With Winston Peters as kingmaker, could the anti-smacking law be overturned?

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 removed the defence of 'reasonable force'. Photo credit: Getty

With Winston Peters in a position to decide the next Government, Family First is looking forward to a repeal of - or at least a referendum on - the so-called 'anti-smacking law'.

The conservative lobby group says New Zealand First is "now in a position to be able to protect good parents and put the focus where it should be - on rotten parents and actual abuse".

"The politicians and anti-smacking lobby groups linked good parents who smacked their children with child abusers, a notion roundly rejected - and still rejected - by New Zealanders," says director Bob McCoskrie.

"The anti-smacking law assumes that previous generations disciplined their children in a manner that was so harmful that they should now be considered criminals."

Passed in 2007, the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 removed the defence of 'reasonable force' for parents and caregivers being charged with assaulting children, and made it illegal to use smacking for correctional purposes.

Introduced by then-Green MP Sue Bradford, the Bill was set to fail, until then-Opposition leader Sir John Key reached a compromise that would allow police to use discretion in decided when to prosecute.

It eventually passed 113-8, with support from four of NZ First's seven MPs.

Bob McCoskrie
Bob Mc Coskrie. Photo credit: Newshub.

Earlier this year, Mr Peters vowed to repeal the law, saying it had resulted in "greater violence towards children".

A non-binding referendum held in 2009 asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" Barely more than half of voters responded, 87 percent of them said 'no', but the wording of the question was widely criticised and the result ignored.

"It could have been written by Dr Seuss," Sir John later said, calling the question "ridiculous".

The only other significant political party openly opposed to the anti-smacking law is the Conservative Party, which failed to get a seat at the election.

Calls to the Greens, National justice spokeswoman Amy Adams and NZ First justice spokesman Darroch Ball went unanswered.