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Smacking row heats up.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 28, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Smacking row heats up.
Wednesday, 28.03.2007, 07:58am (GMT12)

Smacking row heats up

By PETER WILSON – NZPA | Tuesday, 27 March 2007

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Government ministers have clashed with opposition MPs in Parliament over Sue Bradford’s bill to change the law on smacking ahead of another debate on it tomorrow.

Although the bill might not go to a final vote before mid-year, campaigns against it peak tomorrow with a march on Parliament and another day of full page protest advertisements in newspapers.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, facing a barrage of questions in Parliament, voiced her strongest support so far for the bill.

“It is perfectly plain that the bill does not ban smacking,” she said as opposition MPs insisted it did exactly that.

“I believe if this bill passes the police will have a reasonable chance of actually getting convictions against child beaters who take to their children with riding crops, bits of wood and the rest of it.”

The bill removes from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of justifiable “reasonable force” against assault on a child.

Supporters, including Miss Clark, say smacking has been illegal for more than 100 years and cannot be banned because it already is.

Opponents say removing the “reasonable force” clause from the Crimes Act will turn parents in criminals if they even lightly smack their children.

National MPs accused Miss Clark of forcing her members to support the bill, and said she should have allowed them to exercise conscience votes free from party instructions.

“What is on the conscience of the Government is the need to do something about the appalling rate of child death and injury through violence in the home,” Miss Clark replied.

ACT MP Heather Roy said the Government was overriding the view of a majority of New Zealanders and had no right to tell her, a mother of five, how to raise her children.

Education Minister Steve Maharey said the bill did not ban smacking and did not tell parents anything.

“It simply removes the defence of a person who is facing prosecution in court for using excessive force to discipline their children,” he said.

The bill is in the middle of its committee stage, the only stage at which it can be amended.

National MP Chester Borrows want to change it and insert a section which would allow light smacking. His amendment is likely to be voted on tomorrow.

Ms Bradford is confident she has at least 63 votes to defeat the amendment. A majority in Parliament is 61 votes.

She believes support will hold at about that level through the committee stage and the final third reading.

National MPs have managed to delay progress on the bill, and are expected to run more time-wasting tactics tomorrow.

Now that the Government has given up trying to put it on the fast track, it might have to wait until June before it comes up for the third reading vote that will determine whether it becomes law.

Member’s bills can only be debated every second Wednesday when Parliament is sitting, and the three-week Easter recess is coming up.

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