29 Jun 2009

Abandoning smacking referendum could save $6m

8:13 pm on 29 June 2009

About $6 million could be saved if the referendum on smacking was called off now.

The postal referendum being, held in August, will ask whether a smack as part of good parental correction should be a criminal offence.

The organisers of the petition which led to the referendum could ask the government to cancel the vote, but have indicated they are unlikely to do so, despite concerns over the cost. The organisers would have until Friday to call off the ballot.

Of the $8.9 million budget, almost $2.9 million has already been spent or allocated for vote processing and advertising, chief electoral office figures show.

The bulk of the budget, $6 million, is for printing and mailing out ballot papers and counting the votes, and that money could be saved if the referendum was cancelled. It is possible some of the advertising money could also be recouped.

Barnados chief executive Murray Edridge has urged petition organiser Sheryl Savill and her colleagues in the Family First group to up the opportuntiy to call off the ballot because he says it is a waste of money.

Family First says it will not ask to call off the referendum unless the Government changes the law to stop light smacking being a crime.

A Research New Zealand poll released on Sunday found 77% of the 481 people it questioned thought the poll was a waste of taxpayers' money.