Smacking ban's 'suicide link'

19:10, Oct 09 2014
EDWARD SAAFI: He is fifth on the Conservative list and would be elected if they break the 5 per cent threshold.

The anti-smacking law is to blame for youth suicide, youth prostitution and even sexually-transmitted infections, a leading Conservative party candidate claims.

Edward Saafi, who is fifth on the Conservative list and would be elected if they break the 5 per cent threshold, made the comments to Fairfax after questions about his recent speeches at Tongan churches.

"We are starting to recognise the incidence of suicide going up in Pacific communities, especially the Tongan community and people are starting to understand the lead-on from this legislation," he told Fairfax.

"Once you pass it, children, rather than doing what mum and dad says, they go and commit suicide. It opens up another thing they could do," Saafi, who holds a doctorate in biomedicine, said.

Asked if he thought there was a direct link between the anti-smacking bill and youth suicide, Saafi said: "It's just common sense, really. It's our way of thinking parents have a role to look after their kids, including disciplining them. If the law tells the child that mum and dad can't discipline you any more, they will do whatever they want, including these other alternatives like suicide. It's quite appalling."

Stephen Bell of Youthline, a youth mental health counselling service, said there was nothing to support Saafi's views, and there had been a downward trend in youth suicide statistics since the law change in 2007.


"There is no evidence that links the two and I am quite horrified that someone will use the death of young people to try and rationalise or justify their particular view of the planet," he said.

Monique Faleafa, a doctor of clinical psychology who is chief executive of Le Va, which delivers a Pasifika suicide prevention programme, said: "The reasons why Pasifika people attempt to take their own lives are very complex; there is never any one thing but we know family violence is a risk factor - exposure to family violence in your early years is a significant risk factor.

"There is no evidence to support [Saafi's] comment."

Saafi said the legalisation of prostitution had led to children "sneaking off at night to get extra pocket money" and returning home with sexual infections, the treatment of which stretched their parents' budgets as they paid medical bills.

Saafi's Facebook pages link to a story about sexually-transmitted infections, to which he has added the comment: "New stronger gonorrhea strain sending clear message to human society".

Saafi is among little-known Conservative candidates who could be returned to the House if the party, bankrolled by millionaire leader Colin Craig, breaks the 5 per cent polling threshold to secure list MPs.

He's joined on the list by lawyer Melissa Perkin (four), former policeman Callum Blair (six) and Northland CYFS carer Mel Taylor (seven) who would all be likely to gain seats on a 6 per cent poll.

Mangere social worker James Papali'i - number 9 on Internet Mana's party list - is a convicted fraudster.

In 2006 he was found guilty on 15 charges of defrauding the Whare Nui Sports Trust of money earmarked for an outrigger and waka clubrooms.

He was sentenced to 350 hours community work.

Papali'i says he is trying to make amends by helping his community.

"It never goes away but you try and move forward, be positive, and focus on the future."

Otago University political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards says it is important for the general public to carefully scrutinise party lists.

"They've often been surprised at some of the more eccentric people on the list that have been elected to Parliament, especially among the minor parties."

There is often a tendency to focus on party leaders, he says.

Parties also need be careful about the candidates they choose.

One example was former ACT MP David Garrett, who resigned as an Act MP in 2010 after admitting he stole the identity of a dead child in 1984.

"More careful scrutiny might have revealed some skeletons that were rattling around in his closet," Edwards says.

Streams of resigning MPs stretched the public's faith in Parliament, for example Alamein Kopu, the politician whose defection from the Alliance prompted "waka jumping" legislation in the late 1990s.

In 2007 United Future MP Gordon Copeland quit the party over its support for the anti-smacking bill, before promptly missing the vote in Parliament.

On the other hand, minor party lists bring a range of views and ideologies into Parliament, Edwards says.

"Some of those views, while they may seem odious, do reflect the division of thought in New Zealand."

Sunday Star Times