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Three MPs withdraw smacking bill support.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 1, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Three MPs withdraw smacking bill support.
Friday, 30.03.2007, 08:02am (GMT12)

Three MPs withdraw smacking bill support

By COLIN ESPINER – The Press | Friday, 30 March 2007

Three National MPs planning to vote for Green Party MP Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking bill have changed their minds, citing huge pressure from their constituents.

Lobbying to reject Bradford’s bill outlawing physical punishment of children has become intense, with MPs receiving hundreds of emails a day on the subject – and telephone threats from opponents of the bill.

Five National MPs had planned to vote for the bill on its third and final reading, but three said yesterday that they would now vote against it because their constituents were overwhelmingly opposed.

Port Waikato MP Paul Hutchison, Rangitikei MP Simon Power and list MP Jackie Blue will now vote against the bill, leaving only National list MPs Paula Bennett and Katherine Rich still in favour of the proposed legislation.

Rich yesterday vowed to vote for the third reading despite receiving phone calls concerning the safety of her children. The calls were made to Rich’s Dunedin electorate office, and the caller spoke of the school the children attended.

The calls were traced, and Dunedin police have spoken to a woman in connection with the incident.

Bradford last month received a death threat, and an internet website has indicated it plans to publish her home address. The same website yesterday posted the home address of Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen.

The loss of three votes means Bradford’s majority for the legislation is down to five.

As long as Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, two New Zealand First MPs and one United Future MP vote for the bill, it should pass 63-58. But pressure is mounting on others to change their minds.

A handful of Labour MPs who have reservations about the bill have come under particular pressure to break ranks and cross the floor.

Associate Justice Minister and Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove, who has a conservative voting record on social issues, said yesterday that he was being lobbied hard to change his mind.

He said he had reservations about the bill, but on balance decided to vote for it. He denied he had been “whipped” by Labour to vote for the bill.

“I’ve spent a lot of time agonising over this. I’ve read all the evidence. I will brass off a number of constituents, but I’ve got to have the guts to say what I believe,” he said.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he was receiving about 600 emails a day from both sides of the debate. He had made up his mind to vote for the legislation.

Blue said the reaction from her constituency had been “unbelievable”.

“You can’t ignore that. I may be a list MP but I have to take note of what my community is saying,” she said.

Blue said she had received hundreds of emails a day opposing the bill. “It’s annoyed the vast majority of New Zealanders.”

She denied she had bowed to pressure from the National Party to change her vote. “No-one from the party has pressured me.”

Hutchison said he had changed his mind for three reasons – the freedom of adults to make their own parenting decisions, the difference between the rights and powers of adults and children, and lobbying from his electorate.

He was personally opposed to physical discipline of children and he had never smacked his children.

“For me, this has been the most difficult bill I have ever come across. I have been genuinely torn over this,” he said.

Power said he had spent two months taking the pulse of his electorate.

Bradford said she remained comfortable the bill would pass regardless of whether any National MPs voted for it.

Cullen is still refusing to say if the Government plans to take over the bill as a Government measure, which would hasten its passage into law.

The Press understands it is likely to be taken over next week.

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