Tony Abbott against ban on smacking

smacking Photo: Neale Duckworth

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has admitted to smacking his children and said it would be "political correctness taken to extremes" if parents were banned from the practice.

"I was probably one of those guilty parents who did occasionally chastise the children, a very gentle smack I've got to say," Mr Abbott, who has three adult daughters, told the Seven Network on Thursday.

"I think that we've got to treat our kids well, but I don't think we ought to say there's no place ever for smacks. All parents know that occasionally the best thing we can give is a smack, but it should never be something that hurts them."

The Prime Minister was reacting to a United Nations report recommending Australian parents who smack their children be prosecuted. The UN recommendations, contained in the first report to federal parliament by National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell, also state teachers and childcare workers should be required to dob in parents who smack their children.

Ms Mitchell has called for Australia to have a national conversation about smacking.

However Mr Abbott all but ruled out any smacking ban, saying it was "always a danger" that these types of bans moved Australia towards a nanny state.
"I think we often see political correctness taken to extremes and maybe this is another example," he said.

It is illegal in Australia to physically punish children in schools, juvenile detention centres and childcare centres but it remains legal for parents to "smack" or "spank" their children at home, as long as the punishment is deemed "reasonable". According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, it goes beyond "reasonable force" if "bruising, marking or other injury" remains after 24 hours.

Mr Abbott's stance comes despite calls from the Royal Australian College of Physicians for a similar smacking ban in August this year.

The RACP says its proposal is backed by compelling evidence that reveals long-term negative effects are a consequence of physical punishment of children. The college claims children who are physically chastised by their parents are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety, aggression and  mental health issues than those who are not. They are also at risk of anti-social behaviour, substance abuse and violence towards others well into adulthood.

In 1979, Sweden became the first country to ban all forms of "corporal punishment". More than 30 other countries have since followed Sweden's lead, including Germany, Pakistan, Spain and New Zealand. Apart from Australia, the physical punishment of children is still lawful in many countries including the US, Britain and Canada.

Essential Baby members have voted 55 to 45 per cent against a ban.