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New Zealand “Smacking” Ban: Abolition of Parental Authority?

Momentum is building in the New Zealand Parliament to repeal a law allowing parents to use “reasonable force” to discipline their children — a move which would strip parents of their authority over their children and make discipline impossible.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon
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“Every parent of a child and … every person in place of a parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.” —New Zealand Crimes Act of 1961, Part 3, Section 59[1]

Momentum is building in the New Zealand Parliament to repeal a law allowing parents to use “reasonable force” to discipline their children — a move which would strip parents of their authority over their children and make discipline impossible, warned Craig Smith, national director of Family Integrity.

The plan is to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act (see above). Any parent who spanks a child (New Zealanders say “smack”) or tries to coerce the child in any way would risk arrest and prosecution for assault, Smith told Chalcedon.


Members of the government deny that this would happen. Prime Minister Helen Clark said, “That wouldn’t mean that the police would go around charging everybody who lightly smacked a child.”[2] And Children’s Commissioner Dr. Cindy Kiro said parents who “lightly smack” their children would not be prosecuted.[3]

But when Family Integrity wrote to Commissioner of Police Rob Robinson, they got this reply from Dr. A Jack of the Division of Legal Services:

“If Section 59 was repealed in its entirety, parents would not be authorized to use reasonable force by way of correction … smacking of a child by way of correction would be an assault .…”[4]

Does Mr. Smith believe the prime minister’s assurances that parents would not be criminalized?

“Not for a minute,” he said.

Radicalism Rules

Why should American readers be interested in what happens in a little country of 4 million people on the other side of the world?

New Zealand is a modern, English speaking, democratic state, settled mostly by English Christians in the 19th century. The native people, the Maoris, constitute a little more than 10% of the population. Aside from its exotic wildlife (New Zealanders call themselves “Kiwis” after their country’s unique flightless bird), New Zealand is a foreign country where most Americans would feel at home. Craig Smith’s family visited from California in 1972 and decided to stay. Smith has lived there ever since. His wife, Barbara, is New Zealand born.

But there the similarity ends.

“New Zealand has a long tradition of leaving government officials alone,” Smith said. “The original settlers wanted to leave the English class system behind, and they developed a culture in which everyone minds his own business. In recent years, the government has taken advantage of this.”

The result is a highly secularized nation where only 5–7% of the people attend church. And far-left ideologues — far to the left of any successful politician in America — control the government.

“We have some raving homosexuals in Parliament,” Smith said, “and in spite of overwhelming public opinion against it, they legalized same-sex civil unions [in 2003].”

New Zealand has also signed on to the Kyoto Protocol — an international treaty that attempts to control global warming by reducing the emission of “greenhouse gases” — that has begun to sap the nation’s economy. This year, New Zealand will have to pay $1 billion in pollution penalties — adding to the already heavy tax burden ($1 billion comes out to $250 per person there).

National elections will be held September 17, but for now, a coalition of the Labour (socialist) and Green (environmentalist) parties dominates Parliament.

Exhibit A

The leader of the movement to abolish “smacking,” American-born Parliament member Sue Bradford of the Green Party, typifies what has happened to New Zealand, Smith said.

As displayed on the Greens Party’s website, Ms. Bradford is a lifelong “protester” and “revolutionary,” former communist, former hippie, mother of five children (two of them out of wedlock), and frequent habitué of police lockups as a result of her activities.[5]

“Babies and children are actually fully realized humans and should be treated as such from the time they’re born,” she said. The fatuousness of that statement speaks for itself.

As for the effect on parents of her proposed legislation, Bradford said, “They will now be in the same position as everyone else so far as the use of force on children is concerned.”

Effect on Parents

Although Section 59 has not yet been repealed, Craig Smith said, New Zealand child-welfare bureaucrats are “already a law unto themselves. They operate under the assumption that smacking is already illegal.”

Abolishing parents’ right to use “reasonable force,” he said, would mean “no force of any kind would be allowed. You couldn’t enforce any kind of discipline. The legal definition of ‘assault’ includes threatening gestures, tone of voice, etc.

“What if the child refuses to go to his room for ‘time out’? How are you going to make him? This legislation is not about smacking. It’s about removing the authority of parents.”

Craig and Barbara Smith have four adult children and three more — ages thirteen, seven, and four — whom they’ve adopted. All are homeschooled.

The government has not yet threatened homeschooling, Smith said, “because homeschooling families in New Zealand [some 3,000 of them] are so well organized. In fact, the government currently pays a stipend [$740 per year per child] to parents who homeschool.

“But there are a lot of people in the Labour Party who hate Christians. They won’t have to ban homeschooling if they can take your kids away from you whenever you try to discipline them.”

Change in the Wind?

Although there are no major political parties in New Zealand that would be described as “conservative” by Americans, Smith said, “Kiwis are just beginning to wake up.”

The Smith family belongs to a local Reformed Church; but so far, New Zealand’s mainstream churches have proven too weak to challenge the radical politics of Parliament.

“The churches are waiting for the Lord to come back any day now — maybe tomorrow,” Smith said.

But there is one exception to this rule: the new, largely Maori, Destiny Church, whose founder and bishop, Brian Tamaki, proclaimed, “Social disaster has struck our nation.”[6]

Last summer the Destiny Church organized more than 6,000 marchers — quite a large demonstration by New Zealand standards — to protest the legalization of homosexual civil unions. The theme of the march was “Enough is enough.”

But it is an exception, Smith said.

“Today in New Zealand, it’s no longer socially acceptable to publicly declare yourself a Christian,” he said. “You’ll get marginalized. Patriotism is unacceptable too. Most New Zealanders want to barf when they see pictures of Americans saluting their flag.

“Here, your religion is your private affair — don’t you dare bring it into the public arena. It’s definitely a post-Christian society. Our young people are kicking over all the traces, embracing all kinds of immorality — thank you, public schools! We’re not a pagan country yet, but we’re moving that way pretty fast.”


Depending on the outcome of the elections, the earliest the “smacking ban” could become law is sometime in the middle of next year, Smith said. Organizations like Family Integrity and the “least-left” National Party oppose it.

Meanwhile, the same radical forces that have transformed New Zealand are at work in America — held in check by the influence of American churches, a strong conservative political movement, and a two-party system that effectively locks fringe parties out of power.

Spanking has been banned in Sweden since 1975. According to a recent study by Professor Robert Larzelere, University of Nevada Medical School, child-on-child violence has increased six-fold since the ban, child abuse by adults has increased, and tens of thousands of children have been removed from their families by Swedish authorities (see the Family Integrity website’s “Sweden” page).[7] The “‘supportive approaches for parents’ has, in reality, meant the removal of children from the home in 46% of new cases receiving ‘support and care measures’... [C]ritics say that the influence of parents has been inadvertently compromised by the entire set of overly intrusive Swedish policies.”[8]

Banning corporal punishment, of course, is an anti-Christian enterprise. Relevant Bible verses are to be found in Hebrews 12:5–11, Revelation 3:19 (“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten”), and Proverbs 19:18 (“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying”).

Can the Kiwis put their radical genie back in the bottle?

Can we keep ours bottled up forever?

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at

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