THE push is on again to outlaw the physical punishment of children.
AUSTRALIA - A group of 12 Queensland psychologists this week began a concerted campaign aimed at changing the state's Criminal Code which allows for "reasonable force" to be used when disciplining or controlling children.
A member of the "Concerned Psychologists", Dr John Reddington, said all 89 members of Parliament had this week been sent a letter and discussion paper on the issue.
Each had been asked to put up or support a private members Bill that would change the law so that any punishment resulting in harm to a child's physical or mental health became illegal, but "trivial, non abusive smacking or reprimanding" would not be considered an offence.
Attorney-General Linda Lavarch said she had asked her department to examine the issue and report back to her. But she said the best people to make decisions about disciplining children were their parents.
"I am not opposed to appropriate non-abusive smacking or reprimanding of children by parents and the current laws do cover the area of assault by parents where punishment is excessive," she said.
Dr Reddington said he was wholly opposed to any physical or otherwise harmful punishment of children.
"If children haven't got equality with adults in terms of assault then they are going to be abused physically," he said.
Dr Joe Tucci CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation said he supported repealing the relevant section – section 280 – of the code.
"Parents who hurt their children under the guise of discipline should be held accountable," he said.
In 2003 NSW became the first and is still the only state in Australia to legislate against the physical punishment of children.
Another member of the group, Meg Perkins – a clinical and forensic psychologist – said plenty of literature was available on behaviour modification based on clear limit setting, explaining rules and rewarding appropriate behaviour.
"Discipline actually means teaching; it's got nothing to do with punishment," she said.
An Opposition spokesman said that if the Government was going to look at the group's proposal "we'll also consider it on its merits".
"But on an initial view we've got serious concerns about the legal implications of what is suggested," he said.