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Late bid to speed smacking legislation.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 29, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Late bid to speed smacking legislation.
Thursday, 29.03.2007, 06:16am (GMT12)

Late bid to speed smacking legislation

By TRACY WATKINS – The Dominion Post | Thursday, 29 March 2007

The Government has moved to defuse fears over a bill outlawing physical punishment of children with a late change that would force a top-level review after two years.

The change came as Labour sought the support of the bill’s backers to speed up its passage through Parliament by making it a government measure – a move that could see it passed by Easter.

It is a sign of the Government’s determination to have the bill passed as soon as possible, with polls showing a public backlash after organised campaigns labelling the legislation an assault on family values.

Labour deputy Michael Cullen had earlier sought to push the bill through under urgency, but had to withdraw after acknowledging it had caused ” too much angst” among the Government’s support parties.

The bill can be changed to a government measure at any time with the agreement of its sponsor, Green MP Sue Bradford – who said last night she was happy for that because that gave it “mana and credibility”.

The Maori Party, which opposed urgency, said it was happy to support it as a government measure. But the Government will not want to alienate United Future and NZ First and is likely to wait for their responses next week before announcing its decision.

The bill, which removes the defence of reasonable force for the use of physical discipline, has been bogged down by filibustering tactics that could delay its passage till June as it is currently a member’s bill, which can be debated only once every two weeks. It has the support of a majority of Parliament.

The review, announced by Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope and pushed for by Waimakiriri MP Clayton Cosgrove, is aimed at reassuring parents they will not be prosecuted over a light smack.

Mr Cosgrove represents the provincial conservative rump within Labour which has been feeling the heat from constituents.

He said yesterday he had taken a lot of convincing over the Bradford bill, but now supported it because it was the right thing to do. But he said there had been a lot of scaremongering over its impact on good parents.

The amendment would require the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development to report back to Parliament after two years on whether there had been any “unintended consequences”.

The bill has sparked heated debate. Mr Benson-Pope said there had been misinformation about the bill that led many people “to mistakenly believe that good, caring parents will in some way be criminalised”.

Ms Bradford said her bill was anti-violence, not anti-smacking. “Section 59 gives parents the right to beat children in the most appalling ways,” she said. “It has brought us into international disrepute.”

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