Simon Bridges accuses Speaker of acting 'outside of his powers' over attacks ads ruling

Simon Bridges is accusing House Speaker Trevor Mallard of acting "outside of his powers" over his ruling last week to have attack ads taken down. 

The National Party leader said while he has the "utmost respect for the Speaker's office, freedom of speech is important and we're not going to be censored". 

He told Magic Talk: "I think the Speaker - with all due respect for him - has acted outside of his powers. His power is to refer me to the Privileges Committee... he didn't do that."

Last week the Speaker ruled that videos using edited Parliament TV footage featuring MPs without their permission had to be taken down by 5pm on Friday.

It followed a complaint to the Speaker by Junior Labour Whip Kieran McAnulty who pointed out that political advertising by National had included Parliament TV footage used without the permission of MPs. 

The rules of the House state that use of Parliament TV coverage "must not be used in any medium for political advertising or election campaigning (except with the permission of all members shown)". 

The video referred to in the complaint was published by National, and used footage of Labour MP Deborah Russell discussing the "intellectual history behind wellbeing". 

It focuses mostly on Dr Russell discussing Greek mythology and concludes with Assistant Speaker Ruth Dyson asking her to get back on topic.

By the time 5pm came around on Friday, National MPs defied the Speaker's ruling by sharing the video on their social media channels with their own authorisation statements.

That way, if Bridges gets called before the Privileges Committee - sort of like Parliament's court - it won't be just him that gets called; it'll be all of them.

Bridges wrote to the Speaker last week arguing that the video of Dr Russell "does not attack or criticise the Labour Party or the Government".

"All the video does is draw the attention of viewers to the explanation provided by Dr Russell. In doing so, it offers no further commentary than Dr Russell's words."

Bridges told Magic Talk former National MP and QC Chris Finlayson helped him put the letter together, and said he feels confident "we're on safe ground here". 

The Speaker was not available for comment since he's currently out of New Zealand. 

Bridges said if the Speaker was concerned about National's ads he should have "sent us to the Privileges Committee" rather than demand the ads be taken down. 

The Standing Orders Committee - which reviews or considers rules of the House - has previously removed a ban on using Parliament TV footage for "satire or ridicule".

Mallard has now recommended the committee meet to review the current matter.

But Bridges told Magic Talk he is concerned the committee will take too long, and that in the meantime National has been "gagged". 

"Just remember this: The Labour Party and the Greens have done this to us for years - they're not that good at it, but they've done it," Bridges said. 

He said MPs should be able to have a sense of humour when it comes to attack ads. 

He pointed to a Green Party ad in July that used dubbed footage of Bridges to make him look like a used car salesman with an exaggerated New Zealand accent. 

"Remember the Green Party one mocking the way I talk? I had a laugh at that. But when the boot's on the other foot, these guys don't like it," Bridges said. 

The National Party leader said he hopes "sense prevails and we can find a path through this in terms of the future". 

He said he thinks it's unfair that the media is allowed to use Parliament TV footage without MPs' permission but political parties can't. 

"I'm not going to - in the interest of freedom of speech and censorship - stop what we're doing."

Newshub.

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