Really, the question proposed by the pro-smacking crowd isn't that hard to understand, is it? Admittedly, citizens-initiated referenda don't usually pose questions in the sort of language that would bring a satisfied smile to a contracts lawyer.

Remember Norm Withers' referendum on violent crime? He asked: "Should there be a reform of the justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?"

Crikey. Almost 92 per cent of the population answered yes but they weren't answering the question. What they, and Norm, were saying was we've had a gutsful of violent crime in our society.

Seeing elderly women bashed and broken in hospital beds sickens our stomachs. We want the lawmakers and the justice system to start delivering justice, not administering law. The people who answered yes weren't just saying yes. They were agreeing with Norm that society was going to hell in a handcart and it was time nasty criminals were given a taste of their own medicine.

Larry Baldock's question is similarly loaded. What he was saying was, should a bunch of poxy lefties, many of them childless, be telling me what to do in my own home? Although the question reads: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence?"

For the terminally confused and bewildered, commas will help you out enormously. Using commas, the question basically reads as: "Should a smack be a criminal offence?" See? Easy.

The other side would have asked: "Should the striking of children as part of lazy parenting be allowed?" Put in the commas and it's: "Should the striking of children be allowed?" You can see the loaded messages behind each brief question.

Not all parents who smack their children are deranged control freaks who should never have had the good fortune to be breeders. Similarly, parents who don't smack aren't all dope-smoking free spirits who think disciplining Tarquin will stifle his creative spirit.

It's aggravating being asked to choose sides. I don't want to be allied to either - and yet, because of bloody democracy, I'm obliged to vote.

Citizens-initiated referenda might feel good for those who want to let off steam, but really, this one isn't going to make a blind bit of difference to the way people parent their kids.

* www.kerrewoodham.com