Last night’s meeting with John Boscawen, Bob McCoskrie, Jim Evans and Larry Baldock on amending s59 of the Crimes Act to decriminalise the use of reasonable force for the purposes of parental correction was encouraging. The main themes I came away with from each speaker were:
John Boscawen - ACT Party MP
John Boscawen has not given up on his Bill and will use the time between now and 15 October 09, the date he expects his Bill to go to first reading, to rally support for it. He needs us to keep the issue live. So commenters, keep commenting; bloggers keep blogging. Everyone keep the pressure on the MP’s, especially the Nats and everyone keep an eye out for public meetings as John travels around and turn up to them with friends – we want the media to be able to report that there are bums on seats everywhere he goes in support of this Bill.
Despite John Key’s refusal to act, keep in mind that MP’s feel political pressure, they are human beings, they are not immune to it.
Jim Evans - Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Auckland
Professor Evans confirmed that the dominant purpose of any act of force in the course of parenting cannot be correction. He spoke of his concern for the danger to the rule of law caused by reliance on police discretion for acts that are clearly criminal. He said it might be one thing for the police to exercise discretion over issuing a traffic fine but when it comes to criminal acts it is not an adequate solution. If you have a situation where conduct that should not be criminal in fact is then the solution is not to just not prosecute but to change the law.
Highlighting Fitzgerald v Muldoon  2 NZLR 615 (NZSC) he spoke of the legal principle that required this contained in the Bill of Rights Act 1689, Article 1, which provides:
- “That the pretended power of suspending of laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal.”
Essentially this means that only parliament can change the law and it must make a statute to do so. Professor Evans pointed out that being governed by discretion, as opposed to law, makes it impossible for one to stand on the law.
Bob McCoskrie – Family First
Bob spoke on research on the real causes of child abuse and called for more action on that. Not one, even those done by the likes of UNICEF, CYFS and the Children’s Commissioner, cited smacking as a cause. I support this research and action being done but not by government.
He also put up some excellent quotes:
John’s Key speaking on Radio Live on 4 Sept 09 at 11:40 am to Michael Laws:
“It’s a complete and utter dog’s breakfast – let’s acknowledge that”, that it’s badly drafted, “extremely vague”, and “we believe the Borrows amendment was the right place to settle.”
[I won a chocolate bar at the meeting for knowing who said that - it was very nice]
Sue Bradford’s contradictory and confusing statements on the law;
Will ban smacking: “Greens draw up their own anti-smacking bill”
Won’t ban smacking:
Sue Bradford: “It won’t be legal but that won’t mean…
Barry Soper (interviewer): “So it’s banning smacking.”
Bradford: “No it’s not”
Smacking is banned: “Ms Bradford says parents need to accept that it is no longer legal to hit children.”
Smacking isn’t banned: “Smacking has never been a criminal offence, and still isn’t”
Smacking already banned: “it is already illegal to smack children but her bill removes a defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction.” (March 2007)
There is no such law:
“There is no specific law relating to smacking on New Zealand’s statute books. People like Mr McCoskrie have fostered a myth that what has happened is that a new law has been created that specifically outlaws smacking. This is simply not true.”
Smacking bill won’t help: “The epidemic of child abuse and child violence in this country continues – sadly. My bill was never intended to solve that problem.” (National Radio – 21 Dec 07)
Sue Bradford attempts to explain the effect of the anti-smacking law to National Radio’s Sean Plunket (18 June 2009) – click here to listen [or read Dave Crampton's summary of the interview.]
Sue Bradford says it’s not a decision that should be left to the people – watch her on YouTube.
Hat tip: Vote No
A great one by former Labour Prime Minister Michael Moore (not the faux-documentary maker) in the Herald,
The expensive, puerile, futile controversy over the ill-considered anti-smacking legislation is a monument to political cowardice and opportunism.
[Many thanks to the readers who sent these quotes to me; I have had a very bad run with pain lately and sitting through the meeting on hard plastic chairs was really difficult and I was paying for it yesterday which is why I did not hunt them down myself.]
Larry Baldock – Kiwi Party
Larry spoke of his plans to promote another referendum; a non-binding referendum to ask the question “should Citizens Initiated Referenda seeking to amend or repeal a law be binding?’ He asked for people to sign up to help promote it, once it is approved by the Clerk of the House.
I did not sign up and will not help to promote it.
Direct democracy is a flawed concept. Legislating is a skill, it is not something that every person is capable of. This is why we must take care to elect skilled and capable and ethical people to parliament when we vote. We elect them to consider the issues, all of them and wisely legislate on our behalf. They should listen to the people but democracy is not mob rule, it is not and should not constitute bowing to the will of the majority. The majority can and have and continued to jump on the wrong bandwagons; the majority once supported slavery, circuses in Rome, they elected Hitler to power and in New Zealand if we held binding referenda today abortion on demand and the removal of the defence of provocation would fly through – positions that are wrong (see here and here respectively) that are held on the basis of knee-jerk emotionalism instead of reason.
Much philosophical literature has been written over the centuries against direct democracy. If I have not convinced you, read some before you sign your name to Larry’s petition or agree to help promote it.
I agree with Larry’s frustrations, I agree there is a massive problem with our political system in New Zealand but the solution is that we need an upper house. An upper house vets legislation sent up by the lower house. It is typically elected by a different system so you get quite a different makeup. Essentially it means that all legislation gets a second look by skilled, knowledgeable eyes, gets re-debated, amended and tweaked before it becomes law. This is a far better safeguard that the option to call a binding referendum where only a vague conception can be communicated to parliament in the form of the referenda question to which one can only offer a yes or a no. A bill still has to be drafted in response to a binding referendum and who gets to write that or determine how much it is in line with the referenda question?
If Larry’s petition was a clearly worded call for an upper house I would be behind him completely.