you are PRO smacking. Could it maybe be that you do not see how a correctional smack warrants being classified as a criminal offence. Criminalizing should in my view be an “ultimum remedium” and therefore reserved for those acts that cannot be seen as anything else but a crime. The debate and referendum however has lost all its true perspective in any event as it is turned into a are you for “assaulting your children” or not. (That is the position of amongst others Sue Bradford and followers.) It is quite some distance from a “parental correctional smack” to “assaulting your children” I would imagine. It is also a distance from personally being a against a correctional smack to considering that it should be a criminal offence. he discussion and debate however seems to be polarized as FOR or AGAINST smacking. Subtle differences I admit but played out to their max to influence public opinion. 

All that aside, I am intrigued by John Key’s persistence in this matter. What is it that democratically elected members can sort of impose their own perspective or moral values this ignoring what the people in a democratic society want. They want the correctional smack out of the Crimes Act. Do Helen and mob have something on Key? The key to Key? Allegedly he would have said that “parents who lightly smack their children should not fear being treated like criminals, and that he would not ignore the referendum.”

I would like to point out that it is not how you are being treated, but the fundamental principle that despite of your treatment YOU ARE COMMITTING A CRIMINAL OFFENCE. the fact that you will not be treated as a criminal is hardly reassuring. Many high profile fraudsters end or ended up not being treated as a criminal, but does  that make them less of a criminal?  Many don’t get caught, therefore are not treated as a criminal. It’s all non-arguments.

The referendum is pretty clear in what it tried to answer. The outcomes are equally clear. We were asked whether a smack as part of good parental correction should be a criminal offence and we said NO.

Arguments that no one has been prosecuted are not compelling, arguments or proposals that would implicate police discretion are equally not convincing. The fact that there are many potential defences should you be prosecuted is of no importance either.
The simple fact remains that whenever a parent decides that a correctional smack is in its place – based on responsible parental values and experiences – and decides to follow up on that and gives his/her child a light smack on the bottom, that same parent needs to consider that he or she technically committed a crime. To illustrate:

Now suppose your neighbor we’ll call her “Auntie Sue”, sees what is happening, than she could report it as a crime and in Auntie Sue’s case you bet your bottom dollar that she will report that you are “assaulting” your child. There you are, things have settled down and you and your child are by now sitting on the couch reading from “Thomas the Tank Engine” or well whatever and there’s a police officer ringing your doorbell asking questions about a reported incident of assaulting your child, or equally bad, CYFS is doing the same. Regardless of whether you are prosecuted or not, you are investigated as a suspect of a crime that technically has been committed if this law remains unchanged. The mere follow up and questions are enough to make you feel as suspected to be a criminal and since you technically have committed an offence, you are.

Personally I can’t help but feeling that despite not changing the law “if it works” is an unconvincing approach, in fact a spineless approach. Gandhi once said: “Cowards can never be moral.”  And it shows.

Pragmatic arguments such as not wanting valuable parliamentary time being usurped by a renewed smacking debate are a blatant denial of democracy in the workings and also not a valid argument. Will we start taking criminal offences out of the Crimes Act an/or others “if they don’t work?”

Have Key and all those others before him forgotten that they are elected to REPRESENT the people and that it is our tax money that pays their bills and perks? A law was pushed through in 2007 that had no democratic support, Parliament, by allowing this law to pass, already ignored its voters, the people once. And now again? The referendum is to inform out politicians of our opinion, the elections are there to enforce our sentiments upon those we choose to represent us. These boys and girls in the Beehive are getting things mixed up. Parliamentarians are send to parliament every three years as representatives of their voters, they should therefore be adhering to what we want them to do not the other way around. And here we have a John Key, prior to the referendum already telling us that regardless of the outcome he will not change the law. And basically sticking to that position despite the outcomes. Have those politicians  forgotten that the overwhelming majority of New Zealand never wanted this law in the first place? No-one wanted a back-office “compromise” deal of John Key and Helen Clark and in any event, NO ONE PERMITTED THESE POLITICIANS TO GO AHEAD AN DO IT ANYWAY. An yet, here we see it being done twice!

Then again, try to place yourself in Key’s shoes: changing the law in accordance with the documented wishes of the people would mean losing face of course, cause how will you explain agreeing to this unwanted law change in the first place and subsequently changing it back. Step up John, and admit you made a mistake in 2007 and are now prepared to admit this and set the record straight. Now that would be the act of a REPRESENTATIVE. That would be a Parliament that represents and would justify the people to voluntarily comply with, because it represents the consensus of public opinion. TIME TO RETHINK THE BASICS I would say.

Ignoring the referendum results, is like seeing democracy die for the benefit of ELECTED politicians, that have become so power hungry, that they think they have it within their right to ignore those who elected them in the first place. If that is the case, we may as well stop pretending and admit that voting rights are no more than window dressing and keeping up a democratic myth so as to keep the population quiet and unaware that we are actually living under some form of dictatorship.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Referendum on Smacking In New Zealand: VoteNo.org


With the referendum on smacking at a go and media reporting rather one sided in favor of the so called YES vote. The Vote NO site gives you the other side of the story. The site is understood to be an initiative of Family First, and appears to be supported by the For the Sake of Our Children Trust, FIANZ, the Pasefika Trust, the Fact and Family Trust, the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Unity for Liberty, Focus on the Family, Cross Power and Family Life NZ.

The FAQ page consists of highly condensed yet to the point information in relation to the issues at hand: is the law working, prevention v correction, did this law help stopping child abuse, smacking and minor acts of physical discipline and more. So for those that want to hear the other side of the story as well I recommend you check the site out.

I do recommend you read the pamphlets with real life cases resulting from this law either here >>> or the case descriptions on the Family First website.

In addition to the site itself, you could have a look at the blog, follow this site on twitter or join their facebook group.

Also check out The Yes Vote Fail site for a slightly lighter approach, where I found the videos below.

More on smacking referendum: PM warned


ACT Party leader Rodney Hide has warned Prime Minister John Key of a public backlash if the government ignores the result of the controversial smacking referendum.

Snubbing the referendum result sends a message that politicians know what’s best for the people and that the government is running a “nanny state”, Hide wrote in a letter delivered to Key’s office on Friday.

In the sidebar it states that: John Key has said the law will not be changed back unless it can be shown that good parents are being prosecuted for light smacking.

If he really said that than I would be disappointed as apparently even the Prime Minister does not know the law. The matters are formulated straight forward in that a correctional smack is a criminal offense. The law does not make this distinction and regardless of how you look at it: well willing parents that want to have even the “light smack” as part of their parental toolbox will need to consider whether or not they are willing to commit a criminal offense.

Besides that, WHO is appointed to determine whether or not a smack is to be considered a light correctional smack that does not justify prosecution or falls within the boundaries of prosecution required? There are no clear guidelines there and personal opinion may well start playing a role in that decision.

In all democratic fairness, the provision as standing in Section 59 should not have been there in the first place. I would have to agree with Mr Hide here.

Deceptive, Polarising Media Practices in New Zealand.


A referendum on whether or not smacking as part of the parental correction options should be a criminal offense or not. In 2007, public opinion already seemed to be against making a correctional smack an offense but despite of that the act was pushed through.

The media seems at least in my opinion very good at making it easy form people to ensure them that they get the “right vote” on your form. Personally I am appalled by how the matter has been presented by the media; back than and again more recently.

Are You SMACK HAPPY?
Just so you understand: if you are silly enough to vote “no” you will be part of the legion of ‘smack happy’ people. Let’s be clear, the questions and matters subject to a referendum are of an entirely different nature.

The question is not whether or not parents should be allowed to give their child a correctional smack if and when they see that need BUT whether or not a correctional smack by a parent should be considered a Criminal Offense.

These are two entirely different matters as I could imagine myself being AGAINST any form of correctional smacking by a parent BUT at the same time I could be AGAINST making a correctional smack by a parent a criminal offense.

The first deals with a personal vision on parenting, the second deals with a vision or perspective on criminal law and a perspective on how far a state should be allowed to interfere in the private lives of our citizens.

But that is not what the media is making us believe. Not at all, you are either for smacking or against it. It is not so hard to understand how this could happen. It is all about presentation, marketing of an issue and marketing an issue is what the boys and girls at Labour and Greens have always been good at, just like spitting dirt around. It is easy to be misled when someone like Sue Bradford ventilates opinions as could be read in the Waikato Times of 30 July 2009:

“For years, smacking was seen as a parent’s right, vital in the discipline of a child…

… However, Green Party MP Sue Bradford, who introduced the private member’s bill leading to the anti-smacking legislation, disagrees, saying the key point is that New Zealand has outlawed smacking for the purposes of correction.

She said laws like those in NSW or Britain gave parents permission to beat their children.

She said supporters of the “no” vote in the referendum wanted to “have a law which defines the level and nature of violence that it would be acceptable to use on our children.

“The implication is that in some ways it’s just fine to beat your child. If, after the referendum, the National Government changed the law back and defined the level and nature of violence that is OK, that would be such a retrograde step.””

See what I mean? From whether or not smacking is a parental right, we shift quickly to saying that is it just fine to beat your child. But what happened to the question in the middle? Even if the overwhelming majority of people find that a correctional smack is NOT a parental right: does that justify that such a smack is made a criminal offense? Were there really no other options? Is it really so that those that see a correctional smack as acceptable are of the opinion that it is alright to use “violence” against their children? I dare to say not at all, it is just that those that are of the opinion that a correctional smack could be part of the parental toolbox hardly ever get seem to get a chance to publicly discuss their views. The media seems hardly interested in their side of the story and instead pursue the anti-smacking position (the yes vote), until we all believe that that is the way to go. Thank God for Magazines like Investigate and reporters/authors like Ian Wishart.

So what we are actually looking at is a law that was pushed through despite serious questions about whether or not this was something that was backed by the people of New Zealand, parents that need to consider that they are actually committing a criminal offense when they actually use a correctional smack, an extra burden on an already overstretched law enforcement apparatus, a referendum that addresses only part of the relevant issues, a referendum, that is most likely not going to change anything anyway and politicians and media that obscure the issues at hand.

What are we actually voting for?

Hmm?

Somehow I see a parallel with the climate change/global warming debate.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Colmar Brunton on Smacking: 83% in favor of smacking to be expected


The One News Colmar Brunton Poll of 1,001 respondents from 25 to 29 July asked several questions on smacking:

70% indicated that they would vote in the referendum, of which 83 percent indicated to vote “no” (e.g. in favor of smacking your children).

Posted via web from John Dierckx