The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Recently we have had the strange spectacle of John Key, National party leader, pretending to make nicey nice with Sue Bradford, sponsor of the bill to repeal s59 of the Crimes Act, and Helen Clark*. Ostensibly this was all about finding a "compromise" on the issue of child discipline - one that would put at ease all those parents scarified by National and others into thinking that they were going to end up in the Big House for even thinking about tapping their child on the hand if the bubs was about to stick pins in their own eyes.

What frustrated me about this whole political set-piece was the complete and utter reinvention of history. Not ancient history, quite recent history really. Key was portrayed as the gentle obliging man seeking consensus**, while Bradford and Clark were the staunch, cold-hearted women who would never ever bend.

But actually Bradford has already compromised significantly, in the Select Committee process. She went in with a member's bill to repeal s59. Full stop. You can see this quite clearly in the Select Committee report - the substance of the original member's bill read:

Domestic Discipline
Section 59 is repealed.
Yes folks, that was it.

When the bill came out the other end though it was not only quite a bit longer, it was also significantly different. Bradford made significant compromises in those Select Committee meetings - anyone who puts the original bill alongside what Parliament are soon to vote on can see that clearly. Yes, the new bill repeals the existing s59, but it then replaces it with a new section - it is no longer full repeal, far from it.

Despite this fact the National minority position from the Select Committee states the following:

The National party members were disappointed that few submitters would consider
any other option than full repeal.
Those submitters, the ones in favour of full repeal of s59, include a vast list of national and regional organisations drenched in parents and dealing on a daily basis with real families. WebWeaver has a handy list of these groups, which really shows the width of support the Bill has amongst those dedicated to practical everyday support for children and those raising them.

Those organisations are now backing the new Bill, which is clearly not full repeal; that's right they are supporting the compromise. They have decided that what came out of the Select Committee will be sufficient, that they will may concessions in the interest of improving the law we have now. But they can only be pushed so far.

Key must surely know that. He must be aware that compromise has already happened, and that actually that is what the Select Committee process is often about. A cynic might think Key only put up his generous attempt at compromise because he knew it would fail.

Sadly the media hasn't exactly fallen over itself to point out the compromises that Bradford et al have already made. They have also failed to point out that Key has been playing a game to taint Labour, and in particular Clark - why meet only with Bradford and Clark? Surely it would have made more sense to meet with just Bradford, as the actual Member in that Member's Bill, or alternatively with representatives from all the parties supporting the current Bill, not just two of them.

John Key's attempt to find an imaginary middle ground was compromised at conception. It's a shame it hasn't been widely exposed as such.

* You may remember her from such things as her eight year stint as Prime Minister of our country, or telly interviews beyond number, or maybe her spot on National Radio presenting The Prime Minister's Music.
** That would be a consensus that was impossible anyway. I'm all for consensus politics, but sometimes you just have to vote, particularly in a big collective like the whole country.

(Pic Via)


Andy Moore said...

Bradford's case for the repeal of Section 59 is very shaky and non-sensical.

Let's call it what it is, the anti-discipline bill. And yes it will criminalise good parents who lightly smack their children; if not immediately, then within 10 or 20 years - quite possibly much sooner however.

Deborah said...

Thanks for the reminder, Span. I had forgotten that Bradford had asked for straightforward repeal, a position that I support. But like Bradford, I'm prepared to compromise, and support the bill in the form that it came back from select committee in, because it's better than nothing.

Andy Moore, and, do you break the speed limit? If so, do you feel like criminals?

A criminal is someone who is convicted of an offence. No police officer is going to be sitting inside your house, waiting to arrest you the moment you smack your child. Like every other case of assault in this country, the police will lay charges only where the assault is sufficiently serious to justify it.

And let's face it - parents only smack in the privacy of their homes. Virtually no parent smacks their child in public these days. I don't know why, but I might speculate that people know that a parent who has to smack is a parent who does not know how to parent well... and no parent wants to cope with the disapprobation that comes along with not parenting well, as shown by smacking in public.

Hopefully, that sense of disapproval of parents who smack in public might just be the beginnings of a change in sensibilities.

Hewligan said...

Calling the bill what it is -

Fine. How about we call it the banning legalised child abuse bill, then?

After all, every single case that I have been able to find, where someone has been found not guilty on the grounds of section 59 was, by all reasonable standards, abuse.

You may disagree as to whether or not Chester Burrows amendment was a good idea - and personally, I think it wasn't - but the truth is that the current Section 59 has allowed acts that are utterly unconscionable.

I may disagree with them, but I can at least understand where people who prefer amendments like Burrows' are coming from. I can not see why anyone would want to see Section 59 left unchanged, however.

Anonymous said...

This Wednesday parliament will resume debate on the Crimes
(Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill. Opponents (mainly Destiny
Church) will be holding a mass gathering on Parliament grounds. To
show our continuing support for this bill, please come along and

The same day, Wednesday 2nd of May, all supporters of Sue Bradford's member's bill are invited to attend a church service at Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul, at 1pm.

Span said...

Thanks for your comments. It's good to know about the counter-protest too, thanks Anon.

Andy, is there any compromise that would satisfy you, or do you simply want to see the current law remain unchanged?

Because my impression is that the majority of those opposed to the Bill are in fact opposed to the original Bill, ie full repeal, and don't necessarily know that it's been significantly watered down. My perception is that most people would be prepared to reach a compromise on this Bill, but painting Bradford and the Bill's supporters as rabid unbending militants who are anti-parents (despite often being parents themselves) is not productive, unless of course you just want no deal at all...

sagenz said...

span - my earlier comment attempt seems to have failed. it is not watered down. it is the worst of both worlds. in the hands of a good lawyer it is no better and arguably worse than the existing law. read it again and see. on the other hand it will crimiinalise the honest parent who admits to a light open handed smack on the bum for "correctional" purposes.

Bradford is unbending. she has failed to realise that criminalising all parents who smack is not the way to reduce real violence against children.

Span said...

Sagey, you disagree with both Bills, that's your perogative. But to say that Bradford hasn't bent at all is not the case, as the re-draft of the Bill shows.

Out of interest, if you had to choose between the current Bill (substitution) and the original (just repeal) which would you pick?

I've said it before on another blog, but obviously I need to say it again. To be "criminalised" you have to a) do it, b) be charged, c) be found guilty in a court. As Deborah points out in her comment above, most people often do things that are illegal, but it doesn't make us all criminals.

Span said...

I should also point out that while I don't mind this thread becoming a debate of the Bill, again, the post is actually more about Key's political machinations and the way National has mis-represented the process to date.

David Farrar said...

Bradofrd's original bill has considerable more merit than the current version which is teh worst of all worlds IMO.

The original repeal has merit in its simplicity - just removes a legal defence, and means a clear message could be put out that the law never allows force.

The amended Bill no longer allows that clear message - which is the main rationale of change.

But the four new exemeptions could allow the Timaru riding crop case to still be found not guilty (whiel the Borrows amendment would not).

And the amended Bill rather than just Repeal S59, actually specifically bans any correctional force at all, over riding case and common law, meaning that despite what they claim, it does ban smacking.

I didn't agree with outright S59 repeal, but I can see the merits of it. The current Bradford bill has almost nothing commendable about it. It still has loopholes for those who seriously assault children, while banning smacking for correctional purposes.

zANavAShi said...

I am one of those few who support the full repeal.

And it seems I am also one of the few who have not forgotten how much Sue's original bill has been mutilated beyond recognition by the Select Committee process, so bravo to you Span for reminding people of this again.

I refuse to even call this Sue's bill anymore - this is the "Select Committee Section 59 Amendment" and I wish somebody would point this out to the idiot mainstream media and tell them to start calling it what it is.

I am also glad to see that I'm not the only one who is sick to death of seeing Sue trashed by misogynists and painted as some kind of uncompromising femi-nazi bitch - especially when she has stretched herself so far already to get this amendment through.

Hmmmmmmm, but isn't nice to see that John Key is already starting to expose himself up for the weasely votes whore that he is. I hope this doesn't go unnoticed in the mainstream.


Andy Moore said...

Social engineering.

Span said...

Wow Andy, that's so deep. I particularly like the way you argued your point so thoroughly. [/sarcasm]

Was that an attempt to get in the last word on a fortnight old thread that has since been superceded by a) political events and b) another post and resulting comment thread?

Anonymous said...

The thing about even light smacking is that there will never be any official person there to say if the reason why the smack occurred was acceptable or not. For example, parents are legally allowed to lightly smack their children if they (the children) accidentally spill a glass of milk. This is absolutely ridiculous. And an appropriate cheaks-and-balances system will never be able to be put in place regarding smacking, which is one of the major reasons why I think all smacking, light or hard, should not be legal.