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Govt backs down on urgency for anti-smacking Bill.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 27, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Govt backs down on urgency for anti-smacking Bill.
Tuesday, 27.03.2007, 07:23am (GMT12)

Government pulls up on smacking bill

By TRACY WATKINS – The Press | Tuesday, 27 March 2007

UPDATED REPORT: The Government has backed down on a bid to force Parliament into urgency for controversial anti-smacking legislation as the public backlash mounts.
REFERENDUM DEMANDED AS MAJORITY OPPOSE BILL

 

Leader of the House Michael Cullen yesterday told leaders of the Greens, the Maori Party, NZ First and United Future that the Government was withdrawing its request for urgency, which would have forced Parliament to sit until the legislation passed.

The decision was made as new research shows an overwhelming number of New Zealanders oppose Green MP Sue Bradford’s bill outlawing physical punishment, which opponents say will open the floodgates to smacking prosecutions.

Cullen’s office later said the bid for urgency was “causing too much angst” among the parties he had been having discussions with and it had been decided not to proceed.

Prime Minister Helen Clark hinted at the change of heart within hours of arriving back in the country.

The bill’s opponents – who have waged a fierce counter-campaign to slow the bill’s progress through Parliament – will hail the backdown as a victory in their bid to put pressure on wavering Labour MPs to vote against the party line.

They are demanding that Labour treat the vote as a conscience issue, although National is also making MPs vote along party lines on an amendment that would allow physical punishment so long as it causes only “transitory and trifling” pain or marks.

Clark yesterday reiterated assurances that the bill was not aimed at parents who smacked their children.

She told reporters the Crimes Act already made smacking a crime and there was nothing in Ms Bradford’s bill which changed that one way or the other.

She said the One News poll posed a false question because it told people the bill would outlaw smacking.

“The bill is about legal defences to the crime of assault. It is not the normal practice of our police to rush around prosecuting technical assault which happens day in, day out on the sports field, on the streets, in the bars and in the homes.

“The point of the Bradford bill is to enable the police to successfully prosecute serious child beaters and if we’re serious about tackling the problem of violence against children in our society – which is rife – then it’s an important measure,” Miss Clark said.

Police could not get successful prosecutions under current laws because of case law precedents that saw people take to their children – often in quite serious assaults like the riding crop example – and walk out of court scot free “and that’s not right”.

Debate on the bill is continuing with a coalition of Christian families paying for a full-page advertisement in newspapers today calling for signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

More than 50,000 signatures have been gathered so far, with 300,000 needed within the next 12 months before the Government would have to arrange a referendum.

Opponents plan to march on Parliament on Wednesday, when the committee stage debate on the bill resumes.

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