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Bradford's opponents taking to city streets

By Martin Johnston

Street marches are being planned around the country in a bid to turn the tide against the bill that would prevent parents from using reasonable force to discipline their children.

And pulpit messages against the anti-smacking bill, or at least urging church members to have their say, are expected to be delivered tomorrow.

Parliamentary debate stalled on Green MP Sue Bradford's bill on Wednesday night, and will resume on March 28.

The bill - presented by opponents as a ban on smacking, a description rejected by its supporters - has polarised the community but appears likely to become law.

A posting on the Solo website, founded by right-wing political commentator Lindsay Perigo, advertises a march to Parliament on the day of the bill's next debate.

Bob McCoskrie, national director of the Families First lobby group, which opposes the legislation, said yesterday that street marches in main centres were among moves to try to persuade MPs to vote against the Bradford bill.

"We've had lots of calls for a street march and we are considering that.

That's from around the country."

Families First was negotiating with the author of the Solo posting and might join forces to organise marches in Auckland and other cities.

"We're looking at simultaneous marches on the 28th. We need to get the pressure on early. There is huge energy. In just about every centre, we know of people itching to sign the petition."

Two petitions are running on the issue, one of which asks if smacking as part of good parental correction should be a criminal offence. They will force a national referendum if they gain about 303,000 signatures.

Mr McCoskrie said other strategies being used were to lobby Labour MPs who "understand family life and what it's like to be a parent", asking them to demand from their caucus the freedom of a conscience vote in Parliament.

"We are fundraising to put the petition forms in major daily newspapers so that people have easier access to them because we are being inundated with inquiries as to how people can get access to the forms."

Destiny Church spokesman Richard Lewis said copies of the petitions were in its churches. Destiny strongly endorsed it, and members were signing.

He said church leaders had frequently spoken to members about the bill, which the church opposed.

Geoff Macpherson, a Christchurch pastor in the Grace Presbyterian Church - which told MPs last year it opposed the bill because it "seeks to override our God-given responsibilities" - said yesterday that he expected to speak about it at church tomorrow but members were free to make up their own minds about the legislation.

"I think on Sunday I will be encouraging people to be aware they can get involved in the process and they should think about contacting their MP or writing an email."

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