Speaker Trevor Mallard slaps down Parliament TV political adverts in contentious ruling

Online political adverts using edited footage of MPs in the House without their permission must be taken down by Friday evening, Speaker Trevor Mallard has ruled.

On Thursday, in the debating chamber, Mallard said he had received a letter from Labour MP Kieran McAnulty raising political advertising by the Opposition.

"[McAnulty raised] the use by the Leader of the Opposition of official television coverage of the House for political advertising without the permission of the members shown, and publishing a false and misleading account of proceedings contrary to Part B, Appendix D of Standing Orders".

That section of the House's rules covers the use of official television coverage which "must not be used in any medium for political advertising or election campaigning (except with the permission of all members shown)".

The National Party has several videos on its social media accounts which include footage from within the House. Many have been shared by National leader Simon Bridges. 

Notably, one includes Labour MP Deborah Dr Russell discussing the "intellectual history behind wellbeing", making quick cuts between parts of her speech and zooming in at different speeds.

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

Dr Russell tweeted after the video was posted: "Message from my daughter: Congrats on getting your very own National attack ad!! I've never been so proud of you."

Mallard said McAnulty's letter "highlighted the existence of a range of videos posted by different parties that use footage of members for political advertising". 

He said he would be surprised if members had given their permission.

"While there has been some discussion about what constitutes a 'political advertisement', it is clear to me that videos that support one party or to aim to reduce support for another party are the sorts of items covered by Appendix D of the Standing Orders."

He ruled videos using edited Parliament TV footage featuring other MPs without their permission must be removed by 5pm on Friday.

The Standing Orders committee previously met to consider the conditions around the use of official footage and changes were made to remove the ban on using the footage for "satire or ridicule".

Mallard recommended the committee meet again to review the matter.

Standing Orders say that breaches of the conditions of using footage from the House "may be treated as a contempt and proceeded against accordingly".

Mallard said he would withhold his judgement on that until after the current rules were reviewed again.

"Until that time, Hon Simon Bridges and his office are to refrain from editing official video footage of MPs and posting it. They may link to the official footage but I will view editing it as an intention to make it an advertisement.

"I may then have to proceed more swiftly in considering the matter of privilege."

Speaker Trevor Mallard slaps down Parliament TV political adverts in contentious ruling
Photo credit: Getty / Parliament TV.

National's Gerry Brownlee hit back at the ruling, referring to it as "censorship'" and as "harsh and very destructive of open democracy in New Zealand". 

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said the matter had been "well-canvassed" in the last committee meeting, and Brownlee hadn't supported removing a ban on using footage for political advertising then. 

Brownlee denies the social media videos are political advertising.

He said: "the playing of a speech that anyone can read in Hansard any day of the week in a way that can only be described as a satirical presentation is not a political advertisement in our view".

In a formal statement following the ruling, Bridges similarly rejected allegations the Dr Russell video was misleading.

"The video uses relevant extracts of Dr Russell speaking… it makes no commentary on the extracts other than to introduce them."

He denied it was political advertising, saying it didn't promote the National Party or criticise another party. 

"The video's purpose is informational".

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick called Mallard's announcement "huge" on Twitter.