I always get suspicious when things go quiet on the lunatic fringe

I always get suspicious when things go quiet on the lunatic fringe – in this case I’m referring to the Act party.

I wonder what they’re up to – Rodney feeling chastised after his exuberance with Mummy state’s credit card has been almost mute (well as far as that tan and those teeth can be restrained) and Mr. Douglas has only once popped his head from the Act party burrow to declare war on obligatory student unionism. For awhile, the very fact that the rabid right was having a petulant tanty over this National government’s steady cleaving to the middle of the road (not to mention all that disorientating cosying up to the Maori Party) was enough to reassure me that all was well in Godzone. And then along came Act MP Mr. Garrett.

Dave, I’m sure we can call him Dave, because he sounds like such a regular sort of bloke has said we should consider offering an incentive of 5 thousand dollars to couples with a history of child abuse to have themselves sterilised. Unsurprisingly, talk back land declared a national holiday, got out the marching bands and spent the day over-using the words ‘Hitler’. Which is what you’d expect.

But what I found really interesting was that if you listened hard enough, there was an almost audible ripple of ‘bloody good idea’ running underneath the strident denouncements of Mr Garret’s radical new proposal. From the jaded lawyers having a quick fag outside the courtrooms, to the decks of those now impossible to sell beach houses and all along the conservative middle New Zealand suburbs, I could almost pick out a collective sigh of relief that someone was at last willing to take drastic action to stop our truly awful child abuse statistics that put kiwis in the bad and the ugly basket of the OECD statistics. It seems so simple.

But how exactly, does offering a financial reward for committing terrible harm on a child work? Is $5000 enough to motivate an initial abusive act on a minor in order to get yourself a motorbike and a free vasectomy?

Forward thinking is not a strong feature in the young and the uneducated. India found that out when they offered young males a free radio as an incentive for a vasectomy in an attempt at population control. It was especially successful because many of the young blokes who signed on – couldn’t read what they’d signed up to and it was only 15 years later when they were married and wanted to have kids that India found itself with an irate underclass on its hands.

Child abuse is not committed solely by biological parents either. Many of the most publicised cases of child abuse over the last few years was committed by adoptive parents, aunties or uncles or so called friends of the family so in order to deal with this problem – the entire family must be removed not just sterilised.

Preventing people from having children as a plausible policy on preventing child abuse makes as much sense as someone burning their own house down to prevent it from being robbed. It’s simple – but completely barking mad and a sign of a fractured and defeated society rather than one that is flourishing.

If it takes a community to raise a child then the prevention of child abuse is a communal problem rather than just an individual crime.

Instead of the anti kid stance of Mr. Garrett, a much more inspiring model can be seen in another Act Party supporter and multi millionaire property developer – 86 year old Martin Coffey. He saw kids who were ‘alienated, overweight and often unable to swim’ and felt that a community should have a place where kids could learn to play and be social together and not be charged for it. Instead of complaining about street kids he has offered to build a new community pool in St Albans which will get kids off the streets and into the water. I’d like to hear what his policy on preventing child abuse would be – but unfortunately the lunatic right gets a lot more press than their more rational counterparts.

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