The New Zealand Truth has become the Truth Weekender, so the publication both there and here of my regular article there will be a bit later in the week from now on. This week I focus on the aftermath of the child discipline referendum.
Last week the result of the child discipline referendum came out.
There is no question that the number of those voting ‘no’ was stunningly high.
However, I would have a lot more respect for the outcome of the refendum if the question originally asked had been a lot clearer.
In the last few days of the referendum period I increasingly came across people who said they totally supported the law change we achieved two years ago, but who also voted ‘no’.
I genuinely believe that the ambiguous and confused question put to voters has resulted in an ambiguous and confused answer.
It is also a fact that when the number of people who didn’t vote at all (46%) is added to the number of those who voted ‘yes’ or who spoilt their ballot papers, a slight majority of New Zealanders did not support a law change, whatever the interpretation of ‘no’.
And of course children and young people don’t get to vote, even though they are the people most affected. When you take this factor into account, 33% of New Zealanders voted ‘no.’
I am therefore pleased that earlier this week the Prime Minister John Key reaffirmed his Government’s position of sticking with the law as it is
He confirmed that until or unless there is evidence of New Zealand parents being criminalized for trivial or inconsequential assaults on their children, he plans to leave things as they are.
Mr Key also announced three measures he hope will allay the fears some parents have that they will be criminalized for trivial assaults on their children.
He is asking the Police and CYFS to take a look at processes around how they deal with those who abuse children; bringing forward an MSD review of how the child discipline law change is working in practice; and asking Police to continue 6 monthly reports on the operation of the law.
All of these steps are quite sensible in an environment where people continue to be so anxious about the ramifications of the new law.
I hope that despite the pressure now bearing down on them that John Key and the National Government will continue to stick to their principles.
After all, in 2007 they voted for a law change which finally gave children the right to the same legal protection from violence as we parents have.
I hope no New Zealand Government ever buckles to demands coming from some of the supporters of the ‘No’ vote campaign to reinstate a law allowing for parents to legally beat their children, including with implements.
This debate around child discipline has been raging for four years now.
It would be good to have some breathing space for a while to allow the law to bed in, and for rational reviews and research to take place so we can all understand what is really going on.
I also hope the Government will put more resources into some of the things that can really make a difference – for example, by increased access to parenting education, and lifting funding to groups which help support families and children.