I move, That the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a second time. I would like to thank the Social Services Committee for its consideration of this bill and its recommendations, which the Government will accept. The committee received 39 written submissions and heard 10 submitters. Most of these supported the proposals to strengthen the criminal law to better respond to the ill-treatment and neglect of children.
Without wanting to diminish the concerns expressed by some submitters regarding the effectiveness of the proposals in protecting children, from the perspective of the criminal justice system there must be adequate provision in the law to hold accountable those who inflict serious offending against the most vulnerable members of our community, and, specifically, those who choose to turn a blind eye.
The Government has been developing a number of other initiatives that focus on reducing family violence and improving outcomes for those living in at-risk situations, such as the recently released Green Paper for Vulnerable Children.
The select committee received a small number of submissions that were opposed to the proposed change to the definition of “claim of right” on the grounds that the change was unnecessary. I consider that the incorporation of a property right criterion in the definition of “claim of right” is needed to ensure that the use of the defence conforms to the common law in comparable overseas jurisdictions. The bill also clarifies the scope of the sexual grooming offence and increases the penalty of the offence of possession of an offensive weapon.
I support, and so does the Government, the committee’s recommendation to amend the proposed offence in new section 195A of failure to protect, to clarify that where a third party breaches a duty to protect a child or vulnerable adult, the breach must have been grossly negligent. The committee also recommended that the offence based on a failure to protect be amended so that a person cannot be charged with the offence if he or she was under 18 years at the time of the act or omission. Parents and caregivers aged under 18 years remain liable under section 195 for a failure to take reasonable steps to protect their child from injury.
The committee recommended a number of minor and technical changes to the bill to clarify wording and ensure appropriate consistency with other provisions in the Crimes Act.
This bill sends an important signal to those who remain in a household with children who have the potential to be harmed, injured, maimed, or killed. It is a critical step to ensure that this Parliament sends a firm message to those who would choose to turn a blind eye to the abuse and neglect of those children that this Parliament will not tolerate that behaviour or those omissions.
This bill is an important change to the criminal law, and I look forward to listening to the debate with some care over the next few minutes. This is an opportunity for Parliament to stamp its authority on an issue that has long escaped Parliament’s lawmaking efforts.
This is a time for the Government and the Parliament to take a stand on the neglect of children, to stand up for those whose voices are too small to be heard by those in authority, and to recognise the fact that we have an obligation to protect the most important and, of course, the most vulnerable members of our society. I thank the members of the Social Services Committee for their consideration of the bill and I commend this bill to the House.
It is a pleasure to take a call on the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), especially since the Social Services Committee considered it and I was a member of that committee. The Minister of Justice, Mr Power, seeks the strength of the signal this Parliament ought to send about the level of intolerance there should be towards abuse of children. Certainly, that assurance is given from this side of the House. We will be supporting this bill, and join with the Government, in the provisions this bill contains, about the very clear signal the Government wants to give. So now, under the provisions of this bill, if somebody is in a home where abuse is taking place and the person is aware of it, and provided that the abuse is of a particular nature, in that it is out of the ordinary, then there is a process and there are criminal responsibilities, as well as a responsibility to report that.
However, this is the third year of this Government and child abuse in these 3 years probably has been a constant reminder to us about one of the dark sides of our society. At the end of 3 years, the question I ask is: “Is this it? Is this what we are going to do? Is this the sum total of what this Government could have achieved in 3 years in this particular area?” So what do we have? We have had, over the last 3 years, some very punitive provisions towards children and young people who have fallen foul of the law, who have been abused, or who have done things we would not consider appropriate. So we have tried those negative, punitive provisions. I remember the big debate—one of the most intense debates we had in the early part of this Parliament—around boot camps. Even though the Government had been told that all of the research tells us that they do not and will not work—most submitters said that to the select committee at the time—but did the Government listen? No. The Government could have spent the same amount of resources and time really trying to find out what the factors are that lead families to abuse.
It is a pleasure to resume what I was just getting into prior to the House rising for the dinner break, and now the Minister is listening to this contribution. The Minister has sought from this side of the House a very clear statement that this Parliament is sending through this bill to people about the safety of children, and how important it is for anybody who has responsibility for children to conduct themselves and undertake their roles, relationships, and activities in such a manner that those children are not jeopardised. That assurance is given unequivocally from this side of the House; hence our support for this bill and our support for all of the provisions of the bill.
The process in the select committee was very, very useful. We went through the bill in some detail. The officials did a great job. The committee was well led by Ms Katrina Shanks, and we had a lot of opportunities to discuss what is in this bill. So I say to Minister Power that the assurance is given in this particular way. But I was reflecting, after giving that assurance, on the fact that over the past 3 years, child abuse has really been in everybody’s minds in New Zealand. There has been a lot of discussion and discourse about it, so it has been at the forefront of our minds—cases have come up, discussions have been widespread, and citizens have shown their abhorrence for child abuse in any form—and this side of the House has supported any reasonable bill that has come up, any reasonable proposal, to address the needs of children and families over the last 3 years.
But what I was then reflecting on was, after 3 years, is this it? Is this the total programme that the Government had for children? If so, then clearly something is missing, because, by and large, much of this has been quite punitive, in a sense—you know, the exuberance around Future Focus and boot camps, which are largely punitive. The Government has provided punitive measures in order to bring people to account, particularly children, young people, and their families. We wonder why the Government has made it so difficult for children through its own policies, and why it is difficult for the Government, as indeed we saw last week in the House through questions to the Minister for Social Development and Employment and the Prime Minister about child poverty. Really, everybody in this House knows there is a link between child poverty and child abuse and all of the things that do go wrong in families. We know—figures tell us—that there are 200,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand. We have sought an assurance, some confidence, from the Government that it was aware of this, that it had an idea in mind, and that it actually had some plans around this. But what we have heard this week, under quite intense questioning from this side of the House, was really a game being played, but not actually talking about what the figures were. There was a lot of discussion about definitions, but at no point was there ever an acceptance by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Social Development and Employment, and any other Government members that there is a problem. There are about 200,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand, and what is the programme to get them out of poverty? There is nothing here. Indeed, this bill, one would have thought, would address that. Is it addressing what the consequences of child poverty are, what the consequences of family dysfunction are, when it comes to child abuse? We can pass provisions like this, and they are to be supported because they are part of the framework, but they do not go far enough, particularly at the end of 3 years when this now represents the last leg of the Government’s total programme around children.
The other point to be made is that one would have thought that somewhere there would be an acknowledgment that 40,000 children go to school hungry. That, again, reflects that something is wrong in our society. There is no dispute about those figures; schools tell us about them, parents talk about them, and voluntary groups go out and feed those children. When we look at those kinds of figures, we look to the Government to ask it about what other things there are and how the Government might address them. Then there is no answer. It is far easier for the Government to come up with punitive measures of this kind, and leave it at that. Every provision in this bill emerges out of a story that has been told and has been very public. Whether it was the Kāhui twins, Waihopai, or something else, each one of these things comes out of things that have gone wrong. The Government wants to give the impression that it is addressing the fundamental issues; in fact, it is not. These measures are still window dressing.
One would have thought that by this stage, the Government would have worked out the need for a holistic examination for all of these issues. Its answer is the green paper; the green paper will do it all. Well, the green paper is actually a white flag. It says that we not know. The green paper simply goes out and asks people whether they think the Government should be doing this. Well, we do not need the green paper. Each of the issues raised can be addressed now and should have started some time ago so that the future for those children and their families would have been far more sustainable, at least getting them out of that particular risk.
In the end, one has to draw the conclusion that the Government does not have a comprehensive plan around children; the Government has given up that space to the green paper, and it has come up with acts of conscience, so to speak. I hope that speakers will get up and explain how it is that this bill addresses those fundamental questions. The Government has been absent for children. Its programme has been devoid of constructive ideas and much of it has not worked. Thank you.
It is my pleasure to take a call on the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) tonight. The safety and well-being of our children is an issue that National is absolutely committed to. We believe that the proposals contained in the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) close some of the worrying gaps in the law around the protection of children. I am proud to be part of a National-led Government that is fast tracking proposals to further protect children from assault, neglect, and ill-treatment. It is hard-hitting, but in the end this legislation will help to change lives.
The bill makes changes to ensure that children are adequately protected. It introduces new enforceable legal responsibility, making a person criminally liable for the failure to protect a child or vulnerable person when another person omitted to perform a legal duty and the accused was aware of the duty and the harm the omission would inflict on the child or vulnerable person.
This legislation broadens the scope of section 195 of the Crimes Act. It extends the application of the offence to include vulnerable adults, it increases the age of a child to a person under the age of 18 years, and it extends the liability for omissions to perform legal duties. A new offence of failure to protect has been introduced. It imposes criminal liability on a member of a household, or a staff member of a hospital, institution, or residence where the victim resides, who has frequent contact with a child or vulnerable adult, who knows the victim is at risk of death, serious injury, or sexual assault as a result of an unlawful act by another person or an omission by another person to perform a legal duty, and who fails to take reasonable steps to protect the victim from the risk.
A person may be regarded as a member of a particular household even if he or she does not live in that household. If the person is so closely connected with a particular household that it is reasonable to regard him or her as a member, then that person will be considered liable. Also, the offender must be older than 18 years at the time of the act or omission in question to be prosecuted for failure to protect a child or vulnerable person. A person under 18 can be prosecuted only if he or she is a parent of the victim.
The Social Services Committee also considered whether these provisions should amount to an offence subject to the three-stage regime under section 86A to 86I of the Sentencing Act 2002. Other areas covered in this bill are the scope of the claim of right defence, which is available for some offences relating to property where the accused believed that they were legally entitled to deal with the property in the way that they did. The amendment will limit the defence to circumstances where defendants believe they have a personal right to the property concerned.
The bill will also increase the penalty for carrying an offensive weapon in circumstances that prima facie show an intention to use it without reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty for the possession of an offensive weapon will be increased from 2 years’ imprisonment to 3 years’ imprisonment.
The bill also broadens the offence of sexual grooming. Currently the offence of sexual grooming of young people in the Crimes Act does not support prosecution in situations where the sexual grooming has been discovered through covert police investigations.
This bill is an important part of National’s work to tackle violent crime, make communities safer, and protect our most vulnerable people. I look forward to further debate in the House on this bill. Thank you.
Malo le soifua, talofa lava, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Thank you for the opportunity to make a contribution to the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2). Labour will support this bill through to the Committee stage. Labour has made it quite clear that whenever there is debate about legislation that is aimed at the protection of children from assault, neglect, or ill-treatment, we will always support those measures. However, we do need to make it quite clear that we have reservations about certain provisions and their ability to be effective in combating the actual problem.
The bill is very narrowly focused in that it talks about protection from assault, neglect, and ill-treatment, it addresses emerging knife crime problems, and there are some specific parts to the bill. According to Minister Power, the new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult will hold accountable household members who fail to notify authorities of abuse. The Minister has said: “It will no longer be an excuse to say you were not involved in the abuse. Standing by and doing nothing makes you involved, and this bill makes it clear.” But, as my colleague Dr Rajen Prasad said earlier, when we look at what this Government has done in the past 3 years, we cannot help but feel like asking whether this is it. Is this the sum total of what this Government wants to do to address a very serious problem?
Collectively, throughout this House, we all agree that in terms of the abuse of a child—any child; it does not matter what race, colour, ethnicity, or religious belief—there is a collective responsibility. The entire country has a responsibility to ensure that that child is looked after, loved and cared for, supported, and given every opportunity to grow up to become an adult who contributes to society. The problem that we have is that this is a very broad issue and the Government is trying to focus us. It almost appears that it is content to say that—
—yes; it is being tough—as long as it places the people who are causing the violence in jail, then that will solve the problem. Well, members of Social Services Committee have heard time and time again evidence from significant organisations and individuals who are at the grassroots and who know their business. They have said to us that simply putting people into jail does not solve the problem. We need only look at South Auckland, at Manukau.
When this Government decided to do the tax switch and pay significant amounts of money to the highest-income earners, and to then increase GST for the rest of the New Zealand population, what did the South Auckland population get? A third jail—a third jail. We have to ask ourselves whether that is what this Government wants South Auckland to focus on. Is that what the kids should be aiming for? Should the families be aiming for that third jail? Well, I am saying no.
The problem this country has is not just a few parents who are unable to care for their children and end up beating them and destroying the lives of the very people whom they are supposed to love. It is much more deep than that and it is much more complex. It cannot be addressed simply by holding up this legislation. Although the bill is to be credited, and we are supporting it, that is not the sole answer. That is why we are saying we will support this bill through to the Committee stage, but we do have reservations.
We could probably achieve better outcomes to address the particular problem by non-legislative initiatives, such as, I would say, increasing incomes for families. Families having incomes that can sustain them is one part. If businesses or companies are unable to look after their workers, then I think what Labour is proposing about increasing the minimum wage is a step in the right direction. I think that Labour’s proposal to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables is a step in the right direction. I think that having no taxation on the first $5,000 of income is a step in the right direction. Why? Because we have seen the reports from Every Child Counts and the report from the Child Poverty Action Group, which said that there is a relationship between poverty and violence and between poverty and child abuse.
I was shocked to hear from colleagues who work for Child, Youth and Family who say that every time the Warriors lose a game, there will generally be violence in some homes—not all homes, but some homes. The mixture of poverty and alcohol consumption, and the lack of control around these things, is also a contributing factor to the problem that we are addressing.
I hear all the time from organisations such as the Methodist Social Services and the Salvation Army that the problems are much deeper and more complex, but that this Government is failing to recognise that. This Government is not advancing the resources for the wider community to be able to work collectively and holistically to address these problems, as my colleague pointed out earlier. There needs to be an overall effort not just by the Government but also by other agencies and the communities if we are serious about addressing the fundamental problems, which is what we are trying to do here.
The point I am making is that every New Zealander and every organisation that is dealing with child abuse and working with families in that field will question the seriousness of this Government, and will question whether the hearts of its members are really in the right place, or whether they are simply playing politics—as they did in 2008. We know that in 2008, in order for National to win the election its members went out and started threatening and playing the hard line that every person who committed a crime would be sent to jail, and in jail they would rot. But we know from listening to people working in this area that that is not the case. We know that at some stage we have to release those people and bring them back into society, and rehabilitation and engagement with the community are both part of what we have to do if we are serious about addressing the issue of child abuse.
The member is saying that I am speaking about the wrong bill. That is exactly the problem of that Government—its members are so fixated on attempting to put people in jail when the problem will not be solved by simply arresting people and putting them in jail. The problem is much deeper and much more complex, and legislation alone will not solve it, nor will the green paper that has been released in time for the election.
I think that National members need to be reading the reports of Every Child Counts, reading the reports of the Child Poverty Action Group, and looking at those recommendations. Labour certainly is doing so, and Labour will focus on making children the centre of policy, because Labour is serious about this problem.
Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) has two purposes. The first is to remove the claim of right defence, which is what the “Waihopai Three” used successfully in their case. I know that my colleague Keith Locke has talked at some length about claim of right and why it needs to be retained, and he will do so again—certainly, during the Committee stage. I think it was quite remiss of the Minister of Justice not to make it plain in his second reading speech earlier today that this bill deals with two quite different issues, not just one. Any removal of the defence of claim of right is an attack on the civil rights of citizens in this country. That needs to be exposed, and the Green Party is absolutely opposed to the removal of the civil rights of citizens in this country. National might think that that is a great idea, but we believe that citizens are entitled to much more dignity and respect than that.
The bill also increases criminal liability for adults who abuse children, with a whole different range of provisions in this bill, some of which the Green Party agrees with, such as the provisions about the offence of sexual grooming, for example. But we have always had a real concern about extending criminal liability to those outside of the household who have not been directly involved in child abuse and neglect—that is the new section 195A, substituted in clause 7—and we echo many of the submissions made to the Social Services Committee, which also suggested there was a real issue here around the lack of certainty about who was captured by the definitions in this bill, the lack of certainty in the new laws, the uncertainty as to the degree of negligence—the standard of proof of negligence, or act, either omission or commission—that was required in order to be subject to criminal liability, and the difficulty in providing protection for vulnerable family members who may well be aware of things that are going on but who are not in any position to report that. As well, there were other submissions from those involved in the health profession who were very concerned about the criminal liability that might be ascribed to them under the provisions of this bill. That was echoed by the Association of Social Workers, by the Children’s Commissioner, and by a number of submitters, who understand and agree with the intent but who do not feel that the law is sufficiently clear at this stage. I am not convinced yet that the select committee has made the changes that need to be made in order to make sure it is sufficiently clear, so that those who should not have legal liability ascribed to them are protected from it.
In addition, the Children’s Commissioner at the time identified that mandatory reporting, which is what, essentially, this provision does, has been identified elsewhere globally, particularly in Ireland, as not being proven to be effective in reducing child abuse or, necessarily, increasing the degree of reporting. So there is a real issue here around evidence; if there is to be law change, particularly criminal law change, it has to be evidence-based. There has to be some proof that it will do what the intent of the bill wants to do. But there is none, so this legislation undertakes a major change in criminal law without the evidence that it will actually work. Evidence-based law, particularly when it comes to crimes, is absolutely critical.
But that is not the only thing I want to talk about, because I do want to touch on some of the things that have been said earlier by other MPs this evening. Although the desire to punish child abusers—people who beat and kill children—wife beaters, and people who beat and kill their partners is palpable and real, and the law provides for that punishment, it is not the only part of the story. There were many submissions on this legislation that included lots of stories, the more horrific stories that had got into the media, in particular, of maltreatment and child death—horrifying stories to justify support for this legislation. But, again, they are not the only stories. It is very easy to focus on the worst cases, and to focus on the clear personal responsibilities of those who have acted cruelly against vulnerable children. But because that is only part of the story, unless we address the other part we will not deal with the child abuse that occurs in this country, or deal with the drivers of abuse, and that is what I want to address tonight. As hard as it might be for the community to hear this, there is more to it, and we have to respond to these issues of child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment not only as individuals, in taking personal responsibility and holding people personally to account, but also as a community and as an economy.
There was an earlier discussion around the Child Poverty Action Group’s report Left Further Behind. This is the report that the Minister for Social Development and Employment has rubbished, because she is irresponsible in refusing to acknowledge the evidence that is put before her about these issues. This significant report goes into great detail, particularly around the link between poverty and violence. The authors are very clear in saying that on the evidence, there is a link between poverty and violence against children. It is very hard to unpick the exact nature of the causality there, though. So it is not as if poor people are bad people; it is that poverty is a driver of the conditions that tend to lead to violence and neglect. Child abuse is defined in that report as “anything which individuals, institutions, or processes do or fail to do which directly or indirectly harms children or damages their prospects for a safe and healthy” future. It is not just individual cruelty here; we are talking about institutional neglect and disregard. We can clearly put poverty, poor housing, poor education, and poor health into the pool of drivers that come from institutional decisions. Decisions are made by institutions like this one—like Parliament—as to who gets what resources, which is often what Parliament is making decisions about. So we have the Child Poverty Action Group’s report that shows that link, and we have the Every Child Counts report He Ara Hou, which focuses particularly on Māori and Pacific children, and which also identifies the link that poverty is behind many of the drivers of violence and maltreatment.
I think it is also worthwhile noting, though, that what we are talking about here is that if that poverty is the driver behind maltreatment and neglect for many families and for many children, we are talking about the majority of children, in those cases, who are at risk, whereas the legislation and the provisions for criminal law legislation in this bill deal with only a tiny fraction of the children who are at risk, and, even then, it does not deal with it at all, because it only deals with the perpetrators after the fact. So if we want to stop child abuse and neglect, we must deal with the drivers that put the majority of children at risk. which we can stop, because we can alleviate poverty, we can eliminate poverty, for our families.
One of the biggest causes of mortality that has a social gradient, which has been shown by the Children’s Social Health Monitor: 2011 Update, released just a few weeks ago, is sudden unexplained death in infancy, or cot death. Cot death is one of the biggest contributors to mortality, to death of children in this country, which is driven by social issues around poverty. So if we want to protect the majority of children from death and injury, we must deal with poverty. It is the only solution. Incomes have to go up for beneficiaries and for low-income working families. They must go up. Politicians do not want to deal with benefits, but benefits must increase. Housing provision must increase. The costs of housing have to be brought down, because housing is a major driver of poverty in this country. The quality has to be improved, because the drivers relating to the majority of kids with social gradient issues around going to hospital are things like bronchitis and asthma, which are often driven by living in cold, damp homes. We have to fix the housing crisis in this country. We have to make sure that early childhood education is universally provided so that we can ensure not only that our kids get access to the best-quality education but also that we include all our families in our communities. The drivers of violence include poverty. Poverty is the cause. Poverty is what we must eliminate.
Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson . Malo le soifoa. Talofa lava ki a tātou katoa i tēnei pō. He pai ēnei kōrero. He pai ki te whakarongo ki ngā take kua puta mai. Ko tā mātou ko te kī atu, e, ko wai o tēnei Whare Pāremata ka whakahē i te hiahia ki te tiaki i wā tātou tamariki mai i te tūkino a tētahi atu. Me tere whakatika i te ture ka tika.
[Greetings, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, and welcome to us all this evening. These contributions are wonderful. It is good to listen to the issues that are emerging. All we need to ask is whether anyone in this House of Parliament would really want to oppose the desire to have our children protected from any ill-treatment by someone else. The Act, of course, must be amended quickly.]
It is unlikely that any party would oppose the concept of placing proposals to protect children from assault, neglect, and ill-treatment on a faster track than was originally intended. Certainly, that is not what I have heard tonight. No politician, no New Zealander, I would hope, could turn a blind eye to the wicked toll on our nation in respect of the horrific situations of abuse and neglect of our children.
E ai ki te Ao Māori, he taonga te tamaiti. According to Māori thinking at least, every child is a treasure, although sometimes we do not necessarily carry that out amongst some of our families. Every child deserves the protection of a safe home, a secure upbringing, and a healthy life. Of course, it is interesting timing to be considering the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) in the wake of a report that we came across just recently. It is called Left Further Behind: how policies fail the poorest children in New Zealand. It is important to note from the outset that this report makes it clear that although most of the discussion in New Zealand about abuse and neglect is focused on the behaviour of individual carers, a more useful discussion and analysis would consider the significance of economic, income, and poverty factors, which were alluded to by my colleague Metiria Turei.
The report makes two qualifying statements: firstly, that child abuse is not limited to those on low incomes and those living in poverty, and, secondly, that most children living in poverty and in low-income households do not experience abuse. Notwithstanding this analysis, the report also goes on further to explain that there is an observed relationship between poverty, abuse, and violence—a relationship that has, obviously, disastrous consequences for some of the most vulnerable children in our society.
So we come to this bill, which seeks to amend aspects of the Crimes Act 1961 and to protect people from assault, neglect, and ill-treatment. We bring our comments to this debate with that in mind. This bill is very much focused on the roles and responsibilities of individuals. It extends the duties of parents and those with actual care or the charge of vulnerable adults and children, and it broadens the offence of ill-treatment or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult.
So what could we define as abuse? Well, in that regard I came across a statement from the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse, from Ingarangi, which states, as a starting point: “Child abuse consists of anything which individuals, institutions or processes do, or fail to do, which directly or indirectly harms children, or damages their prospects of safe and healthy development into adulthood.” I thought that was a pretty good definition.
I want to set out these comments as the context for our wider discussion on this bill, because I believe that we cannot restrict our response to the child abuse crisis by simply placing the onus on the individual, or in the hands of one person. All of us are implicated. It takes a village to raise a child.
The Māori Party has supported this bill, largely because the intention is for children to live in an environment free from violence, and this is consistent with umpteen traditional accounts of tikanga of the care of children from Te Ao Māori. The Māori Party supports at least the clause in Te Tiriti o Waitangi in respect of taonga, and, of course, children, and indeed all people are taonga. The protection of our most precious resource—he tangata—also underpins the values of other groups such as the kōhanga reo movement and the kura kaupapa Māori movement. In this context, we believe it is absolutely appropriate that children and vulnerable adults are protected from the risk of violence by a third party, or the failure of the third party to perform a legal duty.
But I cannot stand here, hand on heart, and say that we agree with every aspect of the bill without question. There are some issues that we did want to address. In particular, the issue that came through at the Social Services Committee was whether we have the balance right in the introduction of liability of people. The liability extends to those who are not actually involved in the mistreatment but have frequent contact with the child, or vulnerable adult, and fail to try to protect them from mistreatment by others.
In this respect we share the concerns of submitters in terms of whether creating liability as the issue is the most effective course of action we can be taking to eliminate child abuse and violence against children from our lives. Surely the most searching issue for us all is how we can encourage all members of the community to create and maintain a violence-free society.
The bill creates a new enforceable legal responsibility, making a person criminally liable for the failure to protect a child or vulnerable person. Such an intervention was heavily criticised in some of the submissions, from what I have seen. The Wellington Community Law Centre was opposed to the use of criminalisation and increased penalties as a means of addressing serious social ills. In its view, the increased criminalisation of child abuse is not effective, and it is an expensive response with no evidence to show that it actually works.
The Whitireia Community Law Centre also considered that increased penalties for those who do not fulfil their legal duty to report child abuse may promote accountability but do little to assist those who are actually suffering at the hands of the abusers. In its view, the Government should increase funding for agencies directly connected to help those in abusive relationships, such as Women’s Refuge.
I would be interested to hear the views of the Minister of Justice on these comments, and, indeed, the views of whānau, hapū, and iwi. This whole area is highly contentious. It is complex. How do we ensure that every child is protected and free from abuse? Part of the debate brings certain assumptions to the discussion, such as that child abuse will necessarily emerge out of relationships where domestic violence occurs, and that child abusers are necessarily linked to adult relationships where violence is a factor.
There is an assumption that all adults are necessarily able to intervene in the ill-treatment of a child, whether or not they are in a relationship—violent or otherwise. What about the situation for women who have been battered and threatened by an abuser, and who may not have the ability to protect the child or intervene on the child’s behalf? These are key questions that need some discussion, and they were alluded to by Metiria Turei.
Although the legislation may provide greater ability to identify a person or persons to be held responsible for causing intentional harm and/or injury of a child, we are concerned as to whether it will provide protection to adult members of the household who may also be at risk of harm and/or injury. The last thing we want to see emerge as a result of this legislation is more women arrested, charged, and incarcerated for failing to protect tamariki. I ask the Minister for the evidence for, and the analysis of, the phenomenon of battered woman’s syndrome.
The Department of Corrections has a very helpful statement on the definition of battered woman’s syndrome that I think bears understanding in this legislation. It describes battering as “[reducing] the victim to a state of fear and anxiety … that stretches her perception of fear beyond the timeframe of the battering incident. The relationship becomes characterised by ‘cumulative terror’ because of the constant state of fear that pervades the relationship.” It goes to state: “Repeated battering diminishes the woman’s motivation to respond, she becomes passive.” Her “sense of emotional well-being becomes precarious”, and, in effect, it prevents her “from perceiving and acting on opportunities to escape from the violence.”
We also know that battered women will bear the brunt of violence in a household in an attempt to protect their children from harm. This comes through time and time again. So we seek assurances that their efforts to do so will not lead them into a situation in which they are criminalised as a third party.
In closing, I say that the Māori Party is very concerned, and that we must take such analysis into consideration before progress can be made on this legislation. We will be looking to the Minister again for his advice on how such advice has shaped the bill. At this stage, then, we will not oppose the bill, which is driven, I hope, by the need to keep all children safe. However, our subsequent decisions rest on how these issues are raised throughout the debate. Kia ora.
Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak on the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), a bill we had before the Social Services Committee for some time. We spent a great length studying this in detail and hearing from the public. I start by congratulating my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell on his speech, and I recognise that he and the Māori Party support this legislation. I say to Opposition members that I hope they will too. I did hear that they were through the committee—
Well, that is good. I thank them for that, because I think it is important that our House works together wherever possible and whenever it can when it comes to issues of young people and children. I ask for—[ Interruption]—I have not lost anything yet—the Green Party to rethink its issues. In fact, what its members have said is that they will not vote for the legislation, because we need to address the wider issues. Well, there are no issues wider than children who are abused and killed in this country.
It is important that members of this House think about what is important to them, the bigger issues and so on, but, fundamentally, in New Zealand far too many children are abused, far too many children are killed, and far too many family members and others sit by and watch it happen, and do not do enough about it. I recognised when we were at the select committee that in some cases the other people who would sit by these children while they were harmed were themselves victims also. But do members know what? That is not good enough for us in New Zealand. Every adult has to know that they not only have the ability to step in but also must step in and seek help and assistance when a young child is to be harmed. Children are some of the most vulnerable people we have in society. Too often adults around them in their own homes do nothing when they are being harmed by people they know.
Every year there are very many cases of children being abused, harmed, and killed. In my electorate of Rotorua there was a very high-profile case of a beautiful young girl, young Nia Glassie, who was killed. There were many adults in that home, whom the courts had dealt with, but nobody stepped in and nobody did anything about that. We had another high-profile case of the Kāhui twins, who were murdered. There were many adults in that home, and nobody knows what happened. There has been a high-profile court case, but nobody stepped up to say they knew what happened, they knew the person responsible, or that this is what we should do. Nobody has even said they wished they had acted to stop that from happening. Personally, I believe Chris Kāhui killed those children, but, actually, that is for others to consider now. What concerns me the most is that nobody stepped in and nobody has been held to account.
In Ngāruawāhia earlier this year a little baby of 6 months of age named Serena was killed in her own home. There were four, five, or six adults living there. They disappeared. Nobody knows what happened. Somebody from that community spoke up afterwards, a next-door neighbour who did not want to be named in the media. Those around her abused her and threatened her because she thought it was important that somebody stood up for the life of that young baby.
This bill will not fix all the ills. It will not stop people killing children in our country, sadly. What it will do is send a message to family members and to other adults that when somebody is vulnerable, a child or another adult, they have a duty to protect them, to step in, to do something about it, and to seek help when they think that that young person is in harm’s way. If they do not, then the bill before us, when it is the law, will hold them to account. When we come to the Committee stage I want to canvass and speak about other parts of this legislation, but at this stage I say that I am proud to have played a role in the way this legislation moved through the select committee. I commend it to the House.
Malo e lelei, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. It really does sadden me to stand and speak to the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), not because we fail to support the bill—we do—but because it does not go far enough. There is much more that needs to be done; there is much more that is not being addressed. Also, it forces us to reflect on the harm that has been inflicted on so many of our children in New Zealand. When looking at this bill, we cannot help but think of the Kāhui twins, as mentioned by Mr McClay. We cannot help but think of children like Delcelia Witikā, baby Serenity, James Whakaruru, and many other children who have been treated incredibly badly. All of us who have children cannot even imagine what would drive someone to do that to their own children or to somebody else’s.
Our concern really is that although we support this bill, a lot of what the Government is doing will not address the issues that cause this abuse to happen. We have seen many reports put out recently that raise the awareness of, and draw the correlation between, poverty and child abuse, yet nothing is being done to address the extreme levels of poverty that we as a country are facing. The Government is failing New Zealand on that front. It talks about child abuse and the neglect and ill-treatment that are occurring, yet we see the Domestic Violence Reform Bill, which was widely consulted upon, continuing to languish at the bottom of the Order Paper. The last time I looked before today, it was at No. 58 on the Order Paper. Today, sadly, I look at the Order Paper and see that it is now at No. 72. So it is difficult to take the National Government seriously when it talks about child abuse and the need to address the child abuse that is occurring in this country. Something that should be considered urgent, something that should have been treated with a level of urgency, has instead just been pushed further and further back down the Order Paper.
We, of course, support any measures to prevent and mitigate the harm caused by child abuse. However, we have reservations with regard to the ability of certain provisions to be effective in combating the problem. According to the Hon Simon Power, the new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult will hold accountable household members who fail to notify authorities of abuse. It will no longer be an excuse for a person to say that he or she was not involved in the abuse: standing by and doing nothing makes people involved. This bill, according to the Hon Simon Power, makes that clear.
I have to say that, really, the Government has an appalling record when it comes to looking after the most vulnerable children in our society. Multiple reports this year have highlighted the plight of children. Although we support any efforts to combat child abuse in New Zealand, the Government has failed overall to protect children from poverty-related harm, which extends to abuse. Just last week, or the week before, I attended the launch of He Ara Hou: the Pathway Forward Report on getting it right for Aotearoa’s New Zealand and Pacific children. Some of the comments made there related to the poverty that our children are living in and experiencing. We know that with higher levels of poverty, we are at risk of higher levels of abuse, as well. So we wonder why the National Government is failing to address the level of poverty. Mānuka Hēnare, who did a lot of work on that report, said the single most important moral issue that we face is the poverty that we as a country are experiencing.
What concerns me is that although Māori and Pacific people make up only about 22 percent, I think, of the overall population, we make up over 50 percent of the number of children who are in poverty. Just over 200,000 children are in poverty and just over 100,000 of them are Māori and Pacific children. There is something wrong there, and that issue is not being addressed by the National Government. Despite its attempts to address the issue, if it cannot address the real issue, which is the poverty that our children are experiencing and the poverty that their parents are living in daily, then this kind of legislation will do little to actually alleviate the problems that we face.
We have heard from the Government about its green paper, and we saw it all over the news when it was launched. But as one school principal in Waitakere said to me, if this really is an urgent problem, if the abuse of our children really is an urgent problem, then why would the Government not push legislation that addresses it to its full extent—really addresses it—through under urgency in Parliament? That school principal knows that the National Government has no problem in using urgency in this House when it suits its needs: when it means pushing through things like national standards, which had no evidence base whatsoever, and which were not going to do anything to alleviate the problem of abused children. We have seen urgency used to push through legislation with regard to workers’ rights: the 90-day fire-at-will bill, which, again, will do nothing to address the problem that we face in respect of abused children. We have seen the Warner Bros Hobbit legislation pushed through in urgency, and, again, that did nothing to address the problem that we as a country face in respect of child abuse. All of that legislation the National Government prioritised and deemed to be urgent, yet it does nothing to address what should be the main issue of priority for any Government. That is to the National Government’s shame.
I think we all saw the media coverage of that green paper when it was launched. Afterwards I had a few conversations with the people who were involved. Is it not interesting that the Minister for Social Development and Employment decided to send the woman who heads the organisation that is the nation’s advocate for the rights of kids the paper 3 days in advance? The Minister said that woman would be allowed to speak on the day that the paper was launched, and that she wanted her to comment on the paper and tell the Government what she thought.
Yes. When the leader of that organisation got back to the Minister for Social Development, she said she did have some points to make about some things that she thought were not addressed, or were not addressed well, in that paper. She said she would like to comment on that on the day that it was launched, because the Minister had said she could comment on it. Is it not interesting that the Minister for Social Development then held her here, but no longer gave her the right to speak on that paper?
This bill does not go far enough. Many things have been pushed through under urgency by that Government, but there is nothing that addresses the issues that we are facing, nothing that addresses the issue of child abuse, which we should be taking seriously as a Parliament.
Someone raised earlier the issue of the risk of increased family violence during the Rugby World Cup. That is another area in which the National Government has fallen down. It has done nothing to increase funding to the family violence prevention organisations over this period of time, despite the fact that we know through all the research that when we hold big sporting events like this, there will be increased levels of drinking and there will be increased levels of violence. Instead, the Government is silent, and nothing has been done to address that issue.
I look at this bill and I think yes, sure, we are going to support this going to a select committee, but, at the end of the day, we know that it will do very little to actually address the problems that we face. It will not help us to avoid situations like those we have confronted and experienced in the past, and it will do very little to protect our children. Thank you very much.
In speaking to the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), I think it is important to note there are a few things that we witness in this House that are a bit rich. One of the things that is a bit rich is to hear members from the other side of the House criticise this Government’s move against domestic and family violence. They introduced into Parliament the bill that the previous speaker, Carmel Sepuloni, was speaking about, and which is currently languishing at No. 72 on the Order Paper, days after this House rose for the last election—and then she talked about urgency! What did the Labour Government concern itself with under urgency in the House? It concerned itself with the Electoral Finance Act under urgency. It squandered the time in this House that it could have been using on this domestic violence legislation to have a tilt at—jiggery-pokery—an election it knew it was going to lose. Yet Carmel Sepuloni gets up in this House and tries to confront this side of the House with digging around with Parliament’s time in order to feather its own nest.
The other thing in relation to her talking about urgency is that those of us who were in the House between 2005 and 2008 remember the 1,700 amendments to the emissions trading scheme legislation that the Labour Government shoved up in the morning, and which were law by night. Labour members want to sit tall in the saddle on a high horse and claim the high ground, but they are wrong, wrong, wrong, and the public out there know it.
Another duplicity that I cannot get over in this House comes from the Green Party, because the Green Party, in terms of this bill, believe that it is fine to go on to private property to do a million dollars’ worth of damage to the Waihopai spy base, and walk away free because of an ill-conceived perception of the claim of right. At the same time, it is wrong to live in a household where one knows that child abuse is going on and to be able to walk away from any culpability whatsoever and say: “It’s not my kid, you can’t pin it on me. It’s not my kid, you can’t pin it on me.” The Green Party tries to justify its ridiculous stance on this piece of child protection legislation by saying that it is bigger than just this.
We talk about poverty, we talk about the causes and the drivers of child abuse, we talk about those who are living in inequity, we talk about those who have had a hard upbringing, and we talk those people who have been abused themselves and go on to replicate that behaviour, and it is all true. They all add to child abuse, and, guess what, we cannot fix it with one piece of legislation. We have laws in this country against rape, but people still get raped. We have laws in this country against murder, and people still get murdered. We have laws against child abuse in this country, and children are still abused—abused more than in just about any other Western country in this world.
We have had a number of names called out tonight but what we forget is this: if any one of us had the finger pointed at us right now, or a microphone shoved under our nose, we might at best be able to name five children who have been abused and killed in the last 10 years. But what we know is that about one child a month is killed in this country. So in the last 10 years there have been 120 of them, and largely they are faceless and nameless because of that abuse and the fact that that abuse is endemic in this country.
I cannot believe that a party that sits where the Green Party sits will not support this legislation, on those spurious arguments, but I do not know why I am surprised. The Green Party is the party that believes that we should not be able to go to the supermarket and buy alcohol, but we should be able to go to the dairy and buy Kronic; that if one has a bad back one should be able to grow a few plants of dope, and that would not be a problem, whatsoever. Its members believe that people can pee in a stream and poo in a caravan site but we have to have a clean streams accord and do something about that. It is absolutely duplicitous. They would criticise a dairy cow for doing exactly the same thing, bearing in mind they are animals. So it does not surprise me whatsoever that the Green Party has absolutely no problem with saying in terms of this bill that it is OK for someone to walk to Waihopai, slash the balloon with a knife, and do a million dollars’ worth of damage, but if someone is living in a house where they know a child is being abused and it is not their baby, then they should walk away scot-free. That is rubbish. We believe that people should be held to account.
Te Ururoa Flavell made a point that it takes a village to raise a family, and I believe that it does take a village to raise a family. I believe that at this time in this country, and with the statistics that we have to deal with, we should hold that village responsible for the raising of that child. I say to the House there is nothing worse than having to investigate child abuse allegations and child homicide. When one walks into a house and is met with just a closed-door attitude and the fact that there are only two witnesses to whoever killed or abused that child and one is dead and could never speak for themselves, as an investigator it is a horrible situation to be in. At the same time, trying to investigate, for instance, a death in an institution where everybody involved in that institution has every reason in the world to shut up and say nothing, and the rule of law and inculcating the right to silence allows them to do that, is a very, very difficult prospect. I can say that for investigators there is nothing harder to investigate than child abuse and child sexual abuse.
I am pleased to see that the Government has taken a stance on offending in respect of sexual grooming. The provisions of this bill allow, for instance, an investigator who is engaging with a paedophile online to make an arrest, hold someone to account, and put them before a court on charges prior to an offence actually taking place. Obviously, for an investigator to masquerade as a minor online in order to bring out the paedophile, to be able to confront them with the nature of their offending, and to explore what other offences they may well have been involved in, the investigator needs the ability to engage with the offender and to stop the offender short of committing an offence against a minor.
The bill also moves to increase the sentence for carrying a knife. In a number of our communities around this country carriage of a knife has become a regular thing. Unfortunately, when young people are heading uptown on a Friday night, a number of them are carrying knives. Previously, the law required evidence of an intention to use that knife in a crime, but the bill makes carrying a knife an offence if it is without reasonable excuse. That is how it should be, because the risk of carrying a knife in volatile situations is one that is far too severe.
I will finish by commenting on some remarks made by Su’a William Sio about where this Government has gone in respect of law and order. He was talking about South Auckland and its record of crime. We need to just bear in mind that going into the last election the previous Government had 300 police left in its quota of 1,000 to put on the street. The incoming National Government said it would take that 300 and would add another 300 to the quota.
Three hundred of those 600 police were placed in South Auckland. What that has meant in South Auckland, where that member who was interjecting resides, is 25 police cars double-crewed with relievers and their supervisors for 24 hours a day. The Labour Government had 9 long years to do it and did not. Since the National Government added the extra police we have seen a dramatic reduction in crime in South Auckland—that is lives saved in South Auckland. However, we will be waiting a really long time before members on that side would ever acknowledge any of it. More fool them.
That was a very disappointing speech from Chester Borrows, who is a more reasonable member of the National Government. It really highlighted the deficiencies in this Government’s approach to dealing with child abuse and family violence. I think it is pretty appalling to say that the reason domestic violence legislation has not been progressed is that Labour passed the Electoral Finance Act.
Mr Borrows did not actually explain why domestic violence legislation has not been progressed in National’s term of Government. He gave a cursory mention of poverty and the connection between child abuse and poverty, and then he moved on and ignored any discussion of that issue, which is at the core of the problem. Then we got a rant against two of my colleagues on this side of the House, Carmel Sepuloni and Su’a William Sio. I respectfully say that Su’a William Sio knows his community in South Auckland a lot better than Mr Borrows knows the community, and Carmel Sepuloni knows her community in west Auckland very, very well.
I know from my colleague Su’a William Sio that family violence and child abuse are big problems in South Auckland and need to be addressed. Labour is supporting the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), so I do not know why we had to be yelled at. We are supporting this legislation, because we want as many tools as we can have to deal with child abuse and family violence. But we will point out the double standard when National members stand up in this House and give these fine speeches about child abuse and family violence, and about what we need to do, when the Government has cut funding to the very agencies that are working at the coalface to deal with child abuse and family violence.
It is all very well to pass legislation dealing with the tragic death or injury of a child after the fact—after the crime has taken place. That is fine; people need to be held responsible for what they do or, in terms of letting it happen, what they do not do. But it does not change the fact that a child has still died or been abused, and unless we make that our focus, and unless we say that our focus has to be that we do not need laws like this any more because we are dealing with the issue of child abuse so that children are not being put in that situation in the first place, then debates like this are pointless. We will go round and round in circles. It is like putting an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.
What we in Labour have been talking about is putting children at the core of the policy work that we do. I can tell members that if the Government had done that, we would not have seen the cuts in family violence prevention spending that we saw this year. It is unbelievable that Women’s Refuge had its funding cut by more than $700,000 a year. It is unbelievable. How can that be justified, given the family violence problems we have in this country, and given that Women’s Refuge takes the women and children out of those dangerous environments and gives them a safe place to say?
I want to talk about the Tairāwhiti Abuse Intervention Network, or TAIN. This is an organisation of social service providers in Gisborne and the East Coast that has come together to deal with the horrible reality that we have an enormous problem with family violence and child abuse in Gisborne. We are one of the worst areas in the country. The network has been doing amazing work and has been working together very well. The network involves a wide range of organisations, including Government departments and the police.
The network is actually starting to get results, so imagine its surprise when earlier this year it was told that its funding was not secure and that it will have to apply to keep its child advocates, who are doing amazing work around the country and are now gone, unless the communities themselves can find the funding to keep them on. The network was told this at the beginning of June, and that it had to get its applications in. From 1 July the network did not even know whether its funding would continue and whether it could continue to employ its staff. It was having to jump through ridiculous bureaucratic hoops to keep doing what is has always done very, very well, because this Government, in a desperate attempt to pay for last year’s unaffordable tax cuts—which, by the way, did not go to the very families we are talking about—decided to trim some money from family violence prevention funding.
The Tairāwhiti Abuse Intervention Network was very disappointed. It did not get all the money it was hoping it would get. Even worse, it is now on an annual funding regime, whereby it does not know from year to year whether it will have any security of funding or whether it will get funding at all. If the Government really wants to do something about family violence and child abuse, why would it do that? That is why the words from the members opposite are so hollow. Speeches in this House will not make a difference when the Government is chopping off at the knees the very organisations that are at the coalface every single day. Those are the people who will actually get some traction when we talk about dealing with family violence and child abuse.
I want to talk about some of the changes that are happening in the Housing New Zealand Corporation at the moment. These changes will make it even harder for us to get on top of this problem. I have had people come to me; I had one in my office a couple of weeks ago. This woman had taken her 6-year-old daughter out of a gang house. That woman deserves a medal, as far as I am concerned. She was born into a gang. Everyone she knows is in the gang. That is just the reality of her life. But she wanted better for her daughter than she had, so she moved to a Housing New Zealand Corporation house. Her daughter was doing well in school. Now, she had some issues with intimidation from the gang. They would come around and try to scare her because, you know, they do not like people who walk out and try to leave that situation. This created a situation with her neighbours, who were understandably concerned at this activity. They complained to the Housing New Zealand Corporation and she was evicted—she was evicted.
On what planet is it good for that 6-year-old child, whose mother took her out of a gang house, to send her back to a gang house because of petty politics from this National Government and its approach to the Housing New Zealand Corporation? I am sick and tired of seeing people come through my office—and I know my colleagues feel the same way—who are victims of the stupid policy that the Housing New Zealand Corporation has.
The Housing New Zealand Corporation has a one-size-fits-all, “we’re going to get the bad buggers out” policy—all that kind of rhetoric—without looking at the individual circumstances of each situation and asking what it means for the child in that situation. What is in the best interests of that child? Is it letting them stay in the Housing New Zealand Corporation house, away from a gang environment, or is it being able to stand up in Parliament and say: “We’re getting tough on really bad tenants.” and sending that 6-year-old back to a gang house? How is that in the best interests of children and in the best interests of keeping children free of abuse in this country? It is not—it is not at all.
Then we have the changes that are happening with the current restructuring of the Housing New Zealand Corporation, where, apparently, our social housing provider no longer has any social role, at all. Housing New Zealand Corporation staff—tenancy managers—have traditionally done a fantastic job working with tenants, developing relationships, and connecting them to other social service providers and other Government departments where appropriate. They keep them housed and make sure they can sustain their tenancies, which for some tenants is not easy, for a range of reasons.
The reality is that a number of people in Housing New Zealand Corporation properties have high and complex needs and will always require some level of pastoral care and support in order to be able to sustain their tenancies. I know that the Government does not like that reality—I know that it would like to get all these people out of Housing New Zealand Corporation houses—but that is the reality. It is why we have social housing—to protect these people, to look after them, and to make sure that every child in New Zealand is able to grow up in appropriate, affordable, safe housing.
But now this Government says that actually the Housing New Zealand Corporation has no social role whatsoever. Well, do members know what? Tenancy managers are often that fresh pair of eyes that walks into a house and sees that something is wrong and that there is a need that has to be addressed. This Government has said that now they should just ignore that—they should just ignore that—because that is the problem of Child, Youth and Family or the Ministry of Social Development.
One of the biggest problems we have in our public sector is the siloing. Everyone is pushing these people from one Government department to another, and no one is taking responsibility. Why are we not saying to every Government department that comes into contact with a vulnerable family or a family where there might be some need that there is no wrong door? Why are we not saying that where there is a problem, we fix it? Why are we not saying that where a tenancy manager sees a need, they deal with it? They do not just say it is no longer their problem. They do not just say that that is the problem of the Ministry of Social Development and they do not have to worry about the things they have seen.
The changes to the Housing New Zealand Corporation will see our vulnerable children in an even more perilous situation, and none of the fine words that we have heard from Government members tonight will do anything to improve their position.
It is a pleasure to take a call—the final call—on this bill. I have to remind members of the Opposition, who sound as though they have not actually read a word of this bill, that it is the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2). I say that it sounds as though they have not read a word of this bill because for the last half an hour I have not actually heard the bill itself being addressed. We heard about domestic violence and about child poverty, but it was as if someone in the Labour research unit decided that today those were the issues those members were going to talk about, regardless of the bill that was on the Order Paper.
I cannot allow all of those claims to go unanswered. Many of them are false, many of them are without merit, and many of them are without substance. I will take the first point. Anyone listening tonight to the Opposition could be under the impression that this bill deals only with poor children and children from poor families. Let me remind the House and anyone watching that this bill is about every child. Every child who suffers from domestic violence and every child who is not cared for properly is a child whom this bill protects.
I will read out a definition for Labour members who have not actually picked up the bill. We know that some Labour members have not picked up the bill, because Carmel Sepuloni did not even know that this bill had been to a select committee. She said that Labour would be supporting this bill going to a select committee. I am sorry to inform Carmel Sepuloni that it has already been to a select committee. We know how much she cares about this bill! She did not even know that it had been to a select committee. Let me read out the definition. New section 195(3), inserted by clause 7, states: “For the purposes of this section and section 195A, a child is a person under the age of 18 years.” That means that every child counts. That means that every child who has suffered from somebody not providing them with the necessities of life, and every child who has not had someone looking out for them, is a child whom this bill covers. So to Labour members, who have said just about all night that this bill is about only poor children, I say that it is about every child. I wanted to correct that, because I was somewhat offended that not every child was considered equal in the speeches coming from the Opposition.
I will also answer the claims that this Government has done nothing about domestic violence. That could not be further from the truth. My good friend Chester Borrows reminded me earlier that this Government dealt with the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill a number of years ago. It was one of the first—
I am sorry to interrupt the member. I am having increasing difficulty hearing what the member is saying. Can members just tone it down.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was almost at full volume, but I will try to speak a bit louder if you like. This Government has dealt with the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill. The Opposition claims that this Government has done nothing about domestic violence, but the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill has been passed by this Government. It increased penalties for domestic violence against children. In that domestic violence legislation we extended protection for child victims of domestic violence, and we introduced police safety orders that extended protection from abusive adults. Those were some of the measures around domestic violence that this Government has dealt with. The members opposite who say that National has done nothing about domestic violence are absolutely wrong—they are absolutely wrong.
I will also answer something that Dr Prasad said. He was one of the first speakers from the Opposition. He made a bold claim that National has not done enough for children. Let me remind Dr Prasad and the Labour Opposition that Labour had 9 years to pass a bill like this. Labour had 9 years to pass a bill on the protection of children. It had 9 years to pass a bill that doubles the penalty for cruelty to a child. Did Labour pass a bill that doubles the penalty for cruelty to a child? No, it did not. This Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) doubles the penalty for cruelty to a child. Did Labour, when it had 9 years in Government, pass a bill that creates a new offence of failure to protect a child or vulnerable adult? No, it did not. But Labour members have the gall to come here tonight and say that National has done nothing and has not done enough for children, when we are here today debating a bill that the National Government brought in and put on the Order Paper. It has been through a select committee, I remind Carmel Sepuloni again. We are here debating it because this Government is about action. This Government is about protecting children. This Government is about dealing with domestic violence, through the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill passed already by this Government. I ask the Labour members opposite who think that not enough is being done for children and that not enough is being done about domestic violence to stand up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, and ask themselves what Labour did in its 9 years in Government.
We are here today debating the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) because it is an important measure. It is something that National members are passionate about, and it is something we are doing right here, tonight. I say thank you to Labour members for supporting the bill. It is good to hear that they are supporting the bill, but many of the claims they have been making tonight simply just do not stand up to scrutiny.
Let us talk about a couple of other points in the bill that have not had much discussion. They are important points. A part of the bill has not had a lot of discussion, but we also need to cover it. This bill also changes the law around sexual grooming. It gives the police the power to prosecute people who are detected by police to be engaging in sexual grooming activities. Currently, the law does not allow a person to be prosecuted if the person whom they were sexually grooming was a police officer operating under cover. That is quite a flaw in the legislation as it currently stands, which this bill also seeks to change. Somebody who is engaging in the act of sexual grooming, whether they are doing it to a minor or to a police officer posing as a minor, is still engaging in sexual grooming. The current legislation does not allow anything to be done about those people who sexually groom an under-cover police officer, and this bill will allow the police to take action on that.
Another point in this bill that I want to talk about, which I have not heard mentioned at all tonight, is that the maximum penalty for the possession of an offensive weapon will rise from 2 years’ to 3 years’ imprisonment. I am sure many members of Parliament, when they are out in their constituencies, have heard from members of the public—and I heard this myself on Saturday at my stall at the Howick market—that the penalties are just not strong enough for people who commit crimes in the community. This bill will increase the maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon from 2 years’ to 3 years’ imprisonment.
I repeat that one of the other significant parts of this bill is the doubling of the penalty for cruelty to a child. This Government is taking action. This Government cares about the protection of children. We reject the accusation that the Labour Opposition has made tonight that National has done little for children. We are right here, debating a bill that Labour itself had 9 years to introduce but did not. National is taking the action. National has brought the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) to this Parliament, and I look forward to it being passed sometime in the near future.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a second time.
- New Zealand National 57
- New Zealand Labour 42
- ACT New Zealand 5
- Māori Party 4
- Progressive 1
- United Future 1
Bill read a second time.