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Smacking and Child Abuse: Fallacies

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 3, 2007

Source: This Is New Zealand 

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Smacking and Child Abuse: Fallacies

This post is based upon the arguments being put forward by the supporters of the Section 59 Repeal bill, and exposes the fallacies in them. In doing so I will just focus on what has been said in Parliament.

The first problem I have with this Bill is the total hypocrisy in opposing Chester Borrows’ amendments on the grounds they would provide a limited form of defence against child abuse. Apparently the police and judiciary could not be trusted to rule effectively on the terms “trifling and transitory” which he used to allow corrective force to be justified in the amendment. Yet in almost the same breath, the Bill’s supporters tell us that the police are to be trusted not to prosecute with discretion once the whole section has been repealed. This is a ridiculously absurd argument.

Now, on to the Parliamentary debates. There have been three to date:

  1. Introduction and First Reading – 27 July 2005
  2. Second Reading – 21 February 2007
  3. Committee of the whole House – 14 March 2007

Some of the pro-repeal arguments with brief rebuttals:

  • Reflects Greens non-violence policy – hippy New Age beliefs not rooted in reality
  • S.59 is part of state sanctioned violence culture – Greens “peace at all cost” policy is again hippy New Age nonsense
  • CYFS does not have an agenda – department is hellbent on implementing UNCROC
  • Linking high level of child abuse – this is a result of similar flaky policies not from smacking
  • Simply about removing section 59 defence – will not stop child abuse from incompetent parents
  • Must conform to UNCROC – who signed us up to yet another undemocratic UN ideology
  • Children do not rebel against parents, rebelling is a positive force in society – we all know that rebellion is a negative and destructive force that has to be countered for the good of the community.
  • S.59 is the last vestige of colonial culture in NZ society – Maori culture was very violent, violence is not unique to any culture
  • Jesus did not advocate physical punishment – Jesus is silent on the issue, and he referred to people leading children into sin which applies to those who do not discipline their children
  • Labour caucus is united on the issue – wavering suggests otherwise
  • Maori violence against children resulted from colonisation – Maori society pre colonisation was extremely violent and colonisation had positive impacts for it.
  • Smacking a child is already a crime (Russell Fairbrother [Labour]) – in existing law it is not a crime when used for corrective purposes.

And here are some anti-repeal arguments which I agree with:

  • The relative few cases of successfully defended abuse with riding crops, whips or jug cords have been whipped up into a frenzy by pro repeal campaigners. There have only been 18 successful defences of this clause in a 30 year period (according to National MP Chris Tremain). There have been a vastly greater number of children harmed by child abuse that the Bill will not address at all.
  • Welfarism and anti-family policies are the basic cause behind high levels of child abuse and no amount of tinkering with law like Section 59 will alter this
  • Why has the abolition of corporal punishment not improved our schools?
  • UNCROC argument is misleading because it is not a requirement of that convention
  • Countries where there is the best relationships between children and their parents are countries that allow this “reasonable force”.
  • The police will have to investigate all complaints regardless of circumstances regardless of what has been claimed contrarily.

Overall summary of pro-repeal debate:

  • Left-wing speaker after left-wing speaker attempted to muddy the issue by referring to child abuse as the main driver.
  • Sue Bradford came into the Second Reading debate saying that the amendments to the Bill reflected her “original intention” to abolish parental force for the purpose of correction. Yet, nowhere in the First Reading debate did Bradford even refer to force for the purpose of correction. The issue was wholly about force as a defence. Marian Hobbs was the only speaker in the first debate who referred to the use of force for correction.

We have to assume that Bradford has invented this reasoning through the select committee process. That same process substantially amended the Bill’s intent along these lines. The original wording of the Bill as submitted to Parliament makes no mention of this case. The phrase “force against…children for the purpose of correction” comes from the select committee report. Hence, the original purpose of the Bill and its effect has been substantially altered by the select committee process. It is hard not to reach the conclusion that the Bill was originally introduced to Parliament with one stated but entirely misleading intent when there was another agenda which has now been revealed from the select committee process.

The second fact about the select committee hearings is that the title of the Bill was altered to the wishy-washy “Substituted section 59” version rather than its original title referring to the abolition of reasonable force. Why was this necessary? It seems to be the intent to mislead about the true intentions.

Contrary to the claims of the proponents of this Bill that it is not about parents smacking their children, the select committee report summed up supporting submissions along these lines:

  • that physical discipline on children is ineffective compared with other forms of discipline
  • that there is a connection between the physical disciplining of children and child abuse
  • that section 59 provides less protection against assault for children than adults
  • that physical discipline is linked with longer-term psychological and developmental problems
  • that is was not the intention of the bill to criminalise parents and that fears of prosecution for trivial use of physical discipline are unfounded
  • that repealing section 59 would send a strong anti-violence message to society and encourage behavioural change.

There are a number of misleading statements here which are clearly targeted at smacking, despite claims this is not about smacking, and these claims do not stand up to critical scrutiny.

A part of the Bill which has not received attention is two amendments to section 139A of the Education Act 1989, relating to corporal punishment in schools. Since the whole debate is about corporal punishment it is dishonest to insert these

It is well known that Christians are the main proponents of corrective force and the true intent of this Bill has to be seen as a measure to bring about an intent of all corrective force being, at the least, watered down. The Greens’ constant attacks upon the police’s use of corrective force such as the anti-Taser campaign has to be seen in this context.

As I noted above, there is a complete hypocrisy in the child abuse line of reasoning because we are supposed to accept that the police and courts cannot be relied upon if Section 59 is kept, yet we are relying on their discretion if the section is repealed as well.


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