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Key ultimatum puts smack law talks in doubt.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 19, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Key ultimatum puts smack law talks in doubt.
Wednesday, 18.04.2007, 07:54pm (GMT12)

Key ultimatum puts smack law talks in doubt

NZPA | Wednesday, 18 April 2007

A meeting between National leader John Key and Green MP Sue Bradford over smacking laws has been thrown in to doubt.

On Tuesday, Mr Key called for cross-party talks to see if a compromise could be found on the controversial bill which has split Parliament, but today said it was pointless unless Ms Bradford and Prime Minister Helen Clark first renounced a strongly held position.

Ms Bradford today said she would meet with Mr Key next week and invited him to let her know what his “new approach” to the bill would be.

However doubts about the meeting being held, let alone achieving anything, were created immediately when Mr Key said it was pointless meeting unless Ms Bradford and Miss Clark agreed to a concession first.

“There’s no point in proceeding unless Sue Bradford and Helen Clark will accept that light smacking for the purposes of correction will be illegal under their proposals,” Mr Key said.

“That is the first step towards finding some common ground.”

Ms Bradford said Mr Key had “effectively torpedoed” the proposed talks.

“I now find that unless I agree to change my bill in the way that he wants even before the talks begin, he seems no longer willing to meet with me,” Ms Bradford said.

“The conciliatory talk of compromise and mutual agreement now looks more like a demand for surrender.”

The bill would not criminalise good parents, she said.

Ms Bradford said she was still willing to talk to Mr Key and meet with his caucus, but he could not make unilateral demands.

Neither Miss Clark nor Ms Bradford have ever agreed to the argument put forward by Mr Key.

The bill changes section 59 of the Crimes Act and removes the statutory defence of “reasonable force” against assault on a child.

Opponents say it will turn parents into criminals for smacking children while supporters say it will stop people using the defence to get away with serious assaults.

Ms Bradford has never accepted that the bill will make light smacking illegal, instead arguing it only removed a defence against assault and did not create a new offence of smacking.

A Green Party spokesman said Ms Bradford had hoped Mr Key would bring a fresh approach to the meeting, but the ultimatum seemed to make that unlikely.

In light of Mr Key’s statement discussions were being held to see whether the meeting would take place, the spokesman said.

Mr Key said that Labour should explain how the bill in its current form won’t criminalise parents.

“No matter how you read this bill in its present form it will be illegal to lightly smack for the purposes of correction,” Mr Key said.

Before Mr Key’s statement, Ms Bradford said National should not imagine the meeting would breath life into an amendment put forward by National MP Chester Borrows.

“It is always useful to search for grounds for compromise, Mr Key has however already stated. . . that the Borrows amendment – which sought to define the forms and degree of acceptable violence towards children – is likely to be defeated in Parliament.

“It should therefore be clear to Mr Key that an approach based on the Borrow amendment is now effectively dead in the water, and it can not hope to be revived by him via his discussions with me.”

Ms Bradford had also agreed to meet the National Party caucus on May 1, the day before the bill is brought back to the house.

She also wanted Mr Key to meet with representatives of organisation which backed her bill such as Plunket and Barnados.

On Tuesday, Mr Key opened the door to talks saying most MPs wanted:

  • To prevent violence against children being protected by the defence of reasonable force;
  • Not to criminalise good parents who occasionally gave their children a light smack;
  • To lower the threshold for what was considered acceptable physical discipline.Any meeting with Labour also looks unlikely as even before Mr Key’s statement demanding a concession Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope was sceptical.Mr Benson-Pope said Mr Key’s comments about where he stood on the issue were confusing and vague and National had scaremongered about the bill rather than properly debate it.

    “I want to assure John Key that the Government would not support any measure that would criminalise good parents,” he said.

    Debate on the bill is next to be held on May 2, where the Borrows’ amendment is likely to be defeated.

    At this point it has the numbers to pass when its final stages are debated on a later sitting day.

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