Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill-First Reading

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It is a pleasure to rise and speak on behalf of the ACT Party on the first reading of the Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill. I am pleased to speak on this bill because, as Annette King alluded to and as members know, I introduced this bill to the House. I thank my colleague David Garrett for taking on the bill, on my behalf.

Let us look at some of the comments that have been made this evening. Annette King said that no one is asking for the change. Well, I wonder what planet she is on. Over 300,000 people took the trouble to put their names to a petition asking for a referendum on this issue. Over 300,000 people took the trouble to ask for a referendum, and 1.4 million voted to change the law—1.4 million; 87.4 percent. Annette King has the gall to sit there and say that no one wants a change in the law, and no one is asking for this. She should listen to the people of New Zealand. This is absolutely about reflecting the views of 1.4 million people; 87 percent of people. It is no wonder that politicians have a bad reputation amongst the people of New Zealand; it is no wonder. Even when 1.4 million people—87 percent—voted to change the law, Labour members sit there and totally ignore these people and show their absolute contempt for them.

However, let me make one acknowledgment. I thank Annette King for the time that she took to discuss this bill. I asked to speak with Mr Goff and he gave me the courtesy of his time, and Annette King joined the discussion. For that I am grateful; I appreciated the opportunity. I was unsuccessful in convincing Labour members to support the bill, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity to speak.

Let me turn now to some comments that Chester Borrows made. He said: “Look, this law is based on my Supplementary Order Paper. If we had had the numbers, we would have passed this law.” So Chester Borrows is saying that had the National Party had the numbers 4 years ago when this law was originally passed, this is what would have happened. Chester says: “Well, it’s a dog’s breakfast. It’s a dog’s breakfast; it’s a law that is not easy to understand.” What do I say to this Parliament? I say surely it is the job of this Parliament to pass laws that can be understood, and that can be enforced. Surely we have no greater responsibility than to pass laws that can give people certainty.

I would like to quote a couple of paragraphs from the explanatory note of the bill. In particular, it states: “Section 59(4) also creates confusion with its reference to Police discretion. According to members of Parliament, the intention of this subsection is to provide a safeguard against the consequences of banning reasonable physical correction, so that parents will not be ‘subject automatically to investigation and police prosecution’ if they give their child a light ‘smack’ …”. The law is not certain. Although Mr Borrows referred to 33 people being charged, I ask how many thousands of parents do not actually know what the law is. They do not actually have the confidence. I say to Mr Borrows, and to National members, that surely we owe the people of New Zealand a law that is simple and that can be understood.

My bill was drawn out of the ballot just 3 days after the results of the referendum were announced. It was drawn out of the ballot at 12.00 on a Wednesday, and by 4.30 that afternoon, 4½ hours later, National had called a press conference and said it would not be supporting my bill. National members said they would not give effect to those 1.4 million people, the 87 percent of New Zealanders, who voted in the referendum for a change in the law. Annette King says this is political. It is not political, I say to Annette King; it is representing and standing up for the rights of those people. If the member wants to ignore them, I say good luck to her, but I am not prepared to and I am very proud that my ACT colleagues and I take the same view. Thank you