Stars coming out to fight smacking bill

By Mike Houlahan

As the smacking debate returns for another round of argument, the opposition to the bill is bringing out its stars to win over the public.

Next month, Green MP Sue Bradford's controversial bill - aimed at eliminating the defence of reasonable force in relation to assaults on children - will once more be debated in Parliament.

Yesterday lobby group New Zealand Family Values In Jeopardy announced plans for a mass rally on Parliament's lawn on May 2. Speakers include Destiny Church Bishop Brian Tamaki, with former All Black and church member Mark "Bull" Allen officiating.

"I'm a parent, I have five children, and I think that how you parent your children is a personal responsibility," Allen said.

"I don't think we bring our children into this world to be told how to parent them by other people. When we use a corrective smack on our children, provided that it's done in a controlled fashion and a loving manner and done with an explanation, I think that is pretty reasonable."

Allen, whose media-friendly manner and distinctive bald head won him great popularity in his playing days, is by no means the first celebrity to have loaned their cachet to either side of the argument.

Family First, which has been at the forefront of the campaign against the bill, began the celebrity parade when notables such as radio host Simon Barnett, former All Black Michael Jones, Oceania football player of the century Wynton Rufer and former Silver Fern Linda Vagana signed an open letter which called on MPs to reject the bill.

It did not take long for the bill's supporters to respond in kind. In March, when MPs last debated the bill, journalists Judy Bailey, Paul Holmes and Linda Clarke, rugby commentator Keith Quinn and Bishop Richard Randerson were among well-known people to put their names on a banner showing support for Ms Bradford.

"This is a chance for us to do something tangible to protect our children," Bailey said at the time.

The banner was organised by Every Child Counts project manager Deborah Morris-Travers. The former MP said its aim was to use celebrities to highlight community support for the bill, and to address the fear and misinformation surrounding it.

AGAINST THE BILL
Radio host Simon Barnett
Former All Black Michael Jones
Oceania football player of the century Wynton Rufer
Former Silver Fern Linda Vagana
Radio Live talkback host Lindsay Perigo
Former Winz chief Christine Rankin

FOR THE BILL
Former TV newsreader Judy Bailey
Radio host Paul Holmes
Former radio host Linda Clarke
Journalist and ex-MP Deborah Coddington
TV personalities Jude Dobson and Hilary Timmins
Auckland City Councillors Penny Sefuiva, Leila Boyle, Richard Northey, Neil Abel and Cathy Casey

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