Currently there is a bill before New Zealand Parliament to make it illegal for parents to hit their children. While New Zealand does have shocking domestic and child violence statistics this bill will mean a parent could be charged for even administering a light smack.
At the moment the law allows for a child to be smacked as long as "reasonable force" is used. The problem with the current legislation is the term reasonable force is not defined so what is reasonable to one person may be entirely different to someone else so it does little to give clear boundaries about what is legal and what is not.
Clearly something needed to changed but sadly the bill that has been presented to parliament seeks to make criminals out of well meaning parents. The bill's sponsor Sue Bradford would say that this not the intention of the legislation at and that it is unlikely the police would ever arrest someone for lightly hitting a child. However at the same time she is not willing to have her bill amended in anyway to allow for parents to lightly smack children.
The best suggestion has come from national MP Chester Burrows who has suggested an amendment to the proposed bill. Mr Burrows amendment would allow parents to use limited force when disciplining children but. So it would be similar to current legislation but would be a lot more definite about what constituted discipline and what constituted violence. Sadly Sue Bradford will not consider this as an amendment to her bill and claims that this would be worse then the current legislation. She has not however offered any explanation as to why clearly defined boundaries for physical discipline of a child would be worse then what we currently have but instead has insisted that if the amendment is approved then she will withdraw the bill. Clearly a case of if you disagree with me then I'm taking my ball and going home.
With the current debate going around Jim Hopikns wrote this fantastic piece for the New Zealand Herald. In it he addresses the pressure being put on individuals to vote down the party line despite it being a conscience vote. And also the inconsistencies between the governments attitude towards child violence and their attitude to abortion.
Sadly most commentators seem to think that Bradford's bill will be accepted. What can one say except GOD DEFEND NEW ZEALAND