THE New Zealand government’s coalition partners don’t agree with removing newborn infants from parents with a history of child abuse and it could find it doesn’t have the numbers to pass the law.
Ministers are discussing what Social Development Minister Paula Bennett calls “hard-hitting measures”, which include giving judges the power to tell convicted child abusers that if they have any more babies they will be taken away from them.
Opposition parties oppose that and so does United Future and the Maori Party – two of the government’s three support partners.
Without their votes there wouldn’t be a majority in parliament to pass the law.
“I’m astounded they could even be considering such moves,” UF leader Peter Dunne said on Thursday.
“To intervene in people’s live to that extent is, I think, utterly intolerable.”
Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell says it would be “going too far” and although he hasn’t seen details he doubts his party could support it.
The third coalition partner, ACT’s John Banks, says he needs to know more about the issue before commenting.
But even if he supported it, the government wouldn’t have a majority without either UF or the Maori Party.
Prime Minister John Key says something has to be done because New Zealand has “terrible” child abuse statistics.
“This conversation has to happen, changes have to occur,” he told reporters in London.
Ms Bennett says other measures are also being discussed and no decisions have been taken.
She says she wants to get a clear message to child abusers – if they have more babies, they won’t be allowed to keep them.
Labour MP Annette King says laws are already in place that allow the state to remove babies from their parents.
“The government has been talking about acting against child abuse for four years and hasn’t done anything,” she said on Radio New Zealand.
“We think this is just talk to take the heat off other issues.”