We won. Section 59 will be repealed. Yay us.
Well no, not really that yay. We hardly won the debate. The child beating lobby massed the forces of the fearful and indignant. They framed this issue, which concerns how we treat our children, as one of unwarranted intrusion by the nanny state in the lives of ordinary kiwi battlers, or something like that. They had resources, they had Talkback on their side. The voices of those who care for children and those who have expertise in this area were seldom heard.
As usual the media took an insular approach and barely considered how other modern democracies view the corporal punishment of children. The only time they took note of the rest of the world was when that ridiculous woman was flown over from Sweden to tell us how wretched life was in one of the World's most prosperous and peaceful nations. Then of course there was Professor Larzelere, who turned out to be much more reasonable than the child batterers would have wished.
Perhaps it was the involvement of Bishop Brian that made National come to its senses and support the Bill. That odious mixture of hate, greed and bad taste has become useful for progressive causes. The sight of Brian's army of Real Men marching down Queen Street turned a lot of opinion towards Civil Unions and doubtless he would have done the same for s59. National could be forgiven for being nervous: the party has caused itself enough problems by hanging out with religious nuts already.
I think National's concern about the Bill was all a stunt: a case of manufacturing dissent, as it were. John Key wanted to put some blue water between him and the Government, to create the impression that he was principled and policied. What better issue for this purpose than a private members bill from a member who is not part of the Government but who is associated with the far left, at least by those whose knees were made for jerking? The Government could not control Sue Bradford but also could not distance themselves from her. Perfect. Unfortunately for Key, the Government gave the Bill some breathing space which was filled by responsible and informed opinion: the very organisations that care for children. This made the Bill's opponents look increasingly silly, which they were. Key could have supported the Bill then and kept some credibility, particularly as there was genuine division within his Caucus. Instead he persisted with the Chester Borrows amendment [note to National's brand mangers: you must change that man's name] and with the strangely ethereal Compromise, which no-one could quite define.
In the end, National's Caucus was shown to have all the integrity of a used-car salesmen's convention when the Bill's supporters (all except the magnificent Katherine Rich, who should be leading the party) rushed to the other side in the face of determined opinion polls. Key kept up the pretence of principled concern, to his detriment: he now looks insincere and indecisive. He changed his mind at the last minute, making him look like either a mountebank or a wobbler, possibly both. He got noting except a silly and irrelevant note in the Bill, saying the Police should not use their powers frivolously. Woo Hoo.
I would imagine that a lot of National's supporters, particularly in the Rightosphere, must be feeling betrayed. After all, they put heart and soul into this issue, blogging day and night to protest the injustice of it all. Then their Leader pulls the rug from under their indignation.
Oh well, that's their problem. What matters is that it will no longer possible to defend beating your children with a riding crop or similar instrument. What needs to be done now is to create a culture where such barbaric practices will be unthinkable. That may take a little time and a lot of consensus.
Anyway, here's Martin: