Opposition to the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill

It is very likely that many New Zealanders believe no more about the Bill currently before Parliament than that it will "ban smacking".

The majority of New Zealanders are still largely uninformed and silent about the issues involved or have been subject to alarmist information.  It is hardly surprising that they give negative responses to blunt questions in the polls.  It is pleasing therefore that there is actually a strong section of New Zealanders supporting a change in legislation.

A research survey done by UMR on behalf of the Office of the Commissioner for Children in 2006 found that 37% of participants agreed that Section 59 of the Crimes Act should be ended.  This increased to 71% who agreed that Section 59 of the Crimes Act should be ended, provided guidelines were developed to prevent prosecution for mild slaps and smacking.  There was agreement from 64% that this legislation should be ended if research showed that removing it would decrease child abuse and from 53% if research showed that physical punishment is not an effective method of discipline, and that it can be harmful.

A casual examination of print media shows that while there are still some editorials and opinion pieces opposed to repeal, there have been many well-argued and strongly supportive opinion pieces and editorials recently.  The news media, while often presenting both sides of the argument, continues to do damage with its insistence on using the term "anti-smacking".

What is very clear is that most well informed organisations support repeal of section 59 Crimes Act.  The list of agencies for and against repeal of section 59 speaks for itself - compare the list of agencies that support repeal with those that don't!  Current lists of agencies supporting and opposing the bill can be viewed on epochnz.org.nz under Publications.

Vociferous opposition comes from fundamentalist Christian groups who have been doing an effective job of scare-mongering.  Older people are more likely than young adults and young parents to oppose change.

The fact that some of those opposing change feel justified in resorting to verbal violence, threats on MPs' lives and children reflects on the very attitudes we seek to address