Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Arguments

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  • Peter Darlington,

    More importantly Russ, did I hear Jim Mora ask you if you were a party pill popper!?

    Cheeky sod, had me chortling on the drive home.

    Nice recovery btw.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • plum,

    I haven't got to the bit in Altemeyer where he talks about right wing authoritarian leaders, but one fascinating finding he's thrown up about RWA followers is that they're vulnerable to the posse comitatus mindset. IOW, all it takes is someone to organise a lynch mob, and they're first to leap up on their horses. They'll mob up to hunt down all sorts of dangers to society -- gays, immigrants, commies, even RWAs (laugh!).

    Seriously, I get the feeling the right wing in this country is organising on the net in a major way. Cyfswatch is just the tip of the iceberg. Am I alone in this?

    OT, can anyone recommend tools or a site that can rank blogs in terms of popularity (unique hits, links to, etc). I'm looking to study the mobilisation of blogs in NZ and need basic stats to help fence off a research sample. I know about Technorati but would like to try out others.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2007 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Ackroyd,

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    It is still mirror-ed though.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    On the biblical justifications...

    I did happen to glance at that controversial pamphlet whoever it was put out (link welcome), one thing that struck me.

    There may have been a couple of supporting quotes specifically about children, but most of them were about servants.

    Such as, servants are so dumb they will only learn by being beaten.

    So we have a) children are servants, b) adult servants are subhuman.

    *sigh*

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The charge in question is already actively not enforced in a number of areas. Assaults that take place on rugby fields every weekend are almost never even looked at by the police - there would have to be serious permanent injury for someone to be charged. Lots of drunken push and shoves and a couple of punches on Saturday night never see more than a 'sober up and stop being dickheads' from the police.

    Yes. This is what occurred to me after my response to Graeme. The police exercise prosecutorial discretion all the time in potential assault cases. For example, when the strange woman in Dunedin laid a complaint because Pete Hodgson touched her arm during an election meeting, the police didn't prosecute.

    So it's twisting words to claim that the bill "criminalises light smacking". It what did does is remove the specific defence that made assaulting a child different from assaulting anyone else.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    It what did does is remove the specific defence that made assaulting a child different from assaulting anyone else.

    And yet when I've mentioned that elsewhere, all I get back is "but adults and children are different! If you think we should treat them the same, that means you think we should be able to have sex with children!!"

    And it's not gone much past that...

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Why is it that all of the pro-belting fanatics appear to have had something to do with the late unlamented CHP in the past?

    SPCS: run by Mike Petrus, ex-CHP Kapiti candidate

    Reformation Testimony: Garnet Milne, ex-CHP candidate for Yaldhurst (ChCh)

    CYFS Watch: I suspect this has a lot to do with the former rightwing parents group Parents Against Injustice...

    Family Integrity: Craig and Barbara Smith's defunct Homeschoolers Assn journal Keystone once asked its kids to do essays on why the death penalty works and carried a CHP advert.

    Apart from Family First and the Maxim Institute, these people seem to be the worst of Brand XXX fundies...

    Craig Y

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The police exercise prosecutorial discretion all the time in potential assault cases.

    Of course they do, and I've little doubt that this will continue. There aren't suddenly going to be dozens of prosecutions of parents who lightly smack their children if s 59 is amended as Bradford now proposes (or even if it is fully repealed). Anyone saying it will is lying.

    Prosecutorial discretion is important in avoiding absurd results, but passing a law knowing it would have thousands of absurdities if enforced and relying on prosecutorial discretion to avoid those is a step further.

    It is not twisting words to claim the bill "criminalises light smacking", just as it is not twisting words to claim the Misuse of Drugs Act criminalises possession of a single joint of marijuana.

    Just because you, maybe, once or twice, in your youth, possessed a joint, and you weren't caught, or were caught and were neither arrested nor charged, does not mean what your possession was lawful. And it does not vitiate any need for reform of marijuana legislation.

    Prosecutorial discretion is not the answer to enforcement of laws prohibiting marijuana possession, and is not the answer to laws prohibiting light smacking.

    We need prosecutorial discretion to deal with fights on the rugby field because sometimes we want to use criminal law to sanction fighting on the rugby field. We never want to use criminal law to sanction a light smack.

    This is why the Borrows' amendment is sensible. If, as I assert, we collectively never want criminal sanction for a light smack then the law should say so in the narrow terms Borrows proposes.

    Prosecutorial discretion will remain useful in avoiding over-the-top prosecutions for the parent who disciplines he child with a single light smack with a wooden spoon (for example) - which would fall outside the incredibly narrow circumstances Borrows' amendment accepts are okay.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    For example, when the strange woman in Dunedin laid a complaint because Pete Hodgson touched her arm during an election meeting, the police didn't prosecute.

    That I believe was Madeleine Flanagan - a student rep of the CHP and a spokesperson for the VSM lobby.

    I find it ironic that a loose-cannon CYFS Watch poster, coming in defence of Section 59, comes dangerously close to breaching Section 306 of the same Act.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • dave crampton,

    Russell,

    should Parliament be passing a law that it doesn't mind if it is broken? - ie: in this debate, if it is not the intention that parents should have a criminal conviction for lightly smacking kids, why make it against the law, irrespective of public opinion, merely to make a political point.

    That is not democracy. Parliament should be making laws that people uphold, not laws that it doesn't mind if people break in some instances.

    welli • Since Jan 2007 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    We need prosecutorial discretion to deal with fights on the rugby field because sometimes we want to use criminal law to sanction fighting on the rugby field. We never want to use criminal law to sanction a light smack.

    And we never want to use criminal sanction in respect of acts that occur in the run of a rugby game, even when they would certainly count as assault off the field, and even when they result in serious injury or even death. We only do so in the case of the extraordinary act that warrants it.

    As I noted, the police don't prosecute people who do what Pete Hodgson did either, even though they could consider it assault. (Ironically, the same people who would continue to protect far more grievous assaults against children screamed loudly about that being assault ...)

    But I'm happy to address this argument, as I did in the original post - it needs to be addressed. How about you have a go with Bradford's moral argument? And "everyone does it" is not a viable answer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • dave crampton,

    We need prosecutorial discretion to deal with fights on the rugby field because sometimes we want to use criminal law to sanction fighting on the rugby field. We never want to use criminal law to sanction a light smack.

    It was not the express intent of parliament to criminalise all contact on the ruby field, but if the smacking bill goes through and it is not the express intent of Parliament to criminalise and convict all physical parental correction, hten the law does not reflect parliaments intent. So I go back to Parliaments intent. Don't have a law to criminalise a light smack if it is not Parliaments intent to ensure a criminal conviction for breaking the law in every case - particularly if most of the population and most of the politicians agree that there is nothing wrong with a light smack. I say most of the politicians as there are some politicians in Labour who refuse to vote on their conscience in case it upsets Helen.

    welli • Since Jan 2007 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Nais,

    OT - Plum you might want to check out this blog rankings

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It was not the express intent of parliament to criminalise all contact on the rugby field ...

    No, it was not the express intent of Parliament to treat activity on the rugby field any differently than the same activity on the street. There is no Section 59 for for rugby. That's just what happens.

    PS: Dave you're also welcome to address in turn Bradford's moral argument ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    Well, I'd originally scorned the bill, "I was smacked, and it never hurt me any" and then changed my mind. I didn't think there were many more perspectives for me to cover, but the stuff about rugby really got me thinking about this whole thing.

    I reckon we should keep section 59.

    As a sportfighter I'm breaking the law at least twice a week, in the ring. As far as consistency goes, it makes sense to me to excuse consenting brutality - I don't want to worry about being a criminal, and I'd like to think I'm covered if one of my opponents gets annoyed about losing and takes her strains and bruised arms to the police. So - I reckon we should add a new section as well, excluding the course of a contact sport. Include the "reasonable force" bit as well if you want, although I think it's important that "reasonable force" will cover a few broken ribs.

    While we're at it I think we should exclude anyone that uses "reasonable force" for the purposes of conveying displeasure with the activities of another individual: for example, I don't think anyone should be criminalised just because they slapped someone in the face for calling them a rude name. I confess I've done that maybe twice, and I firmly believe I was within my rights as an offended party. I can really live without the stress of thinking the guy I slapped might dob me in.

    ALSO... personally I think it's a touch hysterical to brand someone as a criminal for administering a playful smack on the bottom in the workplace, so I reckon we should add an extra clause to sexual harassment laws that specifically overlooks "reasonable petting". That'd definitely calm down the crazy feminists that treat every ordinary redblooded man as if they were the great beast.

    I'm sure there's a whole lot more.

    Actually, I'm mainly curious to know when section 59 was introduced (same write-up as the rest of the law? later on?), and for what reason. I kinda wonder what the country would be like if it had never existed? Do you reckon anyone would notice?

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • Rebecca Whiting,

    Do we really want to get into defining "reasonable force"? Is it reasonable to hit a child with a belt but not with the cord of an electric jug? Do we want to have in law that we can hit our children with an open hand but not a fist? If the hitting doesn't result in bruising is that ok, but if there is bruising then is that unreasonable? The point I keep coming back to (and it's a point that Russell made in his original blog entry) “is there in fact a good justification that we should sanction - in whatever detail - an act against a child that we would not sanction against an adult?”.

    wellington • Since Feb 2007 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    we never want to use criminal sanction in respect of acts that occur in the run of a rugby game, even when they would certainly count as assault off the field

    Quite right. Hence the law recognises defences of express and implied consent. All I'm arguing for is that the law should recognise a defence in another situation where we never want criminal sanction invoked.

    Ideally, the scope for police discretion would be minimised. It is difficult/impossible to lay down in advance all the situations where we would not want criminal sanction for something that may constitute a criminal assault - the other defences - the power of a ship's captain or pilot to use reasonable force to discipline, or the use of reasonable force in self-defence or defence or another, etc - are among some of the others.

    We don't want to charge Pete Hodgson, but we may want to charge someone who does something similar to what he did. Had the arm grabbing been slightly different, and instead it had been someone who ran up to the PM on a uni campus and grabbed her arm before running off then perhaps the police would have charged. The 'assault' itself is similar, but a slightly different context means a charge might be appropriate (or at least more appropriate). It is difficult to imagine how one would draft a general provision which caught the one and not the other, so use of discretion is appropriate.

    It is not difficult to imagine how to draft an appropriate exception to the law in the present case - Chester Borrows, and apparently Geoffrey Palmer, have done it for us.

    I'll think about Bradford's moral argument (I'll have to reaquaint myself with it for starters) and get back to you.

    The public law argument is naturally much easier for someone like me, although I'll start by noting (in a legal context) that (and religion won't pay much of a part at all in my answer) the right to raise your children according to one's religion is specifically guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - the forerunner to the NZ Bill of Rights Act. The question may not be "what right do we have to do this to our children?" but what right has the government to stop us if we don't step over the line to:

    "physical or mental violence, injury or abuse"

    (the protection contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child)

    but I'll go back and see what the argument actually is, now.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Another question while you're at it, Graeme. If the bill, in removing the social sanction for hitting children, does in fact stay the hand of parents who currently have a strange understanding of reasonable force (because, really, not everything that happens under that defintion is a "light smack"), would that trump your legal argument? Yes, it's a hypothetical, but a reasonable one to pose.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Colin,

    I find it disturbing that this has generated so much passion. What kind of people choose to so passionately take up the cause of the right to hit their kids? As many have pointed out, we're not allowed to do it to animals.

    And you can see how language has become a twisted tool in this debate - the term 'a loving smack' is simply sick. I heard Michael Laws on talk-back rant on about the right to 'physically correct our children'. On the same show a caller threatened to leave the country if the bill went through. He wouldn't want to live in a country where you can't hit children!

    I wonder if this mentality extends to our old folk? it has been argued that the child's mind cannot be reasoned with, therefore smacking is OK. What if your elderly parent was suffering the effects of old age and was now in effect in a child-like mental state? If they became difficult and wouldn't go to bed, or threw their food on the floor, is it OK to hot them (in a loving way of course). Not OK? Because...? Well, its no different with kids.

    And if you smack your kids, is it OK for them to hit you back? No? Because...Yes, hitting is wrong isn't it.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Rebecca Whiting wrote:
    Do we really want to get into defining "reasonable force"?

    Um, don't courts and juries do that all the time - and while we're on the subject, I think that hardy 'non-violenr' discipline method, the time out, is a pretty nasty kind of 'mental violence'. It works - with a little parience - precisely because you're keying into a child's most primeval fear, the phsyical and emotional withdrawl of an adult source of affection. The gut emotion that makes the wicked step mother or being lost in the woods so deliciously frightening.

    When are we going to start defining what constitutes reasonable force when your preferred method of disciplining your children is psychological rather than physical? Is sending your kid to sit on the 'naughty step' OK, but putting them in a walk-in pantry not? Where's the bright line where the tone, body and language of a scolding crosses the line into enotional abuse?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • dave crampton,

    Russell it depends what you mean by the moral argument. If you mean whether is it right for people of faith to impose their moral precepts through law, unless there is public opinion to do so, as Sue has said in the past on the prostitution issue, well then, heh, notwithstanding public opinion on smacking, theres the other side to that argument which you will be aware of..

    welli • Since Jan 2007 • 144 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    If the bill, in removing the social sanction for hitting children, does in fact stay the hand of parents who currently have a strange understanding of reasonable force (because, really, not everything that happens under that defintion is a "light smack"), would that trump your legal argument?

    Potentially - I think you'd need a little more evidence however.

    I'd note that I opposed the move to raise the drinking age even though it would probably have made it harder for under 18s to get alcohol. And I think the analogy is apt.

    Rights, such as freedom religion - which at international law acceded to by New Zealand includes the freedom to raise your children according to your religion - can be subject to limits, but those limits must be demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.

    So, as a matter of law, if it could be established that removing a legal right of parents to lightly smack their children would save lives and/or reduce actual child abuse, then yes, it might well be permissible.

    I'd note that a lot of people (including you?) didn't think that the ALAC, Drug Foundation, and others' evidence in the drinking age debate was sufficient to remove the right of 18 and 19 year-olds to purchase alcohol, and I'd suggest that the standard would be even higher where you've got an actual right (like raising your children according to your religion) involved, rather that a "right" to purchase alcohol (which might be nice, but wasn't exactly considered important enough to include in something as fundamental as the ICCPR).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    If the bill is not intended to make light smacking an offence then Bradford's trenchant opposition to Borrows' amendment makes no sense. Bradford's continual deliberate confounding of light smacking with assault makes it very clear what her intent is.

    Personally, I agree with not allowing smacking but it's been going on for a long time, most consequences have been minimal and there is a reasonable agrument that in some instances it may be the only option.

    Bradford and others have endeavored to portray their opponents as authoritarian child beating monsters which is very counter productive. Borrows’ amendment is good halfway position; it is progress and in 10 years maybe a complete ban would be based more on consensus.

    Society changes, we are moving away from corporal punishment, but it's not a bad option to make that change gradual.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I concur with the argument that Graeme has made. Bradford's personal moral conviction that smacking is wrong is not a ground for prohibiting it in a liberal society.

    Bradford bill is deliberately poorly drafted - she is creating ambiguity to achieve a result she could not by more honest means. I would strongly support efforts to give our parents the skills they need to control their kids without smacking however.

    There is no societal consensus that smacking is morally wrong, nor is there compelling evidence that it is harmful to a child's development. Until this case is made, what justification can there be for prohibition?
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3821443a7144,00.html

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

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