To smack or not to smack? (psst. the answer is ‘not to smack’)

The topic of smacking is again in the headlines and I am trying to figure out why a particular political party is still pushing this issue.

In response to someone who potentially will be in parliament at the end of this year stating that he breaks the law because he thinks the law is ‘silly‘ Kyle MacDonald of the NZ Association of Psychotherapists released a statement saying amongst other things that the ” physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behaviour, physical injury and mental health problems for children.”

Further to that professional opinion, based on studies and research, I also wanted to mention an interview I did when I was involved with a radio show with Petra Bagust a couple of years ago. We interviewed Dr Russell Wills, now Children’s Commissioner, who was then the head of the Paediatrics Society of NZ and asked him if smacking was a gateway to abuse, his response was that ‘there’s no question about that of course it is.’

You can hear a two and a half minute section of the interview here

I have not cherry picked a couple of academics here either, the vast majority of child care experts agree that smacking, even ‘inconsequential’ smacking can be harmful long term. We live in a country where is something can be harmful it is often outlawed. Our laws work by the majority of us, who know where the line is, giving up some freedoms because the small minority can’t figure that ‘line’ out. You and I don’t need to be told not to murder…but we need specific legislation there so the handful of people who do need to be told, can be legislated against. I guess the one difference here is everyone knows murder is not acceptable but as for smacking we have the vast majority of experts in issues around children almost speaking with one voice saying ‘don’t smack’ and in response some sectors of the public are giving that position the middle finger think we know better than people who work in these fields every day, who see the downstream effects of what we’re talking about, who make the longitudinal studies that we then choose to ignore. It just makes no sense.

Look you can choose to think what you like, but here is something that I read yesterday that I think demonstrates to me what it means to be a parent and what we should be doing, in our own Western way, to raise our children.

Here is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.

And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.

In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behaviour is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.

Lets just state that bit again

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behaviour is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

Even a tribe, in a third world country, who doesn’t have the access to anywhere near the same resources we do when it comes to education and expert opinion, has this figured this out.

But then again, maybe you think the law is ‘Silly’ so you’ll keep smacking your kids because “two thirds of NZ agree with you.”

Colin Craig on Radiolive

Colin Craig just spent an hour on Radiolive with Wallace Chapman. It was very entertaining and it was great to hear Craig’s comments and interactions with the listeners.

It is an interesting time in the media as they are all over the Conservative Party story and links to National. I wonder, as did a caller to Chapman post Craig leaving the studio, if the media has nothing better to do at the moment so look for stories where there is none.

The Conservative Party could definitely be there or thereabouts after the next election and indeed could become a coalition partner to prop up a third term National Government, but the confident talk of “We’ll definitely be there” needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. There was internal polling at the last election that had Craig and the Conservatives convinced they’d win Rodney in a landslide which they ended up losing by more than 12,000 votes. I don’t say this to say they won’t be there, just as a reminder that polls ‘aint always accurate. Poll results go both ways as well, just ask Winston Peters.

On the topic of Winston Peters, having done talkback and talk radio for close to a decade I have to say that the supporters of Colin Craig, their angle on the world, and the repetitive themes that come from them do remind me a lot of NZ First supporters. I wonder if the Conservatives will go head to head with NZ First for these votes which could lead to a few scenarios.

  1. NZ First losing all it’s share and it disappears again.
  2. NZ First takes voters away from the Conservatives once Winston starts the ‘Foreshore and Seabed’, ‘Immigrants are evil’, ‘Everybody is against the elderly’ campaign which is sure to come.
  3. Or will they spread the potential vote too thin, and end up keeping each other out of politics by splitting the vote.
  4. Or I guess you have to ask for fairness, will the both get in…which would make for fun political observing in 2014/15 as Craig could try to out-Winston Winston!

One of the messages I enjoy from Colin Craig is that he wants to be, and thinks all politicians should be, representative of their constituents. I agree. The problem the Conservatives are going to face is who their constituents actually are.

Here are a couple of examples from today’s hour on Radiolive

These are the constituents that Colin Craig and the Conservative will be representing. I don’t know about you, but if I were in politics I don’t think I’d want ‘Michael’ to be my spokesperson, or writing my bumper stickers but if we did they’d be something like…

  • “We don’t believe in Aotearoa – Vote Conservative”
  • “We believe in Equal Rights for all (especially those of us with current privilege) – Vote Conservative”
  • “We want to smack our kids – Vote Conservative”

Or maybe Esther would be a better way to go…

  • “We used to live in harmony, except those of us who didn’t and had things like our language and practices oppressed – Vote Conservative”
  • “All that land we took off you, that you got back, well you should now agree to give it to everyone and let bygones be bygones – Vote Conservative”

I wonder if the Conservatives are setting themselves up to be a far right alternative to ACT. This is of course a valid voting block with an audience large enough to get the Conservatives into parliament.

I have spent some time at Conservative HQ, I actually offered to help them with their message, but it was plain to see then, as it is now, that as long as they can get across the 5% threshold appealing to the group of NZers that would adhere to the above thoughts then they’d get in, and of course there is a market for those thoughts.

So we shall now see if the media continues the narrative of Colin Craig being the next king maker, or if next month they will be back to Winston and the Maori Party then in 12 months we’ll all know if they were correct or not.

Colin Craig ready to jump into bed with John Key…who’s ‘too gay’ now?

12 months ago the Conservative party sent a newsletter out to residents of John Key’s Helensville electorate citing a local’s opinion that John Key was ‘too gay for Helensville’.

Colin_Craig_pamphlets

The political posturing around the Conservatives and National at the moment is interesting but it seems that while Mr. Craig may endorse the view that Mr. Key to too gay for Helensville, it’s now obvious that Craig is just gay enough to jump in bed with the Prime Minister.

We all know how MMP works and if the Nats ‘get into bed’ with the Conservatives it’s the start of a new era of ‘any partner for power’.

John Key has described himself as ‘fiscally conservative and socially liberal’ in an interview I did with him a few years ago and went on to say that if you keep the purse strings tight you can then spend in areas of social need. Whilst I think his record is not quite as ‘generous’ as that you have to say that in the areas that National has been socially liberal like the ‘anti-smacking’ law and marriage equality there is deep division with the Conservatives.

Whilst this would not normally be a problem between parties who focus is things like the economy and ‘jobs for New Zealanders’ this is not the case with the Conservatives. Turning over the anti-smacking law is Colin Craig’s number one objective in politics. Opposing marriage equality is also right up there so whilst there is a lot of generous spirit at the moment and acknowledging that ‘we need to work together’ you have to remember that for the Conservatives it comes back to a couple of big social policies, that they disagree with National on, and those policies are what the Conservatives are built on…they are their core beliefs.

I was at Conservatives HQ in the last few months and suggested to Colin Craig’s press secretary that he’d have much more a chance at the next election is he moved publicly away from these kinds of conversations, there was a wide eyed look of shock to that suggestion and I was told in no uncertain terms ‘but that’s Colin’s passion‘.’Okay, but who is here to counter Colin’s passion for political balance or even just another perspective, for example who is on the board who supported Sue Bradford’s law reform?‘ The answer was ‘No one‘.

I have no issues with people who oppose either of those social policies, that’s your right as a citizen and voter, however when they are ‘your passion’ and you are being touted as the person who will hold up the next politically right Government it is likely a concern to some.

The one other issue about the Conservatives is that should Mr. Craig get elected to a seat in Auckland I wonder if the question will be asked, “is this the first parliamentary seat that has been purchased outright in NZ politics?”

Colin Craig is a wealthy businessman which I congratulate him on, his success in the world of business is admirable, the success has given him access to vast sums of money. He has spent millions of his own money on his campaigns and protest marches to this point. The only reason there is a Conservative Party is Craig’s own personal $1.6 million donation at the last election…then there is the ‘March for Democracy’ ($400,000) and his Mayoralty campaign. If it wasn’t for Colin Craig’s personal wealth, there would be no Conservative Party, no TV interviews, no chance of winning a seat. I wonder how many will be uncomfortable with the idea that should he be elected, Craig’s wealth has been the main reason he is now in politics as without the wealth, no one would have had the chance to vote for him.

If we are potentially in a new era of ‘any political partner so long as we stay in power’ I wonder what the voter will do? Will the voter support that view and just to keep their party in charge they will open the door to anybody else to make up the numbers, or will the vote decide that it’s safer not to allow these one policy ponies in with unknown consequences.

Family First Loses Charitable Status

So Family First has been struck off the Charities Registry and as of the 27th of this month will lose all the financial benefits of being a Charity, as will their supporters.

Family First and I may not agree all the time, but I know Bob McCoskrie pretty well and have no problems with the idea of them getting financial gain from being a Charity. See when it comes down to it, it is you and I who subsidise Charities for the non-tax paying, non-bank fee paying, rebates to supporters financial benefits they get.

We subsidise them by paying the tax, paying the bank fees, and then having our government giving back to their supporters some of their donations which never actually make it into the hands of the public coffers. Groups like Family First get the donation, and then from our taxes the government via IRD give one third of that back.

So whether we support a particular charity or not, we do indeed subsidise them, and I’ll say again I have no problems subsidising Family First as I have no problem subsidising many other charities.

But now comes the conversation specifically about Family First. I also have no problem with a group, who now falls outside prescribed definition of a charity being struck off. The question is does Family First no longer fit the criteria they have apparently adhered to for the 7 years they have operated as a charity.

I have two questions for you. What charitable work does Family First do? What is Family First’s ‘core business’?

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) says for an entity to be charitable it must

  • fall within one of the four charitable purposes set out in section 5(1) of the Charities Act and
  • provide a public benefit and
  • not be aimed at creating private financial profit.

Notice that an entity must do all three be considered a charity, it’s not an ‘either or’.

The four charitable purposes in section 5(1) of the Charities Act “includes every charitable purpose, whether it relates to the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community.”

I think it’s pretty clear that some of those ideas are relative, in other words who is to decide if a group is providing a public benefit. In the case of Family First, much like any group, those who support and agree with them would say ‘Yes!’ and it’s likely that those who do not would say ‘No!’ which is also an interesting time to point out that there is only a three person board for registering, or de-registering a charity. So if two of the three people on the board have a vested interested in an issue, they could then get an entity registered as a charity or indeed de-registered. I am not implying this has happened in this case, I do not know that, but those are the facts when it comes to a charity losing its status.

I do wonder if where Family First has run foul of the DIA is around some more measurable criteria.

The DIA uses court definitions of what advocacy is deemed ‘charitable’. “personal and representational advocacy — for example, helping people access benefits as part of your charitable work” is acceptable where as “political advocacy — for example, lobbying for a law change” is not.

So what is ‘political advocacy’?

Again the DIA uses the courts definition which states “advocacy for political change, for a political party, for a law change or enforcement of a particular law has, however, been regarded by the courts as non-charitable” which is likely the death rattle for Family First.

I don’t think it can be argued that Family First, in the two public campaigns they have gotten the most exposure for, have advocated hard for political change with the smacking bill and for a law to be enforced in the case of Same-Sex Marriage. If you are following what the DIA sets out to be a charity then these criteria is where Family First have fallen short.

I think Family First is a lobby group and I wonder if a lobby group can also be a charity. I have no problems with Family First being struck off using the legal definition of what a charity is, and the DIA saying certain advocacy cannot be performed if you want to call yourself a charity…it’s their game and their rules to follow.

However here is my concern, and it is reflected in the last post about Aaron Gilmore, for me it now comes down to consistency. If you are going to say that because Family First doesn’t fit this part of the definition of being a charity, if that’s going to be your filter …then how many other entities need to also be stuck off? If what the DIA is saying is that the ‘core business’ of Family First is political lobby, as opposed to family advocate, how many other charities have a similar ‘public perception’ versus ‘reality in practice’ and need to be struck off.

This is where I need your help. Can you list for me in the comments below what other charities you think might have their heads on the block, if you used the same filter on them, as appears to have been used on Family First.

Thoughts?