Simon Wood, Dominion Post (Wellington), October 30, 2009
Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws says giving the “underclass” money to be sterilised will address our child abuse problem.
Critics last night labelled the suggestion “totalitarian”, “draconian” and “reprehensible”, and questioned his appropriateness as a city leader.
Mr Laws said the children of beneficiaries, drug addicts and criminals had little chance in life. He offered his observations after he was approached for comment on the death of two-year-old Wanganui boy Karl Perigo-Check, the son of a convicted murderer and gang member.
“If we gave $10,000 to certain people and said ‘we’ll voluntarily sterilise you’ then all of society would be better off. There’d be less dead children and less social problems.
“Do we really expect these children to become doctors or brain surgeons?”
Child Poverty Action Group director Janfrie Wakim said she was stunned by the comments. “I just find it such a disgraceful attitude. It’s hard to comprehend that an intelligent man who’s leading a city is making such reprehensible suggestions.”
Barnardos New Zealand chief executive Murray Edridge said the comments were part of a pattern of provocative comments from Mr Laws designed to draw attention. “I can’t believe that he actually believes this.”
Any Kiwi child genuinely could become a doctor or brain surgeon–as long as there was community support for them, he said.
Children’s Commissioner John Angus said Mr Laws’ comments were unrealistic and unhelpful. “Most of the information that I have seen suggests that it is quite hard to predict specific family situations where there might be problems.”
He said many children who grew up on benefits became good citizens. Wider family members often ensured children were well cared for if their parents suffered from substance abuse or mental illness.
Mr Laws also said “liberal methods” of combating child abuse had failed. He said anti-smacking legislation had not worked because at least 19 children had been murdered by their family since it was passed in 2007.
“It was meant to be conducive to stopping child abuse in the country but no piece of legislation will stop the underclass in New Zealand from beating, battering and killing their children.”
The bill’s sponsor, Green MP Sue Bradford, said no-one had claimed the legislation would eradicate child abuse.
She said Mr Laws’ proposed solution was draconian and totalitarian and would never be considered by Parliament. “People are trying their best to change what has been many generations of violence but a lot of that will need more resourcing.”
Karl Perigo-Check was the son of Karl Check, a Mongrel Mob member who was convicted of murdering Wanganui toddler Jhia Te Tua, the daughter of a Black Power member, by organising a drive-by shooting. He is serving life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.
A service was held to farewell the boy yesterday.