The amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961: A case study in legislative change
Austin, G. R. (2010). The amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961: A case study in legislative change (Thesis, Master of Laws (LLM)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/4931
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/4931
In June of 2007 the New Zealand Government passed the Crimes (Substituted section 59) Amendment Act 2007, legally abolishing the right of parents to physically discipline their children and making New Zealand one of 29 States to have (so far) achieved full prohibition of corporal punishment. However the hypothesis of this thesis is that this process of abolishing corporal punishment can be characterised as a lost opportunity - the opportunity to engage in productive debate about the way in which our country’s children are viewed and raised and to address some of the underlying practices and attitudes which contribute towards our appalling rates of child abuse. Instead it degenerated into one of the most contentious debates in recent political history. Rational debate deteriorated into abuse, misunderstandings and deliberate thwarting of reasoned discussion. As a result in 2010 we are in a position where the boundaries surrounding permissible and impermissible discipline are arguably less clear than they were before. This thesis analyses the process of legislative change with a view to showing how, why and where things went wrong. It argues that this process was stymied by two crucial factors; firstly the influence of right wing lobby groups who garnered support for their religiously motivated viewpoints by capitalising on the public’s misplaced fears and underlying attitudes towards children ; and secondly the failure of the Government to adequately advocate for, and educate the public on, the law which it passed. Ultimately these two factors were heavily influenced by the fact that our collective and individual opinions on physical discipline have arisen as a result of the historically dominant construction of children as inherently evil – a construction which we inherited from Britain and which is intrinsically aligned with the practice of corporal punishment. The thesis then demonstrates that the negative repercussions of the debate process could be partially ameliorated through education and that lessons learned in this process can be utilised in the future
University of Waikato
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