Smacking law 'stupid', says Craig

Last updated 12:02 13/01/2014

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Conservatives party leader Colin Craig has as good as confirmed a change to the anti-smacking law will be a bottom line if his party finds itself in a position to prop up the Government. 

Craig also admitted to smacking his child on occasion, in an interview with RadioLive this morning.

"I occasionally do it right now. Like two thirds of other parents in New Zealand, I am not putting the good raising of a child behind a silly law."

Craig acknowledged he was breaking the law, but he still expected to get votes. 

"They [parents] like me, know this law is a stupid law and it's not doing anything curb the abuse of children in this country."

Craig said he was not calling it a bottom-line at this stage because the election had not yet happened, and he was not in a position to call the shots. 

But if he found himself in that position come election time, it would "absolutely" be on the table for review. 

"People have got to vote for us yet, we haven't had the election. But if we get there with the numbers where it's essential that we're part of Government, then yes we want it to be there for review and for a change back to law that will actually work for New Zealand."

He said a switch to Australia's law would be a more common-sense approach.  

"Basically the Australian one is quite limiting around what parents can actually do. So it still lets good parents get on with the business of discipline and if they want to give little Johnny a light smack they're allowed to do that," he said. 

"But they're not allowed to hit Johnny around the head, and so I think it's sensible law. 

"It means police keep focus on parents who aren't doing a good job as opposed to the situation in New Zealand, where we've had nearly 600 investigations mostly of great families and it's incredibly disruptive and a waste of resources."

Opponents of the 2007 law change claimed "good parents" would be prosecuted for disciplining children and it would do nothing to stop serious harm to children.

But recent Ministry of Social Development data showed fewer parents were 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.

But Craig said the figure was nearly 600 investigations into parents by police. 

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.

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The eighth parent was discharged without conviction for striking the child on the hand.

Craig told Fairfax Media the numbers were falling because parents had simply moved to hitting their children behind closed doors. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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