Sunday, 28 June 2009

pull the petition, ms savill

now we find out that we dont have to be spending $9 million on the poorly worded question about hitting chidren:

"The promoters of the petition forcing the referendum, Sheryl Saville, Larry Baldock and Bob McCoskrie, have a short window of time in which they could demonstrate some common sense and commitment to New Zealand families in these hard economic times, by withdrawing their petition," said Yes Vote spokesperson Deborah Morris-Travers.

Legally, the petition can be withdrawn by its promoters before the Governor-General issues the writ for the referendum, which must be done by Friday 3 July 2009.


it appears that the full responsibility for pulling the referendum lies with sheryl savill, as the instigator of the referendum. let's hope some serious pressure builds up during this week to get these people to withdraw, so that maybe we can focus on the rights of children during this recession rather than the rights of their parents to hit them.

24 comments:

Anna said...

I'd love to see the petition pulled, but on the grounds that the question is poor.

I don't think it's inherently a waste of money to have a referendum, even if the topic's daft - I'd feel uncomfortable arguing against people's democratic expression on the grounds of expense (within reason). And as John Minto argued in a blog on Stuff, the unpleasantness of the referendum is part of the social debate that will eventually see smacking become a thing of the past.

But $9 million on a referendum with an obtuse, leading question is pretty hard to justify. Mind you, it's also $9 million of publicity for the pro-smacking lobby, paid for by someone else - so I'd be surprised if they pull it, sadly.

Psycho Milt said...

So, after all the time and effort required to raise hundreds of thousands of signatures to force a referendum, the organiser might now be persuaded to walk away from it and stab her signatories in the back? Somehow, I doubt it.

But hold on a minute. Just recently, when Tony Ryall decided that, given the recession, he couldn't continue to throw millions of dollars into chasing the chimera of a "gender pay gap," there was outrage on this blog. How could the interests of such a large sector of the population be so casually tossed aside to save a few bucks?

Oh, how things change in only a month or two - here we have now a Hand Mirror author agitating for the interests of a large sector of the population to be casually tossed aside so we can save a few bucks during the recession. Is this all just a political game, or what?

stargazer said...

psycho, i'd consider children to be a pretty large sector of the population - larger than the number that signed the petition, and that's whose interests i'm advocating.

anna, agreed, i'd rather the petition was pulled for the poorly-worded petition & i should have made that clearer in the post. thanx for making the point so well.

Anna said...

Part of the problem with this question is that it perpetuates the wide misunderstandings about what s.59 does and doesn't allow.

If we must have a referendum on smacking (and although I'd prefer not to, I recognise the democratic right to have one), a question that encourages informed debate is a no-brainer. But then, I'm not sure that the champions of this petition actually want informed debate - they're more keen on harnessing knee-jerk reaction to support a minority Christian fundamentalist position.

Spending $9 million to deliberately perpetuate an understanding just doesn't look smart to me.

stargazer said...

Spending $9 million to deliberately perpetuate an understanding just doesn't look smart to me.

did you mean perpetuate a misunderstanding? cos that's what it seems like to me. and i'd say it was certainly nothing more than a political game.

and i just heard on radio nz that a poll has found that 77% of nz'ers don't want the referendum to go ahead (margin of error 4.5%). so if we're to be making decisions based on the numbers, which the pro-hitting lobby seems to promote (remember the 80% figure they always use?), then surely in good conscience they should withdraw?

Psycho Milt said...

...that's whose interests i'm advocating.

Thanks for the offer, but my children's parents are the advocates for their interests - we being the people who actually care about what happens to them, unlike complete strangers with an opinion. I believe many other parents share that view.

...i just heard on radio nz that a poll has found that 77% of nz'ers don't want the referendum to go ahead...

Opinion polls either count or they don't. If the ones disapproving the law change didn't count, why should ones disapproving a referendum count? Personally, I don't think they count - you elect governments to govern, and you hold referenda if the criteria for them are met.

Part of the problem with this question is that it perpetuates the wide misunderstandings about what s.59 does and doesn't allow.

One reason I just laugh at the bleating about the poorly worded, ill-defined and ambiguous referendum question is that the S59 law being defended is also hopelessly unclear - poorly worded, ill-defined and ambiguous, in fact. If there are "wide misunderstandings" about what S59 now means, isn't that a fairly sure sign that those of us who said it was bad legislation were correct?

toad said...

Psycho Milt, the "wide misunderstandings" about what section 59 actually means have been deliberately promoted by the same people who are promoting the referendum.

The precise wording of the current section 59 (apart from the compromise clause that was needed to get the Nats' support but actually doesn't add anything of substance)was drafted by the Law Commission - one would think they would know what they were doing.

Oh, and my comments on the poll on the referendum being a wate of public money...

Moana said...

"the S59 law being defended is also hopelessly unclear - poorly worded, ill-defined and ambiguous"

- What part of it don't you understand Milt?

Tui said...

@Milt: I think the utilitarian calculus is pretty clear on this issue: a referendum that has already been discredited by the party in government (the largest party that might possibly be sympathetic to the proponents of the referendum) and that the government has specifically said it will not give much weight to, as opposed to the more or less complete dismantling of the apparatus the state uses to address an issue. Those are completely different scales of problem no matter what the issue is. I don't think anyone's advocating for not having any kind of referendum on this issue. I think people are saying that *this referendum* looks wasteful.

Additionally: there has been a lot of discussion lately of so-called consistency. I contend that any system of thinking which insists on utter consistency will rapidly dissove ad absurdum. Nobody subscribes to absolute standards: we all have our own sets of rules and lines. For example, we generally have a rule that we ought not interfere with other peoples' lives and actions, but people variously draw lines that allow us to interfere in someone's life when they might be about to harm someone else; in order to ensure equitable distribution of wealth; or in order to enact our own sexual morality. Complaining that there is no consistency between thinking this referendum is a bad idea and a waste of resources, and thinking that pay equity investigations are a valuable use of resources, is kind of like complaining that the left wing doesn't want to interfere with people's rights to have gay sex and get the benefits associated with being able to marry people of whatever gender, but does want to interfere with people's rights to keep the money they've "earned".

Hugh said...

psycho, i'd consider children to be a pretty large sector of the population - larger than the number that signed the petition, and that's whose interests i'm advocating.


Of course, your ideological opponents on this issue would say that -they- are advocating the interests of children. And would feel similarly free to brush aside petty procedural concerns on the basis of the incredible importance of the children.

While I think it's true that the anti-smacking side's position is the one that will have better results for children, I don't expect anybody on the pro-smacking side to acknowledge that, let alone understand my arguments on this basis.

This is a very common scenario - two groups each claiming to be the authentic voice of a group that is effectively speechless but universally acknowledged to be important. It tends to not lead to productive dialogue.

Hugh said...

Complaining that there is no consistency between thinking this referendum is a bad idea and a waste of resources, and thinking that pay equity investigations are a valuable use of resources, is kind of like complaining that the left wing doesn't want to interfere with people's rights to have gay sex and get the benefits associated with being able to marry people of whatever gender, but does want to interfere with people's rights to keep the money they've "earned".

As one of the small-minded hobgoblins of consistency you're referring to, I think you can see why this analogy is not quite as effective as you might think.

Tui said...

Hey, you said it, not me. ;) It's 3 in the morning here so my faculties are not that great: please elucidate for me why you feel this analogy is particularly flawed.

Anna said...

Yes - I meant 'misunderstandings', Stargazer, not 'understandings'. Oops!

And Psycho Milt, you seem to be implying that anything a parent does is good by definition. I'd be surprised if you actually believe that - there must be some violence meted out by well-intentioned parents in the name of 'discipline' which you feel crosses the line into abuse, even though you support smacking. Surely it's about establishing where the line is, rather than suggesting parents are the sole source of knowledge on what's good for their kids? Isn't that a wee bit like treating kids as property?

Anita said...

It's worth noting that the proponents of the referendum have already offered to withdraw the referendum if the Government does what they want (adopt Boscawen's member's bill).

They have put withdrawal of the referendum on the table, and they have explicitly raised the $9 million dollar cost.

Arguing that they should withdraw it because the question is so badly worded any "No" vote would not actually be a mandate for anything, is just an extension of their existing offer,

Psycho Milt said...

- What part of it don't you understand Milt?

I believe I understand it just fine, but then I also understand the referendum question just fine, despite its flaws. I think the extensive arguments about exactly what the new S59 means at the Standard and at Kiwipolitico indicate that there is plenty of room for disagreement on what it means. For example, "reasonable" force is still undefined, and the law explicitly allows that undefined level of force for the purposes of "prevention" but criminalises it for the purposes of "correction" - which are also undefined. What it means is really a matter of opinion.

Isn't that a wee bit like treating kids as property?

I don't think so, unless you also believe that Stargazer, by arbitrarily declaring herself the advocate of children in this matter, is also treating kids as property. At least I'm only claiming to advocate for my own.

Anna said...

Psycho Milt, what I mean re the property comment is the right to do whatever you want with your children, irrespective of whether it's good for them, because you're the parent.

I'm sure that you're sincere in advocating for the best interests of your children, as most parents are, and probably you're a good judge of your kids' best interests. But sometimes parents believe they're doing the right thing when they're manifestly not - eg the parents who beat their child for not eating his tea, giving him fatal injuries, or the parents who's son died because they treated his cancer with prayer rather than medicine. In both cases, the parents were doing what they believed was best, but were found criminally culpable - ie the court judged that they had not met correctly judged their responsibilities to meet their children's best interests.

Most people would agree that you can't do anything at all to your own kids simply because they're yours. The thing being debated is at which point the state should be able to overrule the individual parent's right to determine kids' best interests.

Anita said...

Moana,

I, like Psycho Milt, believe that the current s59 is ambiguous and unclear. Unlike him, however, I think it is considerably better in effect and intent than the old s59.

I'm not sure what he thinks about the old s59, but AFAIK it was widely believed, by people on both sides of the debate, to be ambiguous and unclear. No-one well informed on the "No" vote side has ever told me they want to go back to the old s59, they want a new one which protects limited physical discipline for the purposes of correction.

Complaining that the legislation is ambiguous is really irrelevant, the intent is clear, it's just full of weasel words and compromise. The only point of raising the ambiguity during this debate is spin.

I think we could be divided into three groups:

a) Physical discipline is never ok.
b) Physical discipline is sometimes ok for prevention, but never for correction.
c) Physical discipline is sometimes ok for both prevention and correction.

The law currently sides with b (to the extent its ambiguity allows it to), it used to site with c. The c people are upset cos they think it's wrong - which seems fair enough, but they are arguing that the law is actually written for group a, even tho it isn't, so that they can swing group b onto their side.

(I should say that I'm a group a person, which means I will vote "yes" in the referendum even tho I don't actually support the law as it stands).

Psycho Milt said...

Anna: yes, we need limits on parents' control over their children's lives - the children are after all humans with rights just like their parents. In this particular instance however, involving a dispute between me and Stargazer over what's in the best interests of children, my prior claim to advocacy rights re my own children stands, unless someone can provide a compelling argument that it should be otherwise.

Anita: like a lot of other people, I would have been happy with an amendment to S59 that defined "reasonable" more tightly, to avoid the more egregious 'not guilty' verdicts we've seen. But that isn't what Bradford proposed or what was finally introduced - hence the ongoing aggro.

Hugh said...

Because the referendum vs pay equity commission examples both invoke the same principle (the need to save money), whereas the gay sex vs taxation arguments only share a basic hypothesis about whether we should have a 'large' or 'small' state, and the link is thus substantially more abstract?

I could also point out that the right has similarly wrong-headed ideas about whether more or less state intervention is a good idea, and I doubt you feel it's wrong to bring that up. But perhaps it's simiarly nit-picky of me to expect consistency in our attitudes to consistency?

Anji said...

I've been sort-of away for a while; what was the poorly-worded question?

Anonymous said...

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in NZ.

I think they're asking if it's OK to hit parents if you're correcting them.

stargazer said...

as always, someone else puts the arguments forward so much better than me!

(hat tip to david slack)

Julie said...

Surely it's too late in a practical sense to pull the petition now?

I see Sue Bradford's proposal around getting things right at the stage where the question is formulated, i.e. before signatures are collected, as a good solution for the future.

After all this isn't the first time this has happened, 98% of us voted for hard labour with the Norm Withers referendum didn't we?

I do see a place for CIR, and actually I think $9M in general, in the scope of the whole budget of the Government, is not that bad. Shame it's such a dumb question though.

katy said...

"as always, someone else puts the arguments forward so much better than me!"

That is a pretty awesome piece!

On a related note, I am not sure that I am a big fan of CIR, which by their nature (here and abroad) feel a bit like attempting to legislate via reactionary mob. But I guess I am open to arguments on this one.