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Timeline: Anti-smacking legislation

Published: 4:10PM Friday August 21, 2009 Source: ONE News

The following is a timeline of the main events in the anti-smacking legislation saga.

Pre-2001 - The Labour-led government begins considering amending the smacking law at the request of the United Nations, but decides not to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act which says parents can use disciplinary force against their children if it's reasonable.

September 10, 2001 - The National Party, in Opposition under the leadership of Jenny Shipley, calls for the law that gives parents the right to use reasonable force to discipline their children to be amended.

June 21, 2002 - Social Services Minister Steve Maharey wants to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act after an Auckland man is cleared of assault after he used a leather belt to discipline his seven-year-old stepson.

June 10, 2003 - Prime Minister Helen Clark calls for smacking of children to be outlawed after the UN committee on the Rights for the Child says New Zealand is the only country that has legislation that allows parents to use reasonable force when it comes to disciplining children.

March 31, 2005 - The Human Rights Commission launches a five-year action plan to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act with a strong focus on improving the rights of children.

July 26, 2005 - Survey shows almost two-thirds of parents think smacking is the least effective way to guide and discipline children. The survey comes as Green MP Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill is debated in parliament.

July 28, 2005 - The anti-smacking bill sponsored by Bradford passes its first hurdle in parliament with MPs voting to send it to select committee.

February 14, 2006 - National MP Judith Collins says there is a fear the anti-smacking bill will turn good parents into criminals.

May 24, 2006 - Sue Bradford says some clarification is needed on her anti-smacking bill to win support for it from her fellow MPs and says a light tap will be okay. Bradford says it was never her intention to criminalise parents who lightly smack their children.

July 13, 2006 - The Law Society informs parliament that removing the defence of using reasonable force when parents discipline their children would create a legal vacuum and recommends that the law be amended so judges and parents have clear guidance about what is acceptable when disciplining a child.

July 19, 2006 - A pro-smacking group comes under fire for a controversial booklet on physical discipline, but refuses to change its stance.

October 08, 2006 - Sue Bradford reiterates that her anti-smacking bill will not outlaw smacking altogether but merely remove the "use of reasonable force" as a defence in court.

February 20, 2007 - Lobbying against the Greens' anti-smacking bill intensifies with an open letter to MPs urging them to vote against it. The letter signed by more than 1,200 parents and professionals says the removal of section 59 from the Crimes Act will turn parents into criminals.

February 21, 2007 - Parliament passes Bradford's anti-smacking bill through its second reading. MPs vote 70 to 51 in favour of the bill.

March 13, 2007 - The anti-smacking bill gets a last minute assurance from the Maori Party, who were the power brokers in the debate, which brings the number of those in favour to 63 votes against 58.

March 26, 2007 - A ONE News Colmar Brunton poll finds 83% of those surveyed believe it is okay to smack naughty children.

March 28, 2007 - Bradford's Private Member's Bill gets set to become a government bill after she agrees to a request from Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen.

May 02, 2007 - Destiny Church leads a fiery protest against any move to interfere with parents' right to discipline their children, while other faiths gather to pray in the hope the bill will help reduce child abuse.

May 03, 2007 - Police admit there may be more prosecutions and more parents may be charged with assault for hitting their children after the new anti-smacking law is passed.

May 16, 2007 - The anti-smacking bill is passed by parliament. The bill repeals section 59 of the Crimes Act. In its third and final vote parliament votes 113 to eight in favour of the legislation.

January 29, 2008 - Controversy over the new anti-smacking legislation is revived with police deciding to charge a Christchurch father with assault for flicking his son's ear.

May 15, 2008 - A new bid is made to have the anti smacking law overturned with a petition presented to parliament. The Kiwi Party delivers the signatures to parliament and organisers say it is time to look at new solutions to family violence.

August 22, 2008 - It is decided a referendum will be held on anti-smacking laws, after parliamentary officials confirm a petition calling for the ballot has enough valid signatures.

May 19, 2009 - A Christchurch father is convicted of assaulting his four-year-old son after a two-day trial that was seen as a test of the anti-smacking laws.

June 15, 2009 - Taxpayers learn they are due to fork out $9 million to have a say on the controversial anti-smacking law.

August 2009 - New Zealanders have three weeks to cast their votes in the smacking referendum. The postal ballot asks, "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" Almost 3 million voting papers are delivered.

August 21, 2009 - Preliminary results from the referendum show 87.6% of people voting "No" to the question "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?". 11.81% of people voted "Yes". Voter turnout is 54.04%.