Plan to change smacking law

Last updated 12:28 19/03/2009

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ACT MP John Boscawen is going to try to amend the anti-smacking law by bringing a member's bill to Parliament.

He said today his bill would allow parents to use a light smack to correct their children.

"In an attempt to curb child abuse, this law has simply criminalised law-abiding parents and removed their freedom to decide how best to raise their children - something ACT has consistently opposed," he said.

"The Labour 'we know best' government is out and National is now in.

"Perhaps we will now begin to see an end to the madness of the past nine years where politicians saw fit to tell New Zealanders how to live their lives."

Mr Boscawen said a survey released yesterday showed 77 percent of 1000 people questioned felt the law should be changed.

The law bans smacking for correctional purposes.

It was promoted by Green Party MP Sue Bradford and was passed by Parliament in May 2007.

Mr Boscawen said it was "inflicted on New Zealanders by Labour and the Greens".

It was passed by 113 votes to eight, and National backed it after a last-minute compromise was reached by John Key, who is now prime minister, and the then prime minister Helen Clark.

ACT's two MPs voted against it, as did some New Zealand First MPs, United Future's Judy Turner and independent Taito Phillip Field .

It removed from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of "reasonable force" to correct a child, meaning there would be no justification for the use of force for that purpose.

Supporters said the "reasonable force" defence had been used by parents who had beaten their children with whips and pieces of wood.

Opponents said it would make criminals out of parents who lightly smacked their children and removed their right to discipline them.

Mr Boscawen's member's bill will go into a ballot.

One or two bills are drawn every second Wednesday Parliament is sitting, if there is room for them on the order paper.

Some have come out the ballot within weeks of going in, others have taken years to get into Parliament and be debated.

Family First, the organisation which opposed the law and ran yesterday's survey, welcomed Mr Boscawen's bill.

"This flawed law has attempted to link a smack on the bottom with child abuse of the worst kind," said national director Bob McCoskrie.

"It has put good parents raising law-abiding and responsible citizens in the same category as rotten parents who are a danger to their kids and to society in general."

Mr McCoskrie said the child abuse rate had continued unabated since the law was passed, with 12 deaths in the last 21 months.

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He said National should adopt Mr Boscawen's bill as a government bill.

- NZPA

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