“So many of New Zealand’s social problems have been fuelled by our binge drinking culture – domestic violence, child abuse, under-age alcohol abuse, public drunkenness, road accidents, and the associated massive health and crime costs,” saysBob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“The binge drinking culture has been spiralling out of control as we have liberalised laws and controls around alcohol abuse. In 1989 alcohol law changes eased restrictions for off-licence selling including supermarket and grocery stores selling, and availability increased as trading hours of on-licence venues were extended. In 1999 we foolishly lowered the drinking age, allowed the sale of beer in supermarkets and further increased trading hours.”
“In response, politicians have proposed to tackle the festering sore of alcohol harm with a tickle, and in the process ignored the overwhelming voice of NZ’ers and groups representing families and communities who made key recommendations to the Law Commission, and even a report from the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman who said raising the drinking age to 21 and increasing alcohol prices would be two of the most effective ways to address youth drinking problems,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“The split drinking age proposal sends a mixed message and also ignores the growing body of medical evidence regarding the harms of alcohol to teenagers and young people. NZ’ers overwhelmingly want the age increased and parents want legal backing and enforcement – not more responsibility to try and counter the prevailing culture of excessive drinking.”
“Polls over the last couple of years have shown that 2/3’rds or more of NZ’ers want the drinking age raised to at least 20, instant fines for public drunkenness, on-license premises to close by 2am, and the legal blood-alcohol limit lowered to 50. These opinions have been ignored. The government says they are listening – the question is to who?”
Also in the list is a call to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the real causes of child abuse.
“The just-released Ministerial Inquiry into the abuse of a nine year old girl contains clear evidence that the solutions to our horrific child abuse rates lie far deeper than simply providing multiple government funded agencies at the bottom of the cliff. It’s essential that we identify the root causes of family dysfunction and violence. It’s also essential that we remove political posturing and point-scoring from the process. The response of opposition political parties to the Green Paper on abuse proves this.”
“Since the passing of the anti-smacking law in 2007, there has been a continual stream of child abuse cases, the rate of child abuse deaths has continued at the same rate as before, and resources have been diverted to chasing parents who use a smack, rather than targeting rotten parents with clear evidence of abuse and issues of family breakdown and dysfunction, drug and alcohol abuse issues, poverty and stress, and mental illness,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“We have had Commission of Inquiries into the Pike river tragedy, the collapse of buildings and consequent loss of life in the Christchurch earthquake, and previous inquiries into police conduct (2004), genetic modification (2000–2001), and Auckland governance (2007-2009) – yet no inquiry into one of the greatest social problems facing the country. The issue of child abuse deserves a high priority total focus which a Commission would give,” says Mr McCoskrie.
1. Turn Back Liberalised Booze Laws
Every report we have read regarding child abuse and family violence says that alcohol abuse is a major contributing factor. A child is hugely at risk when an adult is under the influence of alcohol, and a recent survey by Massey University found that more than half of our sexual and physical assaults occurred while under the influence of alcohol. Our teenagers are binge drinking at an earlier age, and our health and justice system is clogged up with the fallout from our drinking culture. The binge drinking culture has been spiraling out of control since liberalising laws and controls around alcohol abuse. In 1989 alcohol law changes eased restrictions for off-license selling including supermarket and grocery stores selling wine, and availability increased as trading hours of on-license venues were extended. And then in 1999 we foolishly lowered the drinking age, allowed the sale of beer in supermarkets and further increased trading hours. The government’s response to alcohol laws will have little effect on our binge drinking culture and as a result the problems of domestic violence, child abuse, underage drinking, public drunkenness, repeat drunk driving offences and binge drinking will continue. Polls over the last couple of years have shown that 2/3’rds to 3/4′s of NZ’ers want the drinking age raised to at least 20, instant fines for public drunkenness, on-license premises to close by 2am, and the legal blood-alcohol limit lowered to 50. These opinions have been ignored. The government says they are listening – the question is to who?
2. Establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse.
We must take pro-active action and tackle head-on the difficult issues of family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, violence in our media, mental illness, low maternal age, and other key factors identified by the various UNICEF, CYF and Children’s Commissioner’s reports. Since the passing of the anti-smacking law, there has been a continual stream of child abuse cases and the rate of child abuse deaths has continued at the same rate as before the new law. Children will never be safe until we are honest enough as a country to identify and tackle the real causes of child abuse. An independent Inquiry free of political correctness and agendas would be an important first step. We have had Commission of Inquiries into the Pike river tragedy, the collapse of buildings and consequent loss of life in the Christchurch earthquake, and previous inquiries into police conduct (2004), genetic modification (2000–2001), and Auckland governance (2007-2009) – yet no inquiry into one of the greatest social problems facing the country. The issue of child abuse deserves a high priority total focus which a Commission would give. A recent poll found 65% support for this call.
3. Amend the anti-smacking law and provide legal certainty for parents.
The Prime Minister has confused parents by saying that a light smack is completely ok and should not be treated as a criminal offence, yet only a few months earlier admitting that the effect of the law is that smacking is a criminal offence. John Key promised ‘comfort’ for parents, but it’s not comforting when he ignores almost 90% in a referendum, and retains a law which he admits is a ‘dog’s breakfast’, badly drafted, and extremely vague. He, along with most other MP’s, refuse to examine the increasing evidence that good families are being criminalised by the law.
4. Establish an independent CYF Complaints Authority.
Families who claim to have been unfairly treated by CYF social workers have no independent body to appeal to. This is grossly unfair when families are at risk, ignored, or are being ripped apart often just based on the subjective judgment of a social worker. An independent CYF Complaints Authority is also in the best interests of social workers as it will provide an independent body to ensure that appropriate policy and procedures have been followed. This will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers. There is a Health and Disability Commissioner, a Police Complaints Authority, an Immigration and Protection Tribunal, even a Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. We desperately need an independent body to hear complaints about the highly sensitive nature of intervening in families. A recent poll found two out of three NZ’ers support the need for this Authority.
5. Strengthen marriages, families, and the role of fathers.
Many of our social ills have been blamed on catch-cry phrases such as ‘income inequality’ and ‘poverty’. Yet this ignores the powerful evidence that family structure has the greatest impact on families and outcomes. Scientific research is unanimous on a number of conclusions regarding marriage – that marriage increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children and lowers the risk of alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. Conversely, parental divorce or non-marriage appears to increase children’s risk of school failure, the risk of suicide, psychological distress, and most significantly, delinquent and criminal behaviour. So many young offenders are coming from families where there is family breakdown, the absence of a father and parenting difficulties, not to mention violence and unemployment issues. Too many children are growing up in NZ without their dad actively involved, with little expectation from the State for this to change, and no presumption in family law of equal parenting in the event of family breakdown. We need to encourage and strengthen marriage, including pre-marriage counselling and Marriage Centres used successfully inAustralia. We need to respect the role of full-time mothers or fathers. We need to do an honest evaluation of the effect of welfare dependency on families and children.
6. Abortion – Inform parents, inform women.
INFORM PARENTS – A parent is required to sign a note giving permission for a child to go on a school trip to the zoo but does not have to be notified or give consent if the same daughter wants to use contraception or have an abortion, and can actually be sneaked off for the procedure by Family Planning or the school nurse. Some young girls have been targeted for vaccines by family doctors without the knowledge of the parents. If parents are expected to support and raise their children to be law-abiding and positive members of our society, then these same parents should be kept informed and involved in the ongoing welfare of that child, and not undermined by laws which isolate children from their parents. A recent poll found almost 80% support for a law change.
INFORM WOMEN – A recent poll showed that two out of three New Zealanders think women considering abortion have the right to be fully informed of the medical risks of abortion – and the alternatives. Family First NZ is calling for a law which requires informed consent including ultrasound for all potential abortions, and counselling to be provided only by non-providers of abortion services. Abortion can harm women – yet groups seeking to decriminalise abortion refuse to acknowledge this, seeing the right to abortion more paramount than the long-term health and welfare of the women. A University of Otago study in 2008 found that women who had an abortion faced a 30% increase in the risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Other studies have found a link between abortion and psychiatric disorders ranging from anxiety to depression to substance abuse disorders. And the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK recommended updating abortion information leaflets to include details of the risks of depression. They said that consent could not be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information. With 98% of abortions in NZ being performed on the basis of the mental health of the mother, it is time that the research on the post-abortion mental health outcomes was given equal weight with the pro-abortion claims.
7. Amend the prostitution law to protect communities and families
The politicians gave local communities a ‘hospital pass’ when they changed the law and left the local councils the impossible job of balancing the requirements of the law with the huge concerns of families. They cannot now ignore the pleas from communities throughout NZ who are saying that the decriminalisation of prostitution has been a spectacular failure. The opposition to residential based brothels throughout the country and attempts by the Manukau and Christchurch City Councils to tackle the problems of street prostitution, shows that communities are not accepting the liberalised laws.
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