Conservatives want repeal of anti-smacking law

Colin Craig
Colin Craig
Colin Craig says the Conservative Party won't be pushing for the repeal of the gay marriage law or legalised prostitution after next year's election, but would try to get the anti-smacking law overturned.

The party's position is that such issues should be decided by referendum. The smacking issue had been put to a referendum but the gay marriage issue and legalising prostitution had not.

"Until we have had referendums on those other two, I can't see how we can overrule the conscience vote in Parliament.

"The real mandate to change those things has to come from the people," Mr Craig told the Herald.

The 2009 referendum asking should a smack "as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand" resulted in a 56.09 per cent turnout with 87.4 per cent saying no.

It was a response to a 2007 act which abolished the use of reasonable force by parents as justification for disciplining children, although police have the discretion not to prosecute in the use of force against a child when it is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in prosecuting.

"I do think there is a mandate from the people to change that and I do think that is something we could reasonably ask for a change."

Mr Craig said the smacking law was clearly not working because child abuse rates had not gone down.

On the questions of same-sex marriage, he said it would be "rather naive to think you are going to change the redefinition of marriage" given the overwhelming vote in the House on it in April, with 77 votes in favour and 44 against.

"The only way it would change is if it went to a referendum of New Zealanders and they said by clear majority 'change it'."

The law legalising prostitution was passed in 2003. A petition to force a citizens' initiated referendum was begun by two former United Future MPs and now Conservative Party members, Larry Baldock and Gordon Copeland, but they failed to get the requisite number of signatures.

- Audrey Young of the New Zealand Herald


As the rate of abuse has not diminished any may even be on the rise, and youth crime has risen since this law was introduced , this law has done nothing to fix the problem and has only hamstrung and criminalised otherwise good parents.
The police use two statistics - apprehension and conviction rates. Police and officials often quote the conviction rate, which has dropped to about 23% of 1994 levels (735 in 1994 , 174 in 2011/12) but don't point out that since 97/98, 4 of 5 offences don't and are dealt with via other means (source Ministry Of Justice) ,
While non serious offending has been trending down since 1994 (a trend observed in most of the Western world) ,there was no noticeable change to this pattern with the introduction of this law in 2007 and violent crimes have been on the increase.(source MOJ).
Despite the decrease in total crime, violent youth offences have risen by 33 per cent since 1994. The numbers peaked in the two years to 2010 with 4016 offences. However there was a 20 per cent reduction in these figures in 2011, which is the lowest it has been in a decade, but one year does not make a trend. (Source statistics NZ)
in summary at best this law has had no noticeable effect; at at worst may have contributed to an increasingly violent youth of NZ. [Abridged]


Certainty and ilk?

"How does Granth and others of his ilk know with such adamantine certainty that those who did not experience either extreme - neither brutal violence nor being raised without smacking (though possibly not without hurtful alternatives such as messages of withdrawal of affection) - are best placed to judge the effect of smacking on all children in all circumstances?"

What makes you conclude, Hype.O, that I could have only experienced either of your two "extreme" experiences? I haven't mentioned my upbringing for you to, apparently, "know" such things. And so this "certainty" of yours is just a guess.

However, on the presumption that a withdrawal of affection is somehow an extreme measure, this depends on when a physical expression of affection is withdrawn. It makes no sense, and merely adds confusion for the child, if affection is shown towards a child whose conduct has only just distressed others. If affection is shown during such a circumstance, then it is only a demonstration of a lie. If a parent feels angry about a conduct then it is important the child gets to see that the parent is angry about it. And to help the child see this is for the parent to express it by simply speaking and acting in ways which may only consist of instructions without any fun element, maybe for quite a reasonable amount of time, in order to teach the child to use the blank space (of no fun time) to reflect. If excitement, of either fun or its opposite (volatility), fills up that potential reflection space, then a good learning opportunity could be lost.

How can you tell?

Granth asserts that "adults" whom come out with statements, such as "getting smacked never did me any harm", are merely just expressing how much their ability to think clearly has been harmed. It's an interesting point of view.  What puzzles me is how does he know that it is the ones who were smacked and think it did not harm them are wrong, whose "understanding and imagination" have been limited?  

Some others grew up experienced  brutal physical punishment, and I can easily believe that this had adverse effects on them; violence is traumatic at any age.  Others' childhoods included being smacked within firm but fair parenting where boundaries were set and enforced in the variety of ways that communicated effectively according to the individuial child, its stage of development, and the situation. By way of definition here, I mean the attention-getting smack that is no less than 80% dramatic demonstration of extreme displeasure accompanied by a verbal message of what the child had done and how next time she should do the right thing.  Wrong I likewise define as actions dangerous to itself or others, hurting other people or animals, and deliberate defiance of reasonable authority because children need boundaries to feel safe within, as well as to push at during their growing-up.

How does Granth and others of his ilk know with such adamantine certainty that those who did not experience either extreme - neither brutal violence nor being raised without smacking (though possibly not without hurtful alternatives such as messages of withdrawal of affection) - are best placed to judge the effect of smacking on all children in all circumstances? 


Hitting one's child is merely a demonstration of one's still existant sense of powerlessness. Actual power requires a less lazy approach than just striking out at someone much smaller. It requires an inspection and remembering of what it feels like to be a child. And those "adults" whom come out with statements, such as "getting smacked never did me any harm", are merely just expressing how much their ability to think clearly has been harmed, which therefore has limited their own understanding and imagination.

The psychology

As previously stated; the "power" over your child doesn't come from ownership. It is due to responsibility for the child which is different to ownership. Hence most people don't see it appropriate to smack another person's child but are incensed that the Labour/Green Govt chose to interfere with the parenting of their own children.

Looking at the bigger and more current picture, I believe credit is due for Colin Craig who has cleverly raised this maligned law to remind those voters of what happened last time we had Greens near power. The fact leftists are relentlessly mocking him (to the point some have been sanctioned) shows how far he has come as previously they pretended he didn't exist. Now he not only gets more air time but he gets the sympathy factor which right wing politicians don't often get! This leaves National to trumpet their economic gains and forecasts, all of which is detracting media attention from their true shortcomings and (more importantly) their opposition. That's the psychology in this debate today!


So what do you think might be the (possibly subconscious) reasons for it being unlawful to "smack" another parent's child while it was OK to "smack" one's own? What may be the society psychology behind that? 

And I would think there would be far more risk of  psychological/emotional harm perpetrated on a child if he/she received it from someone they are expected to trust, frankly. 

The line

Agreed Albert Square, respecting elders is not so black and white as my comment suggested.

Disagreed Granth, few parents think their children are possessions. To suggest such is to distort the debate.

Nail on the head Lynden, couldn't put it better myself (obviously).

Jailing of children

Good points, Lynden. No, I don't advocate such, nor the short, sharp, shock lesson of detaining under 18s without charge. NZ did run prisons for juveniles, they were called Industrial Schools. I think good parenting is the parents' business, except the risk factor is an angry adult hitting a small person. I don't agree with physical punishment as the 'Correction' of choice.

To Lynden

We are under psychological care. Its called the State. After all, what is the State for other than to provide rules for many who obviously need rules (in order to maintain a certain level of enforcement of encourage these many to care for one another)? Any care encouraged or enforced has to have psychological consequences, because what is a phychology other than a measure of well-being.

And part of state-provided "psychological care" provisions are the sharing of economic resources we refer to as taxes.

As for "incarceration", we are restrained (quite often and fortunately, if authorities are also well psychologically assessed) by societal limits.


Good smacking?

Submitted by sv3nn0 on Tue, 17/12/2013.

"Assault is defined as sudden, violent attack, which is not the case in the good parental version of smacking. Most parents count to three to give the child a chance to mend their ways therefore it's not sudden. A proper smack will certainly not harm the child."

1. A countdown to a smack (assault) is merely a threat of assault. 

2. Before the new law, it was lawful to assault one's child and lawful to threaten assault of one's child.

3. Also before the new law, it was unlawful to assault another parent's child or threaten assault of another parent's child (and also just unlawful to assault and threaten assault of any other, regardless of age).

So what are the only differences here?

The difference appears to be only about presumptions of ownership of children as if they are material possessions. This is the problem.

This is the problem, because if someone damaged an actual personal material possession, an object as apposed to a person, then obviously this only becomes the problem (to resolve) of the owner of the object. Also, the object does not care (because it cannot feel) if it is damaged.

One's children are not one's material possessions.

And our laws should reflect this fact for the benefit of society as a whole, and discourage those whom do not have the emotional intelligence to work this for themselves.


To Granth

re:  Nonsensical policy

Actually our history is the evidence against what you claim, if you were correct the majority our very society would be incarcerated or under pyschological care.


To Albert

re:  Old delinquents

Answer: we process them through a court of law, then fine/jail or otherwise punish them, are you advocating this for children as well. The major difference is adults know the consquences of their actions but children have to learn them, ideally this is achieved without a smack, however this last resort should still be available to use as necessary.

Not all authority worthy of respect

sv3, you are right that children should respect their (actual) parents. But not all Authority, every elder, no matter what. One tragic example is the 13-year-old killed by her mother's ex partner in Christchurch, a man who expected 'respect '.


You might want to check the Crimes Act definition - there doesn't even need to be contact between parties

- assault means the act of intentionally applying or attempting to apply force to the person of another, directly or indirectly, or threatening by any act or gesture to apply such force to the person of another, if the person making the threat has, or causes the other to believe on reasonable grounds that he or she has, present ability to effect his or her purpose; and to assault has a corresponding meaning

Some definition

Assault is defined as sudden, violent attack, which is not the case in the good parental version of smacking. Most parents count to three to give the child a chance to mend their ways therefore it's not sudden. A proper smack will certainly not harm the child. While not originally assault, smacking is indeed now unlawful, but only because of the Green Party. The police hardly even use the law!

Smacking when it is not assault is not abuse as abuse must be harmful, injurious, wrong etc.

Smacking as part of good parental correction is not confusing. There are clear lines of what is acceptable and what is not and if the line is crossed it is indeed abuse but that's not smacking. Yet smacking is illegal and children continue to be abused.


Nonsensical policy

There is no data or evidence in your statement that those youths whom apparently have no respect and are not apparently aware of consequences are those which are parented by respectful or understanding parents. Assualting a child is emotional harm, threatening assault is emotional harm, and just not attending to them by being distant and unavailable is emotional harm. All these factors contribute toward the confusion of the youth, and confused people commit atrocities across the spectrum. Alcohol also contributes significantly to confused states of mind.

Allowing a parent to assault their child while maintaining laws which criminalise a person for assaulting another, or assaulting another adult's child, is a very confused way of looking at things and using such view for implimenting policy. A child or youth looking at such confused policy would have good reason to think that the so-called "adult" policy-makers were the ones requiring a good smacking.

In other words, they would not see anything about it that deserves respect. Such a lack of discipline represented in such uneven and nonsensical policy could only encourage reactions which contribute to a generally insane communtity standard.

Parental power

The parent does have to have power over the child but it's misleading to call it abuse - either psychological or physical. It's this misleading attitude that leads to misbehaviour later in life because respect for authority and elders begins in the home at a young age.

An appropriate smack is part good parenting and this is a good example of why the Green Party should never get near power again (and the rejected anti-smacking referendum has given John Key strong moral ground to disregard the asset sales referendum).

We have seen own goals from all angles by the Green Party. More interestingly the voters have been reminded of the own goals by new comer Colin Craig who most left wing commentators are mocking, which ironically means he is making good progress as they now have to try and marginalise him.

Emotional punishments worse than smacking?

With smacking being banned many parents use emotional punishments to discipline their children which can be more damaging psychologically than a clip around the ears. A fear parents have about having children is that they won't be able to control their kids and banning smacking does nothing to allay that fear. Removing parents' rights can lead to fewer people wanting to have children and causing the problem where the only people wanting children are those seeking a larger benefit. In an ideal world children shouldn't be smacked but the alternative is mental problems caused by parents using emotional and psychological tactics to keep their kids in line.

Old delinquents

So, how do we discipline the criminal elderly: drug dealers, tax evaders, fraudsters? Don't blame the young for all social irresponsibility.


If you were correct then several generations of Kiwis should be ill-disciplined louts - but they are not. The government should not penalise parents for instilling and enforcing good behaviour and if neccarsary using a smack as a last resort . What they should be doing is drastically increasing the penalties and the support for parents who beat or unjustifably use physical punishment on their kids.

I have worked in the army, in hospitalty, and as a security officer, and have noticed a marked increase in the number of youths with no respect for others who think they can do anything they like without there being any consquence  for their actions.

For a law to be effective it must do more good than harm, but this law since its inception has done nothing to abate the rates of abuse and has led to a marked increase in youths misbehaving because the parents no longer have the confidence to discipline their kids even with others punishments.

It was often the sheer shock of an otherwise benevolent parent resorting to a smack , as much as the punishment itself, that made kids realise that their behavior was drastically out of line.

'Smacking' - I mean assault

Assaulting one's child, if used as a first resort, is a strategy based on parental failure. As a last resort, it is merely a more obvious example of parental failure.

Children generally learn from example. Assaulting one's child is a failure of personal discipline. So, all an assaulter is teaching their child is a lack of discipline.

Anti-smacking debate

I have to admit, non-violence as a rule does sound clean and easy, however it is not as easy as that in the real world. Even the highly venerated Nelson Mandela held to violence as a last resort when all other methods ceased to be effective.

Have you ever heard of "tough love"? Often when a child is hit, it is a last resort with the child himself in mind - the child's safety for instance - when a parent simply cannot be around (for a few minutes) to ensure that the child does not severely hurt himself or another child.

We should also bring back corporal punishment to schools and after-school programmes if the parents agree to it. I will be open and honest here: I have three boys who I have treated equally. One boy has been booted out of every after school programme he has been put in because he must be constantly monitored - something the after-school programmes were unable to cope with. And the goverment provides nothing to ease the pressure on us as parents. The goverment should now count the cost of the anti-smacking law, and provide the extra necessary support!

Repeal of anti-smacking law

I find it absolutely incredulous that the conservative party wants to repeal the anti-smacking law because:

a) 'child abuse rates had not gone down' and

b) the referendum initiated by the conservative faction was overwhemingly tossed out by New Zealanders

I realise that the conservatives are trying to bring ACT voters into their fold - but please take on a real issue and let's not be the cause of any more suffering to our children.

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