In this essay, I am going to discuss, identify and outline my selected social policy; I will also explain why I selected this social policy and why it is a social policy; I will Identify and describe the interest groups who helped define this problem and have set the agenda; the objectives of this social policy will be outlined and explained, arguments of the interest groups will be linked to their political ideology or ideologies. I have chosen the “Anti-smacking Bill” because I believe that physical punishment can be ineffective and can have harmful long-term effects on children, especially if it’s severe.
It is appears clear to me that there are many other ways of disciplining children that are less harmful. Also, I believe that prosecuting parents will not necessarily lead to a decrease in child abuse. Like many other New Zealanders however, I have been a little confused by much of the argument around which is the best way to protect the interests of the children of our country.
I am also interested in how this policy affected so many groups of people that defined the policy in different ways. This bill was very controversial from the start. Politicians and focus groups have been up and arms about this bill. In 2001, The Labour-led government began considering amending the smacking law at the request of United Nations, but decided not to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which says parents can use disciplinary force against their children if it’s reasonable.
In 2001, the National party called for the law to give parents the right to use reasonable force to discipline their children. In 2003, Prime Minister Helen Clark called for smacking of children to be outlawed after UN Committee on the Rights for the Child said that New Zealand was the only country that had legislation that allowed parents to use reasonable force when it came to disciplining children. In July 2005, the Anti-smacking Bill, sponsored by Sue Bradford, passed its first hurdle in parliament with MPs voting to send it to select committee.
The bill was processed by other MPs and NZ Law society. There were concerns that this bill would turn good parents into criminals. There were also apprehensions on the lack of clear guidance about what is acceptable when disciplining a child. There were lots of groups that were lobbying against this bill but in February 2007, the Anti-smacking bill got through its second reading. MPs voted 70 to 51 in favour of the bill. Aside from all the controversy the bill was passed on May 16, 2007. This bill repeals section 59 of the Crimes Act. (One news, 2009)
The Anti-smacking bill was implemented by the government on May 16, 2007 after the bill got through its second reading in February 2007. (One news, 2009) The Anti-Smacking law provides a safe and secure environment for both children and adults and ensures positive outcomes as children grow up. The law makes it clear that physical discipline is not a necessary or acceptable part of parenting because it undermines a child’s feelings of safety and security. In addition, the law helps to ensure that a child’s right to a fair deal in the courts is respected. (Robinson, 2010) The law is designed to teach children that physical discipline is not the answer.
Violence leads to fear and distrust of adults and often does not help children understand what behavior is expected of them. (Robinson, 2010) Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints made against a parent of a child or guardian where the offence is considered to be so minor that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution. (Robinson, 2010) The Anti-Smacking Bill is a social policy because this bill has affected all New Zealanders in different ways.
This policy affected our society and our welfare in so many ways. Not all New Zealander’s believed that parents would accept being controlled by the government in this way or would answer to the police when disciplining their children. The country was truly divided on whether or not this policy would prove to be advantageous and beneficial for the parents and the children at all.
In the early 2000s Family First was one of a number of conservative groups that opposed proposed legislation restricting the use of corporal punishment on children – the so-called ‘anti-smacking’ bill. Family First declared the measure would undermine parental authority and campaigned to stop it being passed. This included a protest march along Wellington’s Lambton Quay in March 2007.
The bill became law later that year. (Miller, 2007) In fact, the Family First NZ says that the latest review of the anti-smacking law shows that the law is a complete waste of time as it fails to catch actual child abuse, wastes police resources and time, and targets non-abusive parents. (McCroskie, 2009) Mr Bob McCroskie stated the following:
“While the country struggles with the problem of the P-drug, violent crime including armed hold-ups, and boy racing which is killing our young people, the police are having to waste time running around investigating parents who use a smack,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. (McCroskrie, 2009)
He continued on saying that the prosecution rate for ‘smacking’ and ‘minor acts of physical discipline’ is as low as 5-8% and even ‘other child assaults’ have up to 20% of them only warranting a warning. This report, as with previous reports, continues to confirm that non-abusive parents are being investigated – which we always feared.” (McCroskie, 2009)
He also added that the results of this bill will be trumpeted by the supporters of the law change for doing nothing. (McCroskie, 2009)
He also pointed that If the politicians introduced a law targeting boy racers that involved a significant number of investigations but less than 10% was actually catching offenders, it would be quite obvious that the law was dysfunctional. The anti-smacking law is ideologically flawed and a complete and utter waste of time. (McCroskie, 2009)
According to ‘Family First – Mr. McCroskie, “the horror of child abuse deaths has continued since the law change”. Mr McCroskie added that Sue Bradford’s comment was quite correct when she said ‘The epidemic of child abuse and child violence in this country continues – sadly. The bill was never intended to solve that problem.’ (McCroskie, 2009)
“You know a law is completely ineffectual when the proponents applaud it because of its lack of impact and the problem and rate of child abuse remains,” says Mr McCoskrie. (McCroskie, 2009)
There are reports that families are calling on the National government to amend the law so that non-abusive smacking is not a crime, and good parents are not victims of a law which should be targeted more effectively at child abusers. The New Zealand people are crying out for laws that actually target abusers and protect abused. (McCroskie, 2009)
A poll of New Zealanders has found that 3 out 4 voters want the anti-smacking law to be amended, and the support was strongest from National, NZ First and Maori party voters. (Anti-smacking pool, 2013)
In the poll of 1,000 people undertaken by Curia Market Research, respondents were asked “Do you think the anti-smacking law should be changed to state explicitly that parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law? 77% of respondents back a law change to allow correctional smacking. 86% of National voters supported a change in the law. Only 12% of respondents thought the law change had had any effect on the rate of child abuse, with Green voters surprisingly being most skeptical.
(Anti-smacking pools, 2013) According to Craig and Barbara Smith, “Polling in 2009 and 2010 showed that parents were confused by the effect of the law because they have been given conflicting messages by the promoters of the law, legal opinions have contradicted each other, and on top of that there is ‘police discretion’ but not CYF discretion to investigate. And police guidelines state that ‘a prosecution may be warranted if such actions are repetitive or frequent’.” (Smith, 2008)
In 2009 the New Zealand public was asked to vote on a referendum regarding the question “Should a smack as a part of parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Despite an over whelming vote to the contrary the National Government chose not to make any adjustment to the Anti-smacking Law.
The purpose of this law is essentially to make better provision for children so that they can live in a safe and secure environment that is free from violence. The Anti-smacking Law pursues to achieve this by removing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction. The law makes it clear that physical discipline is not necessary or acceptable part of parenting because it undermines a child’s feelings of safety and security. (McCroskie, 2009)
The Anti-smacking rules are: Use of force correction is strictly forbidden; the law states that adults who hit children hard enough will be prosecuted. Adults caring for children can still use ‘force’ (by methods of holding or restraining) to keep children safe – for example adults can stop a child from running out onto the street, touching a hot stove, hurting themselves or other children and they can carry a protesting child out of a supermarket. (Robinson, 2009) The Anti-smacking Bill has brought up controversy from the time the bill was passed to the present.
According to the latest (17 June 2013) “Media Release”. The Family First said that since the anti-smacking law was passed in a supposed effort to lower our child abuse rates, it has been confirmed as a spectacular failure based on flawed ideology. (Independent news media, 2013) The Family First NZ are also refuting and contesting a statement that was made by Prime Minister John Key that the increased numbers of child abuse simply reflect an increase in reporting. (McCroskie, 2009) Mr Bob McCroskie has stated that “The rates of child abuse deaths have stayed at the same rate as they were before the law was passed. That certainly has nothing to do with ‘increased reporting’.
He further stated that the politicians who supported this bill should front up and admit that the anti-smacking law has been a huge flop which has targeted good parents, rather than the rotten parents who are abusing their children, and has wasted time of the police and CYF.” (Independent news media, 2013) According to a recent survey that was made Family First, out of 1,000 New Zealander’s, they found that only 12% of respondents think the law change has had any effect on the rate of child abuse. The survey also found that three out of four people back a law change to allow “correctional” smacking of children. (Independent news media, 2013)
It is my conclusion that the Anti-smacking Bill has brought up issues that have created misunderstanding and confusion for the New Zealand people. Personally, I am comfortable that children are now afforded the protection of the law, as opposed to the discrepancies of the previous legislation. I do still however believe that parents should have the right to choose how they discipline their own children.
I believe that such disciple can and should include the use of a light smack where appropriate. The discretionary role of the Police in enforcing the new legislation comes at no small cost in Police and Court resources. However, in the absence of any better alternative this would appear a cost we should all bear. No child should be ruled by fear, or live in fear.
Unfortunately, as much as the Anti-smacking Bill is serving a positive purpose it would appear that it has failed to address or reduce the more extreme cases of child abuse that continue to be as a blight on our society. This issue was the root of much the emotion in the debate around this policy. To my dismay the issue remains unresolved.
Abrahams (2009) Anti-smacking thoughts. Retrieved from http://www.abrahams.co.nz/antismacking/ Family First Press release (2013). Smacking law as spectacular failure. Retrieved from http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1306/S00202/smacking-law-confirmed-as-spectacular-failure.htm Farrar, D. (2009) Anti-smacking proposed. Retrieved from http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2009/03/anti-smacking_amendment_proposed.html
McCroskie, B. (2009) Sue Bradsford Anti Smacking. Smacking law complete and utter waste of time. Retrieved from https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/research/anti-smacking-polls/ . Manukau City Miller, R. (2012). ‘Interest groups – Cause interest group’,Te Ara – the encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 15-Nov-12.Retrieved from URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/34982/family-first-protest One news (August 21, 2009) (Copyright 2013) Timeline: Anti-smacking bill. Retrieved from http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/timeline-anti-smacking-legislation-2936192
Anti-Smacking Polls, (2013). National Voters Want Smacking Law Change – Poll. Retrieved from https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/research/anti-smacking-polls/ Robinson, K. (2009) How to understand the New Zealand Anti-smacking law. What is the law? Retrieved from http://howto.yellow.co.nz/legal/consumer-law/how-to-understand-the-new-zealan
d-anti-smacking-law/ Smith, C. & B. (2008). Family Integrity. Retrieved from
Robinson, K. (2009) How to understand the New Zealand Anti-smacking law. What is the law? Retrieved from http://howto.yellow.co.nz/legal/consumer-law/how-to-understand-the-new-zealand-anti-smacking-law/ One news (August 21, 2009) (Copyright 2013) Timeline: Anti-smacking bill. Retrieved from http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/timeline-anti-smacking-legislation-2936192