The right-wing blogs are in an uproar about Key’s decision not to support Boscowen’s bill to Select Committee – over at Kiwiblog they’re referring to the National leader as ‘Helen Key’ and confidently predicting an ACT Prime Minister in 2011. I have to admit I’m a little surprised as well. John Armstrong writes:
[Key] would have been walking away from his personal investment in the existing law, of which he is part-architect as a result of his efforts to find a compromise back in 2007 to save Sue Bradford’s ground-breaking amendment to the Crimes Act from ending up on the scrapheap.
That’s how Clark would have seen things – if She changed her mind She would be admitting She was wrong, And She Is Never Wrong – but I don’t think Key works like that. Here are my speculative theories as to the PM’s motives:
Market Research: Key seems awfully confident about his direction here. I suspect he’s had some research company – maybe even the dreaded Cosby/Textor! – poll and focus group the issue and found that support for the current law is deeper than the referendum suggests, or that people are not opposed to the law so much as they fear the misapplication of it.
Prescience: Once you pass a bill defining the use of force allowed against children you ‘own’ the court cases in which it is used as a defense. This bill could result in some high profile cases in which people prosecuted for assaulting their children defend themselves on reasonable force grounds and, juries being what they are, possibly recieve not guilty verdicts for serious child assaults at which point public opinion could turn VERY quickly.
Ancient History: Key might see this as a done deal, something he simply isn’t interested in revisiting. He’s stated that he doesn’t want Parliament ‘derailed and consumed’ by the debate, which is, after all fairly trivial when compared to some of the other challenges facing his government. They want to reform the tax system next year, not spend months bickering about the definition of a light smack.
Enmity: Or maybe he just finds the pro-smacking lobby and the people behind it too distasteful to give them any more oxygen. Baldock and McCroskey have run a highly successful disinformation campaign in which they’ve flat out lied about the law and its effect. I think it’s safe to say that most pro-smacking parents want to be able to give their child a smack on the wrist in the supermarket without being arrested, while Baldock et al seem to see beating children as a rather core part of parenting. Could be that the PM simply doesn’t want to hand these idiots a win.