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Family First hits a home run on Helen Clark – Clark hurting.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on July 14, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Family First hits a home run on Helen Clark – Clark hurting.
Monday, 02.07.2007, 10:40pm (GMT12)

PM backs minister in child smacking row

10:35AM Monday July 02, 2007
By Audrey Young 

David Cunliffe

David Cunliffe

The Smacking Debate

The Prime Minister has come to the defence of Cabinet minister David Cunliffe who is embroiled in a controversy over whether he smacked his 2-year son at a mall.

A witness at New Lynn mall claims to have seen Mr Cunliffe smack his child on the hand to punish him for having hit another child, according to the lobby group Families First. The group strongly opposed the anti-smacking bill passed by Parliament.

Mr Cunliffe’s version is quite different: “My 2-year-old was pulling at a little girl,” he said in a statement.

“I pulled his hand away and calmly told him not to do that.”

Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was astounded that what she calls an extremist organisation had chosen to drag a small child into the debate, simply because the child’s father is an MP.

Miss Clark said Mr Cunliffe acted within the law, but she expected opponents of the anti-smacking legislation would still make an issue of it.

“I can imagine that these obsessed people will look for ways of making vexatious complaints,” she said.

If a complaint is laid, police have protocols in place to deal with the issue, Miss Clark said.

The national director of Families First, Bob McCoskrie, said last night that while he believed Mr Cunliffe had done the right thing in correcting his son for his behaviour, under the new law the police would have been obliged to investigate had a complaint been laid. The police would then have had the discretion not to prosecute.

He said he had highlighted the case to expose what he thinks is a bad law.

“He carried out what any half-decent parent would do. So this is a perfect example of where we have created a law where someone like David Cunliffe could be prosecuted or at least someone could make a complaint and you would have to be investigated.”

Under the new law, it is an offence to smack a child for the purpose of punishment, but it is not an offence to physically stop a child from harming another child.


In compromise wording to the law agreed to by Prime Minister Helen Clark and National leader John Key, the police have been given explicit discretion not to prosecute in the case of inconsequential smacks where it is not in the public interest.

Mr Cunliffe’s version suggests he was doing the latter, preventing his son from hurting another child.

Mr McCoskrie’s version suggests that Mr Cunliffe technically breached the law but that it would be among those cases deemed to be too inconsequential to prosecute. However Mr McCoskrie believed the police could be obliged under guidelines to prosecute after a second or third minor or inconsequential smack, if a complaint was made, and refer the case to Child, Youth and Family.

“People like David Cunliffe are at risk of basically a law which brands him a criminal for doing what any other person deems reasonable and appropriate.”

Mr Cunliffe said that if Family First cared about families, “they would not be dragging the small children of MPs into a public debate”.

“I will not lower myself to Family First’s level by making any further comment.”

Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr Cunliffe, the MP for New Lynn and Immigration Minister, had not attended yesterday’s Labour Party rally in West Auckland because of the incident. Mr Cunliffe and his wife were “distressed” by the publicity.

She said the Families First organisation, which issued a press statement about Mr Cunliffe smacking his toddler, should rebrand itself “Families Last”.

“What public interest is there in dragging that small child into the limelight because his father is a public figure?”

Asked if it was a case of Mr Cunliffe having committed a technical breach but it being too inconsequential to prosecute, she said: “There is no public interest served in a prosecution for an incident that is absolutely inconsequential and trivial and the law always envisaged that parents would restrain children from danger or harm to others.”


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