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Ask a Silly Question

A major controversy erupted here in New Zealand over a year ago now over a new law which removed the legal defence of “reasonable force” for physically assaulting kids. Inevitably it became known as the anti-smacking law when it came into force.

Naturally the conservative part of the population hates it, including a lot of the more conservative Christian groups (I always thought that Christianity was about peace and forgiveness but apparently that’s not true). It was only a matter of time before these groups (who seem to enjoy inflicting their warped views on everyone else even though most of them are too old to have smackable kids anyway) tried some sort of stunt to have the law reversed and now it looks like they might be starting.

A citizen initiated referendum has been contrived with the question: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Many people are pointing out that this is a deliberately misleading way to word the question but we have a history of that sort of nonsense here so it should be no surprise.

Since the law was introduced there have been no good parents made into criminals because of it. In fact there have been few bad parents affected as well.

I do think that smacking might be an effective method of controlling some extremely difficult kids but I think they would be in the minority. By the same logic there are many adults who might benefit from a “good thrashing” so maybe that should be legal too. The thing is that the benefit gained by allowing physical violence is outweighed by the disadvantages so the argument that smacking is an effective way of control available to parents doesn’t really make sense.

And what about the argument that “it never did me any harm”. Well the people who make this point should maybe look at themselves a bit more closely. Many of them are recommending violence against children without knowing the real situation and many are old enough that they don’t have kids themselves. It seems a rather unhealthy attitude to me. Maybe one that arose as a result of a violent childhood?

The prime minister and leader of the opposition have both said they won’t vote on this issue. A conservative MP has said he will but it looks like he’s likely to vote the opposite way to what he likely intends. Maybe the question is not only dishonest but also confusing.

So what should we do when the ballot arrives? Answering the question either way is just encouraging more political grandstanding through the same mechanism in the future. Not sending the paper back indicates apathy. I intend to spoil the ballot, make a comment on it regarding wasting taxpayers’ money, and send it back. If a lot of people do this maybe it will get through to the dishonest group behind this referendum that we have seen through their dirty little trick.

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