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Lawyers slap down a ban on smacking

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Smacking children 'should be illegal'

A child psychologist backs a push by physicians to make smacking children a criminal offence, saying it lowers IQ, self esteem and "makes people more violent".

PT0M0S 620 349

A zero-tolerance approach to smacking by outlawing corporal punishment would be doomed to fail, according to Canberra's legal fraternity.

The physical discipline debate resurfaced on Friday after a leading group of doctors from Australia and New Zealand called to make it a criminal offence for parents to smack their children.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians wants a legal amendment to give children the same protection from assault as others in the community.

Australian parents can legally discipline their children by corporal punishment as long as it is reasonable and can argue ''lawful chastisement'' if charged with assault.

But lawyers say the defence does not give parents a licence to beat children.

Criminal lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith, of Kamy Saeedi Lawyers, said it was not a static defence.

''It's a test in reference to social standards and norms, [so] the test that was applied in 1950 is not the test applied today,'' Mr Kukulies-Smith said.

''What would have been considered acceptable then is most definitely not considered acceptable by the courts today.

''It's an evolving thing as attitudes to violence in general and lawful chastisement have changed.''

Mr Kukulies-Smith said criminalising behaviour was a blunt instrument to effect behavioral change, and zero-tolerance approaches had a history of failing.

He said there were better ways for smacking to be addressed than through the criminal justice system.

''Lawful chastisement [cases] quite often end up with magistrates describing it as a lose-lose situation because children are put through the court process as witnesses and the parents are dragged through as the defendant over what, in most cases, are relatively isolated occurrences,'' he said.

Defence lawyer Ben Aulich, of Ben Aulich and Associates, said that while he did not smack his own children, parents should be allowed to choose a form a discipline within the law.

''The law does not need to change as there is adequate scope to deal with parents who overstep the mark,'' Mr Aulich said.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said a smacking ban had been discussed by government but a change to legislation was not expected in the near future.

''My view is there should not be a rush to legislation on this,'' Mr Corbell said.

''This is a complex debate and there are, I think, legitimate issues to be addressed on both sides. I think it's worthy of a public debate but there should not be a rush to legislation.''

Mr Corbell said the Children and Young People Commissioner, Alasdair Roy, had previously raised the issue, adding there were conceptual inconsistencies in the way the law operated.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said any future legislation would be hard to enforce but would effectively set a standard for behaviour.

''I'm a supporter of occasionally using legislation to that effect,'' she said.

''I think the big issue is how you would enforce it.''

Ms Gallagher, who was speaking on ABC Radio, outlined her experiences as a mother, admitting that she had smacked her children in the past.

''I can probably count it on one hand and I felt terrible after it,'' she said.

''Sometimes it was for their own safety … but there have been times I've done it out of anger and I've just felt awful afterwards.''

29 comments so far

  • Good to see the PC brigade at it again. Guess you all run out of things to go after smokers for? It is most certainly up to the parents on how they should discipline their children, as long as the parents do not cross the line from smacking to abuse.

    Government, stick to what you do which is running the country, and stop trying to be Big Brother in telling parents/etc what they can and can't do.

    Commenter
    Adzz
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    July 26, 2013, 10:49AM
    • I am not sure they can run the country or the territory for that matter, which is why they get involved in stuff like this

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      July 26, 2013, 12:06PM
  • I was disciplined as a child I learnt respect an right from wrong there is a difference between a smack an a beating

    Commenter
    somenotsoyoungoroldguy
    Date and time
    July 26, 2013, 10:50AM
    • I thought this was all done and dusted and the PC brigade had had their way!
      Maybe someone thought this up as another stunt to get in the limelight coming up to election time.
      It's a ridiculous law anyway, a good smack on the bum never hurt anyone, not for long anyway, and gets a necessary message across to a kid. As it is, it's ignored by most sensible parents, and long may that remain so,

      Commenter
      Ronalso
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 26, 2013, 11:14AM
      • GO AWAY.

        Commenter
        OLD DOG
        Date and time
        July 26, 2013, 11:23AM
        • Just another reason why Labor will never get my vote.

          Just make smacking criminal in the ACT and I will be more than happy to drive across the border with my kids to discipline them.

          Commenter
          Tone
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          July 26, 2013, 11:28AM
          • You must be fun at parties.

            Commenter
            Blueman
            Date and time
            July 26, 2013, 2:01PM
          • I can have parties as my kids are well behaved. Dont know about you though

            Commenter
            Tone
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            July 26, 2013, 2:19PM
        • If you want to know why children today are growing up with no respect for parents, teachers and the law then look no further than this PC stupidity. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians live in some sort of academic pink cloud land. One of the main reasons for the total lack of respect from today's youth is that they know there are no consequences for almost anything they do or say. Most young men only respect one thing, a greater and more powerful force than themselves. If they grow up knowing they will only get a feather on the hand they will do what they like. Firm and appropriate physical control is essential and these namby pamby academics should keep their noses out of our living rooms.

          Commenter
          Saxon
          Date and time
          July 26, 2013, 11:31AM
          • Agree, when the government starts dictating what happens in your own house then you might as well go end it all now as you won't have a life anymore.

            Commenter
            zzREXzz
            Date and time
            July 26, 2013, 11:39AM

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