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Just 1 National MP left voting for the Bradford Bill – “Labour lite” MP Katherine Rich.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on April 30, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Just 1 National MP left voting for the Bradford Bill – “Labour lite” MP Katherine Rich.
Monday, 30.04.2007, 07:43am (GMT12)

Katherine Rich – My smacking guilt

 5:00AM Sunday April 29, 2007
By David Fisher 

National’s only remaining supporter of the anti-smacking legislation has spoken for the first time about the guilt she has felt smacking her own children.

Education spokeswoman Katherine Rich, a mum of two, has also spoken of being isolated on the issue in her own caucus as the few supporters for the bill have vanished.

Rich’s sole remaining compatriot – Waitakere-based MP Paula Bennett – is expected to pull her support on Tuesday as a poll of West Aucklanders shows little support for it.

Other National MPs who initially indicated they would support it – Simon Power, Jackie Blue and Paul Hutchison – have already fallen in line with the rest of their caucus in opposing it.

The issue is expected to flare up again this week when the legislation returns to Parliament on Wednesday.

Rich, who lives in Dunedin with husband Andrew and children Jonathan and Georgia, said she would never smack her children again – but had smacked her son a handful of times in the past.

“I smacked Jonathan a couple of times – but I’m deeply ashamed of that. I’ve thought about those situations and it was more to do with my tiredness and inability to cope than trying to find genuine ways of directing him.

“The time when I just totally lost it because … sometimes you just lose all tolerance … he turned around to me and said, ‘Mummy, why did you do that, you’re supposed to be happy’.

“I decided very early on it didn’t serve any purpose. I recall seeing the fear on his face when I raised my hand. I realised I was the one out of control – he was just being a child.”

She said one of the two occasions that she could remember smacking, came after Jonathan had placed himself in danger.

“I realised how silly it was to deliver a message about safety by hitting someone. It would have been better to pick him up and remove him from the situation.”

Rich said she was hesitant to tell others how to raise their children. But, in her household, the family now used ‘time-out’ for the children, or television bans, to deal with misbehaviour. She could recall being smacked once as a child after breaking glass in the family lounge while bouncing a netball off the wall.

“This debate touches everybody’s life. The reason grandparents are exercised about it is because they perceive this whole debate as being a reflection on their parenting. It shouldn’t be about judging people.”

She said she was not expecting to be left as the lone National Party voice supporting the bill.

“It’s not really as I had predicted. But you don’t change your mind because it gets lonely.”

Years of research and much thought had gone into her decision to support Green MP Sue Bradford’s bill, which removes a defence for assault for parents who use physical discipline on children. It was a serious decision because it was out of step with the party’s view. “At the start, it wasn’t just me. But should I change my mind because I’m the last one?

“You come to Parliament to make judgements and this has been one of the biggest political issues. Sometimes it’s important to just show some strength.

“Should I collapse in a great heap now because it’s tough? What kind of a decision maker would you be if you flip-flopped because you’re on your own.”

Rich said she had been lobbied by fellow National MPs, but she had not actively sought support in the party.

She had also decided not to voice her views in Parliament, where many MPs have opted to speak on the issue. “That is out of respect for the party. Its position is pretty clear.”

She hadn’t expect her stand to have wider implications. “There are always consequences of holding an alternative position.”

In this case, the consequence was that she stood out – and her family became a target when one smacking advocate made a threat aimed at Rich’s children. “That rocked me to my core. When we go into politics you expect a certain amount of criticism. It’s quite a different thing when your family are involved, particularly when you have small kids. That would be the toughest period.”

She said she was “surprised” the police had decided not to lay charges but would not question the decision. “She’s a mother with young baby herself and I don’t want to add to the challenges she’s already facing. I know what that’s like.”

Rich also spoke against the pro-smacking lobby’s support for the Timaru woman who was found not guilty of assault after discipling one of her children with a riding crop.

The woman is currently facing fresh assault charges relating to another of her children.

“There has been some unfortunate hysteria about this issue. Take the Timaru horsewhip lady – she should pipe down because there is more to that case than the media is reporting. The pro-smackers should not use her as a poster girl for parenting.”

Many extreme – and public – cases of child abuse involved parents who thought they were using appropriate force, said Rich. The repeal of Section 59 would send a message that using physical force against children was not appropriate.

“Criminalising is such an emotive word. If you drive at 101km/h, that doesn’t make you a criminal. But if you drive at 140km/h, then it’s far more clear-cut.

“The whole debate has been about parents’ rights. Most of the debate I’ve listened to hasn’t been about children at all. I believe children should have the same rights as adults with assault laws. Parents will still smack their kids. This bill won’t stop child abuse – but it sure helps convict the people who engage in it.”

Ideally, said Rich, she would rather parents stopped smacking altogether. “You won’t stop it because a lot of it happens when parents are at their wits’ end.

“But it would be good if we found other ways to guide our children.”

Wife, mother … and MP

* Age: 39

* Family: Husband Andrew, and children Jonathan, five, and Georgia, four.

* Portfolio: Currently education. Previously welfare, business development.

* Elected: 1999

* Ranking: Originally 23rd on the list, briefly 4th and currently 8th.

* Successes: Exposed the $26,000 government funded research tour on hip-hop, which led to an overhaul of an official grants scheme.

* Scandals: Rich was dropped down the list after failing to fully support a “tough on welfare” speech by then leader Don Brash. She lost the welfare portfolio and was demoted.

One National voice out of 48 backs Bradford bill

 5:00AM Saturday April 28, 2007
By Audrey Young 

National MP Katherine Rich is likely to be the last MP standing in her caucus of 48 who supports Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking bill when it finally passes.

“It is not what I expected,” she said last night. “But I am privileged to be in a party that allows me to express those views.”

She said National had always had a “small pocket” of social liberals.

“When Ralph Hannan [Justice Minister in the Holyoake Government] started talking about the equal distribution of matrimonial property and getting rid of capital punishment, people thought he was a nut. But slowly over time the community changes.”

The National caucus has allowed a free vote on the Bradford bill, which bans the use of physical punishment on children.

West Auckland list MP Paula Bennett was thought to be another supporting the private member’s bill but she said she had not made up her mind and had sent out 19,000 letters to voters seeking their views in a telephone poll.

By yesterday she had received only 200 replies and 66 per cent wanted her to oppose the bill, so on the basis of that she probably would.

 

“I am honestly and genuinely conflicted,” Ms Bennett said.

National Party leader John Key said he was quite relaxed about Mrs Rich’s position.

Mr Key said he had not given up attempting to gain support for an amendment that would state that minor and inconsequential smacks by parents would not be covered by the bill.

But Ms Bradford, a Green MP, confirmed yesterday that she would withdraw the bill if that happened anyway.

Mr Key plans to contact Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia over the weekend and New Zealand First MPs next week.

Meanwhile, the Anglican Church is organising an ecumenical service for peace in families at the Wellington Cathedral on Wednesday at 1pm.

At the same time, across the road at Parliament, Destiny Church will hold a protest rally to mark the return of the bill to the debating chamber.

The Anglican Church’s social justice commissioner, Anthony Dancer, said last night that the rally would involve Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians and other mainstream church members on an individual basis.


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