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Clark and Bradford fronted with the truth – and found wanting.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 21, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Clark and Bradford fronted with the truth – and found wanting.
Thursday, 19.04.2007, 10:35am (GMT12)

Fragile smacking truce short-lived

By COLIN ESPINER – The Press | Thursday, 19 April 2007

A fledgling truce between the Government and the Opposition over Green Party MP Sue Bradford’s child-discipline bill appears to be over.


Only a day after the Government cautiously accepted an olive branch from National Party leader John Key to find a way through the split on the proposed legislation, both sides were back to trading blows yesterday.

Bradford had agreed to address National’s caucus over her bill, which would remove the defence of “reasonable force” from Section 59 of the Crimes Act, except where parents are attempting to protect their child from harm or causing harm.

A meeting between Key and Bradford had been tentatively scheduled for 9am next Thursday.

Key said in a speech to the Salvation Army in Christchurch on Tuesday that he believed he, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Bradford could find new wording for the bill that prevented parents who beat their children using Section 59 as a defence while not criminalising those who “lightly smack”.

He appeared to qualify his stance yesterday, saying he would meet them only if they accepted that light smacking would become illegal under the current wording of the Bradford bill.

“The Greens and Labour now have an opportunity to get closer to the public they serve by agreeing they’ve got a major problem with the current wording,” Key said.

“But 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.

“For me, a result that sees the criminalisation of parents for a light smack is simply not on the table.”

Neither the Greens nor Labour has accepted this, arguing that all forms of physical discipline are already illegal under the Crimes Act and the bill does not ban smacking at all.

Bradford called Key’s latest comments a U-turn and expressed disappointment that he “may have effectively torpedoed” the proposed talks by insisting that she must agree beforehand to change her bill to reflect his point of view.

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

“Mr Key simply cannot make unilateral demands to have (his) position adopted by me regardless, and certainly not if he wishes to be seen as a moderate, bridge-building politician.”

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope, who is the Government minister responsible for Bradford’s bill, said he was disappointed by Key’s change of heart but not surprised.

“It’s clear now that John Key was never serious about these discussions and was simply looking for a publicity stunt to get himself back in the news,” Benson-Pope said.

“This has all backfired badly on Mr Key.”

Key and Bradford say they are still prepared to talk to each other but Benson-Pope said there now appeared to be little point in such a meeting since Key was simply playing politics.

Key’s office denied he had changed his position, saying he was only repeating the remarks made in his speech.

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