I WAS smacked. I probably have to come straight out and say it when talking about the issue, so disclosing any bias on the matter.
The reason it is worth such a personal confession is because the ACT Human Rights Commission has recently floated the idea of ACT becoming the first jurisdiction to ban the smacking of children.
The ACT Government was quick to pour cold water on the idea, but it is worth having the discussion.
The best argument for a ban on smacking, as far as I understand it, is as follows: there may very well be parents who use smacking responsibly, however, for the sake of those children who are physically abused under it, perhaps good parents should sacrifice their right to smack for the sake of those most vulnerable who need protecting.
This is a compelling argument, as I was using a similar one based on the ACT prostitution laws where perhaps we as Canberran’s should give up any “right” to purchase a woman for sex for the sake of the significant amount of abuse, trafficking, addiction and even death in the case of under-age girl Janine Cameron.
On the other side of the smacking discussion though, is the question of how much the State should interfere with such decisions.
There is a great discomfort that many of us would feel with the idea that sensible and loving parents, who use a smack for healthy discipline and even protection, could have Child Protection Services rock up at their door to interview them regarding accusations of abuse.
I was in NZ recently, and was surprised to see the number of ads informing me not to shake or abuse my child. NZ has one of the worst child-abuse rates in the world, and in 2007 a Greens member introduced a Bill that outlawed smacking.
The amended Bill passed with broad support, but a NZ Labour adviser has since informed me it was a poisoned chalice and one of the main reasons they lost the 2008 election.
I am in the position of not having to decide whether to smack or not, but the choice will certainly be before my wife and I sooner rather than later.
I can’t see any personal damage done to me by being smacked (except maybe my pride), but then I did have very loving and responsible parents.
I guess it will depend on exactly what the ban would entail, and whether light “taps” are still permitted. I can tell you one thing for sure though; if you had asked me as a child about a smacking ban, just before I was about to be reprimanded with a hand or wooden spoon, you would have just had to show me where to sign!
Nick Jensen is the ACT director of the Australian Christian Lobby