New Zealand citizens-initiated referendum, 2009

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New Zealand corporal punishment referendum, 2009
"Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
Results
Yes or no Votes Percentage
Yes check.svg Yes 201,541 12.05%
X mark.svg No 1,470,755 87.95%
Valid votes 1,672,296 99.28%
Invalid or blank votes 12,106 0.72%
Total votes 1,684,402 100.00%
Voter turnout 56.09%
Results by electorate
New Zealand smacking referendum 2009 results.svg
  Yes
  No
Source: The Chief Electoral Officer[1]

The New Zealand corporal punishment referendum, 2009 was held from 31 July to 21 August, and was a citizens-initiated referendum on parental corporal punishment. It asked:[2]

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

Voter turnout was 56.1%. 87.4% of votes answered 'no'.

Background[edit]

The petition for the referendum was launched in February 2007 in response to the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill, which would remove parental correction as a defence for assault against children. The petition was organised by Sheryl Savill with support from Kiwi Party's Larry Baldock.[3][4] The wording of the petition was approved by Clerk of the House David McGee on 21 February 2007.[5]

The bill, introduced by Sue Bradford, was passed its third reading in Parliament by 113 votes to 7 on 16 May 2007. Meanwhile organisations and individuals led by Larry Baldock continued to collect signatures to initiate a referendum. They fell short by about 15,500 signatures (many were invalid), and they were granted two further months to make up the difference.[6] Eventually the petition attracted 310,000 signatures from voters, surpassing the 285,000 signatures, or 10 percent of total voters, required to force a referendum.[citation needed]

In June 2008, then prime minister Helen Clark announced that the referendum would not take place alongside the 2008 election as the organisers had been hoping.[7] The decision was based on advice from the Chief Electoral Officer that holding such a referendum could lead to voter confusion. Instead, a postal ballot was selected, starting 30 July 2009 for eligible voters and closing on 21 August 2009.

Prime Minister John Key said that the government would change the law if it was not working, but that he believed the current law was working well.[8]

Criticism regarding question wording[edit]

The wording of citizens-initiated referendum questions was ultimately the responsibility of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, David McGee. Under the referendum legislation, the wording of the question is required to "convey clearly the purpose and effect" of the referendum.[9]

[The question] "could have been written by Dr Seuss – this isn't Green Eggs and Ham, this is yes means no and no means yes, but we're all meant to understand what the referendum means. I think it's ridiculous myself."

—Prime Minister John Key, [10]

The referendum question was interpreted by some to assume that "a smack" can form part of "good parental correction". Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos New Zealand, claimed that the question "presupposes that smacking is part of good parental correction"[11] which he described as "a debatable issue".[12] Prime Minister John Key described the question as "ambiguous" and pointed out that it "could be read a number of different ways". Leader of the Opposition Phil Goff expressed concern that the question "implies that if you vote 'yes' that [sic] you're in favour of criminal sanctions being taken against reasonable parents – actually nobody believes that."[8]

Both John Key and Phil Goff stated that they did not intend to vote in the referendum, with Key calling the question "ridiculous".[10] The Prime Minister believed turnout would be low.[13]

Sue Bradford introduced a private member's bill, the Citizens Initiated Referenda (Wording of Questions) Amendment Bill, designed to prevent future citizens-initiated referenda from having poorly worded questions, and the National government considered adopting it.[10][14][15]

On this bill, she wrote:[14]

An example of an approved referendum question that is both leading and misleading is the NZ Referendum on Child Discipline 2009 proposed by Larry Baldock.

The question approved for that referendum "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" is leading in that the use of the word "good" before "parental correction" makes a value-judgment which predetermines the answer. People answering the question will be drawn to answer "no" on the basis that what is "good" cannot be criminal.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has made this argument:[16]

Mr Smith says the upcoming referendum will not provide clarity on the question of child discipline, because it is possible to support the 2007 amendment while voting either Yes or No to the referendum question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

However, Caritas recognises that in the political context of the referendum, a 'Yes' vote is seen to be a vote for the status quo, while a 'No' vote is seen to be a vote against the 2007 amendment.

"In this context, we recommend a 'Yes' vote, as we believe the status quo is close to the position that we recommended to the Select Committee. However, the wording of the question is so ambiguous, many New Zealanders who support efforts to reduce violence against children, may in good conscience still feel obliged to vote 'No'. It will be hard to understand what the outcome of the referendum may mean," says Mr Smith.

He says Caritas will be writing to the Prime Minister and other relevant politicians, expressing concern that the ambiguous nature of the question will result in an outcome that cannot be understood as either supporting or opposing the 2007 amendment.

Campaigns[edit]

The "yes" campaign[edit]

Most front-line child welfare organisations, such as Plunket, Barnardos, Save the Children, Unicef, Women's Refuge, CPAG, Epoch and Jigsaw, believed the referendum question was misleading, and encouraged their supporters to vote "yes".[17] These organisations, along with many others, backed the "The Yes Vote" campaign.[17] Māori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman wanted the current law retained, with Norman adding he would vote Yes.[8]

The "no" campaign[edit]

The "Vote NO" campaign website was launched on 22 June 2009.[18] The campaign was supported by Simon Barnett. ACT leader Rodney Hide said he would vote no, believing parents have the right to lightly smack their children.[8] Family First and The Kiwi Party also supported voting 'no'.

Results[edit]

Nationwide[edit]

New Zealand citizens-initiated referendum, 2009[19]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum failed No 1,470,755 87.40%
Yes 201,541 11.98%
Invalid or blank votes 12,106 0.72%
Total votes 1,684,402 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 3,002,968 56.09%

By electorate[edit]

Electorate Party holding seat Yes Green tickY (%) Yes Green tickY (num) No Red XN (%) No Red XN (num) Informal votes Invalid votes Turnout
Total 11.98 201,541 87.40 1,470,755 10,421 1,685 56.09
Auckland Central National 29.20 5,898 69.69 14,075 223 14 45.78
Bay of Plenty National 7.32 2,210 92.27 27,844 122 9 66.75
Botany National 9.13 2,206 90.49 21,874 93 8 57.04
Christchurch Central Labour 16.63 3,476 82.66 17,283 149 60 50.22
Christchurch East Labour 10.87 2,751 88.59 22,418 136 66 58.97
Clutha-Southland National 7.25 1,942 92.39 24,754 97 34 62.94
Coromandel National 8.32 2,490 91.25 27,307 130 5 66.16
Dunedin North Labour 19.86 4,065 79.02 16,173 230 10 50.54
Dunedin South Labour 11.51 3,243 87.74 24,729 213 22 62.32
East Coast National 8.84 2,130 90.72 21,859 106 26 59.32
East Coast Bays National 10.24 2,742 89.24 23,907 141 17 59.63
Epsom Act 18.74 4,752 80.37 20,384 228 10 52.71
Hamilton East National 13.41 3,169 85.82 20,276 182 14 55.14
Hamilton West National 9.78 2,365 89.80 21,710 102 14 55.38
Helensville National 9.19 2,574 90.41 25,327 114 17 61.12
Hunua National 7.19 1,963 92.38 25,223 119 13 63.17
Hutt South Labour 15.60 3,527 83.64 18,912 173 45 53.01
Ilam National 15.15 3,832 84.00 21,242 214 76 55.89
Invercargill National 7.55 2,023 92.09 24,685 97 6 60.13
Kaikōura National 8.42 2,407 90.95 26,008 181 15 64.95
Mana Labour 16.86 3,738 82.31 18,251 185 51.75
Māngere Labour 17.15 2,432 82.33 11,677 74 38.49
Manukau East Labour 15.81 2,532 83.63 13,396 91 40.47
Manurewa Labour 11.87 1,946 87.70 14,376 70 44.25
Maungakiekie National 15.73 3,567 83.72 18,985 125 50.41
Mount Albert Labour 23.08 4,898 75.92 16,112 212 47.83
Mount Roskill Labour 13.91 3,132 85.57 19,274 117 50.38
Napier National 9.34 2,514 90.12 24,251 146 61.42
Nelson National 15.33 4,122 83.95 22,572 192 59.47
New Lynn Labour 15.66 3,799 83.66 20,294 164 54.65
New Plymouth National 8.73 2,351 90.81 24,446 124 60.25
North Shore National 14.78 4,153 84.45 23,736 217 58.79
Northcote National 13.84 3,447 85.39 21,268 191 55.57
Northland National 8.74 2,390 90.67 24,805 163 63.23
Ōhariu United Future 19.88 4,980 78.97 19,779 288 54.85
Ōtaki National 10.56 3,035 88.71 25,487 209 61.82
Pakuranga National 9.47 2,608 90.12 24,814 113 60.91
Palmerston North Labour 11.74 2,917 87.40 21,718 215 57.44
Papakura National 8.44 2,037 91.15 22,006 99 57.57
Port Hills Labour 18.29 4,616 80.66 20,354 263 56.77
Rangitata National 7.59 2,320 92.02 28,118 119 64.45
Rangitīkei National 8.05 2,127 91.42 24,153 140 63.82
Rimutaka Labour 11.75 2,926 87.68 21,830 141 57.24
Rodney National 8.96 2,735 90.50 27,621 164 66.09
Rongotai Labour 29.34 6,370 69.43 15,073 267 47.64
Rotorua National 7.86 1,990 91.66 23,209 123 59.81
Selwyn National 10.12 2,928 89.30 25,832 168 65.23
Tāmaki National 14.47 3,910 84.74 22,906 214 56.96
Taranaki-King Country National 7.26 1,907 92.41 24,267 86 64.36
Taupō National 7.29 2,033 92.30 25,723 113 61.84
Tauranga National 8.54 2,515 90.99 26,789 139 63.85
Te Atatū National 10.89 2,480 88.64 20,193 109 54.45
Tukituki National 9.45 2,530 90.03 24,116 140 60.71
Waikato National 7.00 1,832 92.54 24,215 120 64.46
Waimakariri Labour 7.97 2,355 91.61 27,071 125 64.33
Wairarapa National 8.60 2,456 90.79 25,920 174 62.65
Waitakere National 12.40 2,706 87.07 19,007 116 53.89
Waitaki National 7.63 2,434 91.76 29,277 196 65.90
Wellington Central Labour 36.04 7,697 61.94 13,229 432 44.04
West Coast-Tasman National 11.72 3,171 87.67 23,716 164 62.84
Whanganui National 8.12 2,159 91.44 24,303 115 60.83
Whangarei National 9.17 2,572 90.32 25,337 143 61.60
Wigram Progressive 12.42 3,023 86.89 21,150 167 54.39
Hauraki-Waikato Labour 10.71 1,188 88.86 9,854 34.36
Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Labour 10.10 1,194 89.40 10,573 36.14
Tāmaki Makaurau Māori 12.21 1,481 87.22 10,579 34.15
Te Tai Hauāuru Māori 11.17 1,362 88.25 10,758 37.36
Te Tai Tokerau Māori 10.70 1,344 88.77 11,148 37.87
Te Tai Tonga Māori 14.40 1,791 85.40 10,580 38.86
Waiariki Māori 8.77 1,026 90.77 10,617 36.58

Aftermath[edit]

Government response[edit]

Prime Minister John Key promised to bring forward the planned review of the law.[20]

John Boscawen's private member's bill[edit]

By coincidence, Government coalition and ACT MP John Boscawen had a private member's bill legalising smacking drawn from the ballot less than a week after the referendum. Prime Minister John Key said his National Party would vote it down, with the Labour Party and Green Party also opposed making it likely to be lost after the first reading of the bill.[21] In September 2010 the Bill was in fact defeated 115–5 on its first reading in Parliament.

Binding referendum[edit]

Dissatisfied with the government's response, the Kiwi Party has put forward another referendum to make referendums legally binding.[22] The question "Should Parliament be required to pass legislation that implements the majority result of a citizens initiated referendum where that result supports a law change?" was approved by the Clerk of the House on 17 December 2009.[23] However, the petition failed to gain sufficient signatures and subsequently lapsed.

Public protests[edit]

A protest against prime minister John Key's response to the referendum was held on Saturday, 21 November 2009 in Auckland. The New Zealand Herald estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended.[24]

Opinion polls[edit]

Source Date Sample Green tickYYes Red XNNo Don't know/won't vote
TVNZ/Colmar Brunton[25] 3 August 2009 1000 13% 83% 5%

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pede, Robert (25 August 2008). "Citizens Initiated Referendum 2009 – Final Result" (Website). Ministry of Justice. The Chief Electoral Officer. Retrieved 25 August 2009. 
  2. ^ 2009 Citizens Initiated Referendum, Elections New Zealand.
  3. ^ Collins, Simon (1 November 2008). "Campaign targets pro-smack petitioners". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Collins, Simon (23 February 2007). "Petition offers voice against Bradford bill". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  5. ^ New Zealand Gazette, 1 March 2007.
  6. ^ "Smacking petition falls short". The Dominion Post. 29 April 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Trevett, Claire (26 June 2008). "Smack referendum next year, says Clark". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Key, Goff won't vote on smacking referendum". The New Zealand Herald. 16 June 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993, section 10.
  10. ^ a b c Trevett, Claire (23 June 2009). "Key sees merit in Greens' referendum bill". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Anti-smacking debate goes to referendum". 3 News. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "Nine-to-Noon", Radio New Zealand National, 16 June 2009.
  13. ^ Young, Audrey (17 June 2009). "Big two coy on smacking vote". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Citizens Initiated Referenda (Wording of Questions) Amendment Bill". Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. Retrieved 21 July 2009. 
  15. ^ "Bradford introducing bill on referendum wording". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  16. ^ "Caritas says child discipline referendum will not provide clarity", Press release, 15 July 2009.
  17. ^ a b "The Yes Vote (Campaign website)". Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  18. ^ "Vote NO Referendum Website Launched", Family First Press Release, 22 June 2009.
  19. ^ "Final Result by Electorate for the Citizens Initiated Referendum 2009 on the question "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"". Elections New Zealand. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  20. ^ Young, Audrey (25 August 2009). "PM: Smacking law review gives parents 'comfort'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  21. ^ Audrey Young (27 August 2009). "Key scuttles move to change smacking law". The New Zealand Herald. 
  22. ^ The Kiwi Party (5 September 2009). "New petition will be launched says Kiwi Party". Scoop.co.nz. 
  23. ^ "CIR question approved by the Clerk". Scoop.co.nz. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  24. ^ "One arrest as thousands join 'March for Democracy'". The New Zealand Herald (Auckland). NZPA. 21 November 2009. 
  25. ^ "Poll finds smacking OK with most Kiwis". One News. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 

External links[edit]