This page contains a selection of quotes from key figures in the Smacking debate including...

Simon Barnett

Radio/TV personality

"Because of my opposition to the anti-smacking law I am labeled as a parent who is ‘violent’ and who ‘bashes’ and ‘assaults’ kids.

Nothing is further from the truth. I find that offensive, and so should you. While good families are being investigated and thrown under suspicion, child abuse has continued at the same rate.

The underlying issues identified by UNICEF and CYF - including drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and dysfunction, and poverty and stress - continue to be ignored."

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John Key

Prime Minister

"If I see good parents getting criminalised for lightly smacking their children for the purposes of discipline, I’m going to change the law if I’m in a position to do so. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if there’s a referendum or not. I want the law to work properly." - Investigate Magazine June 2008

“I personally think that political parties that get so removed from the voters do suffer, and I think Helen Clark is effectively whipping and forcing her caucus to do something which frankly, in my view, is largely a conscience vote which is the way National is treating it with their MP’s” - John Key - Prime TV - before the law was passed (click here for audio)

"The Labour Government has shown utter contempt for New Zealanders and the democratic process with its plan to railroad the anti-smacking bill through Parliament, says National Party Leader John Key. "The Labour-led Government knows the measure is deeply unpopular, so it plans to act against the wishes of the majority of Kiwis and ram the bill through under urgency. This is a deeply cynical abuse of power as Labour tries to clear the decks of this controversial issue. Helen Clark has refused to let her MPs vote the way they really think on this bill. To ram it through under the cover of urgency shows just how out of touch her government has become." - www.johnkey.co.nz

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Sue Bradford - Green MP

attempts to explain the effect of the law

Will ban smacking: “Greens draw up their own anti-smacking bill”

Won't ban smacking:
Sue Bradford: “It won’t be legal but that won’t mean…
Barry Soper (interviewer): “So it’s banning smacking.”
Bradford: “No it’s not”

Smacking is banned: "Ms Bradford says parents need to accept that it is no longer legal to hit children."

Smacking isn't banned: "Smacking has never been a criminal offence, and still isn't"

Smacking already banned: "it is already illegal to smack children but her bill removes a defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction." (March 2007)

There is no such law:
"There is no specific law relating to smacking on New Zealand's statute books. People like Mr McCoskrie have fostered a myth that what has happened is that a new law has been created that specifically outlaws smacking. This is simply not true."

Smacking bill won't help: “The epidemic of child abuse and child violence in this country continues – sadly. My bill was never intended to solve that problem.” (National Radio - 21 Dec 07)

Sue Bradford attempts to explain the effect of the anti-smacking law to National Radio's Sean Plunket (18 June 2009) - click here to listen.

Sue Bradford says it's not a decision that should be left to the people:

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Bev Adair

Maori Child Advocate

"I’ve been a victim of a lifetime of abuse….. but I know that a smack is not abuse… in fact I would have loved to have had a loving parent who corrected me with a smack - rather than the verbal and sexual abuse that I experienced with adults who had no regard for my welfare.

The anti-smacking law does not deal with the real issues of child abuse."


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Phil Goff

Leader – Labour Party

Paul Holmes: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

Phil Goff: Well my answer to that is no it shouldn’t be a criminal offence or we should not have people following up and prosecuting parents for a smack in that context.
- TVNZ’S Q+A - Paul Holmes interviews Labour's Phil Goff Sunday 12 April 2009 (audio)

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Sheryl Savill

Sponsor of the Petition for the Referendum

"I am a mum who is concerned about families. I can see how much damage is done to children through drugs, alcohol, poverty, stress and family breakdown.

Let’s tackle the real issues of child abuse… but is a smack from a loving parent child abuse? Of course not."


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Bob McCoskrie

National Director Family First NZ

"This flawed law has attempted to link a smack on the bottom with child abuse of the worst kind. It has put good parents raising law-abiding and responsible citizens in the same category as rotten parents who are a danger to their kids and to society in general."

Dominion Post March 2009


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Helen Clark

Ex-Prime Minister

Clark: "… they don’t want to see, ah, you know, stressed and harassed parents, ah, you know, called in by the police because they, they smacked a child, so I think there’s a debate to go on…"
Interviewer: "…right … so, you don’t want to see smacking banned…"
Clark: "Absolutely not! I think you’re trying to defy human nature."
- Helen Clark, Radio Rhema, Election Campaign 2005 (audio)

"She wants to busy herself with what goes on in the homes of the nation in areas which families regard as their own responsibility, and I think she's going over a very dangerous line."
- Helen Clark referring to Jenny Shipley 1999!

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Bill English

Deputy Prime Minister

Bill English is asked the question "Should a smack be allowed as part of a good parental correction?" five times, but Mr. English avoids the question each time...

Interviewer: Just on another matter, Minister. The Labour Party seemed to have amended their position on Section 59, the smacking legislation. What do you think? Should a smack be allowed as part of a good - as good parental correction? (1st time)

Bill English: Look, the Government's position hasn't changed since a compromise was done with the previous Labour Government. And the Prime Minister has said many times, as has the rest of the Government, that if there is evidence that law abiding parents are being wrong - prosecuted inconsistent with the spirit of that law then we would look to change it. And has been - and there hasn't yet been considerable enough evidence to warrant changing it.

Interviewer: Well, did you think - do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction? (2nd time)

Bill English: Well, look, I think the law, as it is, is the law of the land and needs to be enforced in a sensible way. And...

Interviewer: But do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction? (3rd time)

Bill English: I - I think the law, as it is, is the law of the land that should be enforced. If there is evidence that it is being enforced in instances where it's - where it's inappropriate because the event is trivial or [indistinct]...

Interviewer: No, no. Sorry, Minister, I just wanted to know whether you could answer that, that should - do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction? (4th time)

Bill English: Look, it's a matter of complying with the law of the land.

Interviewer: Right, it's a simple question, isn't it?

Bill English: It's like asking whether the speed limit should be - whether you should drive at 120 kilometres an hour. The law - the law...

Interviewer: Well, clearly you shouldn't .

Bill English: That's right. Well, the law - the law, as it stands, is the law that should be enforced.

Interviewer: Do you - do you think a smack should be allowed as part of good parental correction? (5th time) It's simple yes or no, isn't it?

Bill English : Well, look, the law takes a stance about smacking and it gives the police some discretion about how they use their capacity to prosecute. If there is evidence that they are prosecuting people inappropriately, then that current government would look at changing the law.

- Radio Live Breakfast Show, 14 April 09

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Paula Bennett

Minister of Social Development

The Minister was asked on a recent radio interview whether she thought a smack as part of good parental correction should be a criminal offence in NZ. She responded,

No I don’t, I believe that actually good parenting should be left to do that in their different ways in their different homes and I don’t have an interest in going into people’s homes and telling them how to parent…. I’ve got the hat on of being hugely hugely concerned with serious abuse – now I think they’re very different things so do understand I’m not saying that section 59 was ever going to stop that..’ (click here for audio)

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Cindy Kiro

Ex-Children's Commissioner

Excerpt from Kiro's Briefing for the Incoming Minister November 2008:

“Emotional abuse and neglect are consistently the most common categories of substantiated cases in NZ and in comparable countries”


The Wellingtonian: "Did you smack your kids?"
Kiro: "I tried a couple of times. When my oldest was in nappies and was showing an interest in putting things into plug-points, I smacked him. And when they got to about eight or 10, I might have tried it…"
- www.stuff.co.nz

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Benjamin Spock

American Pediatrician

"In the 20th century parents have been persuaded that the only people who know for sure how children should be managed are the child psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, social workers and pediatricians—like myself. This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. . . . We didn’t realize, until it was too late, how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self-assurance of parents."

- How Not to Bring Up a Bratty Child, REDBOOK, Feb. 1974

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Sir Brian Lochore

Ex-All Blacks Coach

"Yes, I smacked my children, but I've never hit them. Yes, I smacked other people's children, but I never hit them. But we are not allowed to do that any more in this PC world."

- NZ Herald, 27 August 2008



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Tony Blair

Ex-Prime Minister, United Kingdom

“I think everybody actually knows the difference between smacking a kid and abusing a child”

(click here for audio)



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Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

NZ Opera singer

“There’s no respect – anywhere. I remember our prime minister just a year or so ago saying we must teach people respect. You don’t teach people respect – you earn respect... Teachers are not allowed to correct children. Suddenly now, you’re not allowed to smack your child – so you know, you can’t do anything without someone telling you not to do it.”

- Close Up, February 08 (click here for audio)


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Robert E. Larzelere

One of the World's foremost experts on child correction

"There is No Sound Scientific Evidence to Support Anti-Smacking Bans."

Associate Professor of Psychology Dept. Human Development & Family Science - Oklahoma State University Dr Larzelere has been one of the world's foremost experts on child correction for the past 30 years - including:

  • One of three social scientific expert witnesses on the side of successfully defending a similar section to NZ’s s59 of Canada’s Criminal Code. (The social scientific expert witnesses on the other side included Joan Durrant. Durrant has been painted as the authority on smacking bans in NZ yet was ignored in her own country!)
  • Member of Task Force on Corporal Punishment - American Psychological Association.
  • One of 7 experts invited to present at 1996 Scientific Consensus Conference on the Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Corporal Punishment - co-sponsored by American Academy of Pediatrics.

Click here to read NZ’s Anti-Smacking Law Most Extreme in the World - Robert E. Larzelere PhD

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