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Anti-smacking debate goes to referendum

Monday 15 Jun 2009 5:53 p.m.

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The child-smacking debate is back in the spotlight with confirmation the country will vote on a citizens-initiated referendum.

Opinion is divided over the referendum; those who initiated the referendum insist it is needed, while others argue that the question being asked is pointless.

The question being asked is: Should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

The referendum will follow Green MP Sue Bradford's controversial bill outlawing force or violence being used to discipline children.

Murray Edridge of Barnados says the question is loaded and ambiguous.

The question is misleading; the question presupposes that smacking is a part of good parental correction,” he says.

“I would argue that, it also says parents who smack their children are likely to become criminals and neither of those things are correct.”

Prime Minister John Key concurs with Mr Edridge saying the question risks being “ambiguous”.

Voting forms will soon be mailed out to registered voters and the referendum will also be advertised on TV.

The cost of the campaign is almost nine million dollars, but Family First's Bob McCoskrie says that is the price of democracy.

“We had a law that was passed right against the will of the people, most of the polls said 80 percent of people opposed the anti-smacking law,” he says.

“This referendum is a chance for people to say their say because they thought the politicians wouldn't listen.”

Bradford says the whole exercise is a waster of taxpayer’s money, as a Government review will be happening.

Since the law passed in 2007, only one Christchurch parent, Jimmy Mason, has been prosecuted.

In the same time period 13 children have died due to child abuse.

Key says the real test is whether the law is working, he believes it is.

Voting runs from July 31 to August 21, but regardless of the outcome the result is not binding and the law is likely to remain unchanged.

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