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Domestic CP - March 2010

Corpun file 22167

The Sunday Telegraph, Sydney, 21 March 2010

Thou shalt not smack kids, UN decrees

Australia to defy the ban

By political writer Linda Silmalis

Click to enlarge

AUSTRALIAN parents will continue to be allowed to smack their children despite an international push to ban corporal punishment in the home.

A State Government review of smacking laws obtained by The Sunday Telegraph has rejected an international trend to outlaw the practice.

Under NSW laws, parents and guardians have a legal defence that allows them to discipline children, provided the punishment is reasonable.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child condemns the practice, with its last report on international corporal punishment laws chastising Australia for refusing to outlaw smacking.

A review of the legislation by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General examined whether children should have the same rights as adults and how far the state should intervene in regulating activities in the family home.

A growing number of countries are moving to follow the lead of Sweden in banning corporal punishment of children. Among the 17 to follow suit include Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Germany, Italy, Israel, Iceland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Belgium and Greece.

New Zealand is one of the latest countries to ban smacking. However, the move has triggered widespread opposition with a public referendum held on the issue last year resulting in almost 90 per cent of respondents calling for the ban to be overturned.

The report on the review said the UN committee found it concerning Australia had failed to outlaw smacking.

"The committee notes that it is troubled by the failure of Australian legislation to prohibit corporal punishment at home, no matter how light that punishment is," the report said.

A submission from the NSW Corrective Services Department recommended the laws be amended to specify that reasonable force should not involve use of a closed fist.

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has raised concerns that NSW was failing to meet its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos said the review found laws to be in line with community expectations.

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