Australia's prime minister, has caused controversy after admitting that he smacked his children and warning that a ban would take political correctness "to extremes".
Mr Abbott rejected a suggestion by the United Nations that Australia should ban corporal punishment and confessed that he had smacked his three daughters - now in their 20s - when they were younger. "All parents know that occasionally the best thing we can give is a smack, but it should never be something that hurts them," he said.
"I was probably one of those guilty parents who did occasionally chastise the children, a very gentle smack I've got to say. 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." Smacking children is illegal in 34 countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Spain. In Britain, under the Children Act of 2004, it is unlawful for a parent or carer to smack a child, except when it amounts to "reasonable punishment".
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concerns that "corporal punishment in the home and in some schools and alternative care settings remains lawful in Australia". The concerns were highlighted in a report to parliament by Australia's newly established national children's commissioner. However, Mr Abbott, who leads Australia's conservative coalition, said a ban was unnecessary and excessive. "We often see political correctness taken to extremes and maybe this is another example," he said.
Medical experts, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, have backed calls for a ban, saying physically punishing children increases the risk of future mental health problems, including depression and a tendency to adopt aggressive behaviour. "Smacking is potentially quite dangerous," Prof Kim Oates, from the college, told ABC News. "Paediatricians see a lot of child abuse, and we know that quite a lot of child abuse starts off as smacking that gets out of control Why take the risk?" Megan Mitchell, Australia's new children's commissioner, said she supported a "national conversation" about a smacking ban.
"We certainly don't want children growing up in fear of violence, and replicating violence," she said. "But we don't want to be criminalising parents for trying to save their child from running across a road - it's about crossing lines." Dr Leith Henry, a mother and psychologist, said smackers had been branded "social pariahs" but critics failed to distinguish between "innocuous taps" and violent assaults. ----- ?Australia's high court has struck down same-sex marriage in the Australian Capital Territory, home to Canberra, where dozens have married under a landmark law. It ruled that parliament must decide whether to approve same-sex unions.