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Questions And Answers – Thursday, 29 March 2007

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 4, 2007

Source: Scoop

Questions And Answers – Thursday, 29 March 2007

Questions And Answers – Thursday, 29 March 2007

Questions to Ministers

Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill—Thrashing and Beating

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that those who oppose the legislation currently before the House to amend section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 were “demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children”; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: What the Prime Minister actually said was: “… our rate of child death and injury from violence, including in the home, is appalling. It is a stain on our international reputation, and I cannot see how those who are demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children can possibly then turn around and profess concern about what is happening to our children.” The Prime Minister absolutely stands by that statement; it is self-evidently true.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister seriously believe that the 80 percent or so of New Zealanders who oppose this legislation want to beat and thrash children, or that they condone violence against children?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of statements in the House such as “I spank my children and I am proud of it.” from the Opposition spokesperson on social welfare, Judith Collins.

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports about prominent people or groups that have supported or opposed the bill?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen reports that Judy Bailey, Paul Holmes, Barnados, Save the Children, the Plunket Society, Women’s Refuge, and over 100,000 emailers all support the bill—company I am proud to keep. Groups leading opposition to the bill including followers of Dr James Dobson, who has said that women are biologically inferior to men and that he wants to cure people of being gay; Family Integrity from Palmerston North, which says that smacking may be a 10 to 15-minute process with a smacking rod; Family Life International, which opposes a woman’s right to choose the use of contraception; and Brian Tāmaki, who opposes having multiple sanctioned religions in New Zealand and says that not having a State religion is “religious treason”.

Hon Bill English: Is it therefore the case that the Prime Minister is pushing this legislation through in defiance of overwhelming public opinion because she believes that 80 percent of New Zealanders are religious fanatics and extremists?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, clearly not. But clearly some of those in the vanguard of the opposition to this bill do fall into that category, as well as other various forms of strange people, including those responsible for the Cyfswatch website.

Hon David Benson-Pope: Can the Prime Minister tell the House what action the Government has taken to alleviate fears about prosecutions under this bill?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Last night a Supplementary Order Paper was introduced providing for a review of the legislation 2 years after its enactment to ensure the bill works as intended and does not criminalise good parents. I can point concerned New Zealanders to the New Zealand Herald editorial of 18 February, which states: “ … the repeal of the parental defence to assault will be hotly debated until the day it is enacted. Thereafter it will seem so right and sensible we will forget the issue.” No parent will be prosecuted for a normal smack but abusers will lose legal protection, exactly as happened with the abolition of corporal punishment in schools when nobody now proposes going back to it, except those who marched on Parliament yesterday.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that the Prime Minister believes that she is right about how people should carry out their parental rights and obligations, and that thousands of normal New Zealanders who are not religious fanatics, who are not asking for the right to thrash and beat their children, are wrong; and why should they believe her?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because I have noticed in my own emails that those supporting the bill adopt a moderate and reasonable tone, while those opposing it seem to have a violent tone in many of their messages. I note the question the member referred to in the poll actually mis-states what the bill does. Wrong question, wrong answer.

Hon Bill English: Would the Prime Minister now care to repeat for the benefit of the public the list of those characteristics that she believes 80 percent of New Zealanders who oppose this legislation have—namely, that they are asking for the right to thrash and beat children, that their emails are violent, that they are religious fanatics, and that they do not know the right way to parent their children?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What the Prime Minister quite clearly said was that those who are leading the opposition of this bill fall into this category, and that member should be ashamed to be amongst them.

Hon Bill English: If the Prime Minister believes that those who are leading the opposition to this bill are wanting the right to thrash and beat their children and are religious fanatics, what does she say to the other 79 percent of New Zealanders who are opposed to this bill, many of whom vote for her party, many of whom are in this Parliament?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: One thing she might say is: “Look at members of the National Party—such as Katherine Rich and others—who are supporting this bill, who are not themselves foolish people.”

Hon Bill English: Why is it that the Prime Minister has told the public that this is not an anti-smacking bill, when the clause debated by the Committee last night quite explicitly abolishes the defence of any use of force for correction—which cannot be described in any other way than as an anti-smacking provision?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The current law provides that smacking is an assault. The current law does that. Section 59 provides a defence that recent cases have demonstrated can be used to justify beating people with pieces of wood, whips, and other matter.

Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister not aware that the law that Parliament is debating will mean there is no defence for a parent who lightly smacks his or her child for the purposes of, for instance, preventing that child putting his or her hand on a hot element?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The best way to prevent a child putting his or her hand on a hot element is not to hit the child while he or she is doing it, but to grab the child and take him or her away.

Hon Bill English: Why does the Prime Minister not answer the question I asked, which was whether she understood that the bill before the House, if passed, will mean there is no defence for a parent who lightly smacks his or her child for the purposes of correction?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member has to take account of the other provisions—

Hon Bill English: Answer the question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am answering the question, but note the aggressiveness, yet again, from the member on an issue around smacking. He is condemned out of his own behaviour in this House.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have asked the Prime Minister a direct question on a matter on which the Prime Minister has made a number of statements, and a matter that is a matter of fact, which is the provisions in the bill, and I have now asked it twice, but the Prime Minister has not answered. Of course, as you know, I have run out of supplementary questions and cannot continue to keep asking the same question. Given the public interest in this matter, I seek that you direct the Prime Minister to answer the question that has now been asked twice.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, I say that the member has not run out of supplementary questions. The National Party may allocate its supplementary questions however it wants to, on any question. It is a matter of that party’s internal arrangements if the member has run out of supplementary questions. I have clearly addressed the question.

Hon Bill English: Dr Cullen, on behalf of the Prime Minister, is clearly showing contempt for the procedures of the House. It is quite evident now that without your direction it would not matter if I asked that supplementary question 10 times. He does not intend to answer it, because he knows that if the Prime Minister answered it correctly, it would contradict all her public statements. That might be a political concern for him, but for the House it is a legitimate question to ask whether the Prime Minister understands the legislation that we are debating. I suggest that you require him to answer it.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, I say that it is quite clear from the debate that has occurred in this House so far, and from the advice that has been received, that the bill as it stands at the moment is not going to lead to the outcomes the member argues for, and no amount of bluff and bluster will lead to that conclusion.

Madam SPEAKER: I think I have had enough debate on this particular point of order, and I will rule on it. By my count there have been eight supplementary questions and National, today, has 33. It is a matter for the party, so that people are aware of the number of supplementary questions. The second point is that the Minister did address the question. As members know, they cannot always get the answer they want. They can ask the question, but as long as the Minister has addressed the question, that is all that is required.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister did answer the question more directly, but he did it in the form of a point of order that was not actually a point of order. I would be happy for him to give the answer as an answer to the question, so that it appears correctly in Hansard.

Madam SPEAKER: I think we have had enough. We want to move on to a supplementary question.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on this. I ruled that the Minister addressed the question. If, in fact—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated while I am on my feet. You will get your turn—I will make sure of that. I am being constantly interrupted by members, at times when I am on my feet trying to give a ruling. As members know, the Standing Orders require only that questions be addressed. As I have said on numerous occasions, if members wish to change that, I will be very grateful. There is a procedure for doing that—it is called the Standing Orders. Members cannot require a specific answer to a question. I have ruled on the point of order. In terms of what was raised in the point of order, the member is probably correct. Matters were raised on both sides that were not strictly within the point of order, but I consider that the matter has been addressed. We will have a supplementary question from Sue Bradford.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During that exchange, when it came to the answer part, my recollection is that Dr Cullen was about to give an answer but then broke from it to say that he was about to answer it but noted some aggression in the tone coming from this side of the House. He then sat down. Subsequent to that there was an exchange of points of order, no longer between the Prime Minister and the Hon Bill English, but between Dr Michael Cullen and Bill English. In that exchange he gave an answer that should have been given as an answer by the Prime Minister to this House. I think that is the issue we have here. Dr Cullen, of course, is a very skilful politician. Everyone knows how clever he is. Everyone knows how he is able to use the Standing Orders very, very effectively. But in this case he is using them quite inappropriately. He should be required to stand, give the answer he gave in the point of order, and answer the question as if he were the Prime Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that, and I note that there are experienced members both asking and answering the questions. I also note that further supplementary questions could be asked. I also note that it is quite possible that interjections will result in a diversion from the answer, and that risk is always taken when an interjection is made.

Sue Bradford: Can the Prime Minister confirm that, in fact, the bill as amended by the select committee and brought back to the House has a new section 4 that explicitly provides for a defence of reasonable force when parents do things like remove their child, with some force, from a burning element, a power point, or something like that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is entirely correct. In the instance that was given, that of children who are about to place their hands on a hot element, the bill as reported back specifically provides that parents can use force, as required, to ensure that their children do not place their hands on it. I suggest that the alternative, of smacking children possibly across the back, and thereby forcing them to put their hands on the element, is a particularly stupid example for Mr English to use.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member is not free to misrepresent what I said to the House. I never said or implied that a child should be hit across the back in a way that would force his or her hand on to a hot element. I take offence at that misrepresentation, and ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, I say that the member said a child putting his or her hand on an element should be given a smack. I do not know how good the member has been at smacking, and how much practice he has had, but the notion that he will direct the smack so well that it might not actually impel the child towards the heating element beggars belief.

Madam SPEAKER: Because the member has taken offence at the comment, I ask the member to withdraw the comment and apologise.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw.

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One Response to “Questions And Answers – Thursday, 29 March 2007”

  1. Sherrill Baylis said

    Refering to the comment about Dr James Dobson and his allaged statement that he believes women are biologically inferior to men. This is nothing but a totally sexist fabrication. Also there is no scientific proof / data that shows men are biologically superior to women

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