The Press, December 14, 1999

New Zealand to consider children's rights--MP group on children sought

WELLINGTON -- Commissioner for Children Roger McClay wants a group of MPs set up in Parliament to pursue children's issues.

The group of mainly backbench MPs should consist of members of different parties so it was not politically biased, Mr McClay said.

After meeting visiting British children's rights expert Peter Newell, who heads an anti-smacking group, Mr McClay said New Zealand was not ready to ban corporal punishment.

But he is calling for a review of the Crimes Act section 59, which allows reasonable force to be used on children.

"I know people think that it's OK, but I find it hard to swallow that reasonable force is OK for children but not disobedient husbands, wives, prisoners, people in the army, and politicians.

"The only ones are the most vulnerable members of our society, the children."

Mr McClay said he wanted to raise the profile of physical punishment issues, and planned to visit countries such as Norway and Sweden next year, where smacking had been banned.

New Social Services Minister Steve Maharey said he would push a bill giving Mr McClay responsibility for upholding the United Nations convention on the rights of the child.

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