Richard Long accidentally wrote something interesting in his column today:
In the early parliamentary battles the anti-smacking law was promoted as a measure to prevent appalling cases of child battering. But of course that was a nonsense. The law has not made a blind bit of difference and there have been several high profile cases since it was passed.
The original intent of the law change was to close a loophole that had been used in a small number of child abuse cases to avoid prosecution, somewhere along the way the supporters of the bill decided that they could use New Zealand’s child abuse epidemic as ammunition to support the law and then made the argument that all smacking was child abuse, which gave opponents to the law change an unbeatable populist platform with which to oppose the Bradford amendment. I think it went a little like this:
Sue Bradford: This amendment to the Crimes Act will close a loophole that a small number of people who assault their children use to avoid prosecution.
Larry Baldock: Does this mean you’re banning smacking?
Sue Bradford: No, the purpose of the bill is to prevent defense lawyers from claiming that clients who have beaten their children . . .
Larry Baldock: Because parents have the divinely appointed right to beat their children.
Sue Bradford: Okay, so we disagree on that, but this bill has the support of all the child welfare agencies . . .
Larry Baldock: Beat the sin out of them, that’s what I say. Thrash them within an inch of their life.
Sue Bradford: . . . can cite a number of pertinent cases . . . Wow, I really do hate you. Maybe I do want to ban smacking.
Larry Baldock: Watermelons! Lesbians! Proverbs 13:24!
Sue Bradford: Yeah, you know what? Fuck you, asshole. This bill bans smacking! If you smack your kids it’s child abuse and you’re going to jail. How d’ya like that?
Larry Baldock: Witch! Witch! You can’t do this!
Sue Bradford: Oh can’t I? I have our popular and competent Prime Minister supporting this bill.
Helen Clark: This anti-smacking bill does not outlaw smacking it merely makes it illegal – I want to be very clear on this. There is nothing wrong with parents giving their kids a light smack but it is evil.
Larry Baldock: You’ll never get away with this Bradford.
Sue Bradford: Yeah, whaddya gonna do? Transform this into a national debate? Win overwhelming public support? Use it to turn popular sentiment against the government and cost them the election? Ha! I’d like to see that!
John Key: Closing a loophole that let’s people assault their children seems like a reasonable thing to do. The National Party will support this bill after a few minor amendments.
Helen Clark: This new bill is identical to the previous bill but it is different in every way. I want to be very clear on that.
John Key: Only a maniac would oppose this very reasonable compromise.
Parliament: The bill is passed with the ACT Party, New Zealand First and Gordon Copeland opposing.
John Key: That’s the end of that then.
Helen Clark: The police and CYFS will not prosecute parents for a light smack, but they will prosecute parents for a light smack. I want to be very clear on that.
Larry Baldock: Mainstream New Zealand is still bitterly opposed to this law and we blame Labour and the Greens.
Sue Bradford: What do I care? My party doesn’t rely on any of those voters to get elected.
Helen Clark: That’s right! No . . . wait.
Customs Officer at La Guardia: Welcome to the United States Ms Clark.