The Controversial Anti-Kid-Hitting Bill

Repeal would simply mean that children and adults would be the same in the eyes of the law in regard to assault. If section 59 is eventually fully repealed children will no longer be the only group in society who can be legally assaulted. Mild assaults (so-called little smacks) will not result in complaints to the police or to prosecutions. However serious assaults, things like beatings with implements and objects causing injuries, would no longer be excused as discipline.
Beth Wood, UNICEF (Not pictured. That’s Sue Bradford. Silly.)

The front page of the Herald tells us that a Research NZ poll found 73% of Kiwis disagreed with the repeal of section 59 and 72% believed it would be unenforceable. The journalist neglected to mention (or had no idea?) that 72% believing it’s “unenforceable” means that 72% don’t even know what the repeal will do. Awful close to the number of people opposed, isn’t it?

Interestingly, they have a huge pull quote from Bradford: My bill does not deny good parents who may occasionally smack their children, nor is it a ban on smacking.

Eh? But, Sue, we’ve spent the last few months of talkback, print and television referring to the repeal as the Controversial Anti-Smacking Bill. Wasn’t that what you titled it? I sure don’t know it as anything else.

Is it any wonder that after this sustained display of impartial, non-sensationalist reporting, 72% of New Zealanders would think that the repeal is something to be “enforced”? Is it any surprise that the public are under the impression that if the Controversial Anti-Smacking Bill is made law, its “enforcement” would involve police kicking down doors and arresting anyone slapping their kids’ hands out of the power socket?

Bev Adair, of the For the Sake of Our Children Trust (think of the children!), says that ordinary families are “aghast” that their MPs were ignoring polls showing the overwhelming ignorance of opposition to the bill. “We’ve had nice nanas out banging their petitions on posts because they feel powerless to make their feelings heard.” Think of the nice nanas! Think of the nice nanas getting angry because they don’t understand what the hell is going on.

Who’s let them down? For a start, every editor or TV news producer who’s allowed the phrase “controversial anti-smacking bill” to be used in reference to the repeal. The media is necessary for a functioning democracy. People can’t support or oppose bills when the legislation is being spun at them, not to favour one side or another, but to sensationalise and profit from the kind of interest a controversial bill with a controversial name can evoke – real or imagined.

Show me a poll that asks people what the law change does and whether or not they support it. I’d bet good money that the people who oppose the bill are overwhelmingly the people who don’t know what it does, and that the people who understand the bill are overwhelmingly the ones supporting it.

Whatever the result of the Parliamentary votes, there should be a goddam investigation of media coverage of this whole affair.

7 Comments The Controversial Anti-Kid-Hitting Bill

  1. Foaf

    The worst are the people like Simon Barnett who want to be able to “discipline within the law” as if you should only feel guilty about belting yr kids because it’s not expressly permitted in legislation.

  2. Lyndon

    For reference, the bill is currently called the ‘Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill’.

    It was originally called the ‘Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill’ which, apart from not tripping off the tongue, is widely agreed to be gramatically backwards.

    I would note that the reason “Mild assaults [for the purpose of discipline] will not result in complaints to the police or to prosecutions” are the same that mild assaults on adults don’t. Both will be illegal, just not prosecuted. With your kids it isn’t illegal now and will be if the bill is passed. So it does, in removing a defense, criminalise what they say it does.

    So it’s not wrong, but it is a way of blinkering the debate.

    Personally I want to just repeal the whole section – all of the stuff the committee added would apply even if you were hitting an adult.

    I’ll mention that as I understand it, Simon Barnett left television to go into evangelism. He’s entitled to his opinion, but it seems relevant.

  3. Ryan Sproull

    Quite right. It’s currently illegal for me to push past someone if they’re standing in my way at the entrance to a pub. I have yet to be arrested for it.

    All it’s going to mean is that people beating their kids with extension cords don’t get let go any more under Section 59. That’s what we need on the front page of the Herald:

    “Actions almost all of you consider to be terrible child abuse have gone unhindered by the law because of Section 59. Yes, technically, this repeal might make smacking your kids illegal, though you’ll never get in trouble for it. But without the repeal, it’s legal to physically abuse your kids in ways we all consider domestic violence!”

  4. James Brown

    Michael Cullen compared the current uninformed debate to that surrounding the Homosexual Law Reform Act of 1986. I’m not sure what act he means, because everyone knows its actual name was ‘the controversial Pro-Arse-Fucking Act’.

  5. Dominic

    This bill (and the ignorance that surrounds it) is the best argument against direct democracy (and for representative democracy) I have ever heard.

  6. some idiot

    I think you’re being harsh. If the media had really wanted to misrepresent this, they would have called it the ‘anti-kid hitting bill’. For the sake of a hyphen, we would have had 85% of New Zealand complaining about the damn socialist government, controlling our lives and making us beat our children. Helen Clark doesn’t have kids of her own you know, which is why she is so anti them.

    Y’know, most political opposition in this country is contrarianism and misreading. I blame Seddon.

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