Public law specialist says National Party ad using Parliament TV footage was 'fair'

Wellington public law specialist Graeme Edgeler thinks a video published by the National Party, ordered to be taken down by the Speaker, was "fair". 

Edgeler spoke at a meeting on Thursday of the Standing Orders Committee, a group of MPs who met to discuss reviewing the rules around the use of Parliament TV footage. 

Edgeler told MPs he believes the current rules are too restrictive and are not in the public's interest of an open and transparent Parliament. 

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick asked if he considered the National Party ad in question as "misleading", and he replied, "No. I thought it was fair."

The rules 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)".

It came into the spotlight last month after Junior Labour Whip Kieran McAnulty complained to Speaker Trevor Mallard about political ads that included Parliament TV footage used without the permission of MPs. 

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

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

Mallard ruled last month that all Parliament TV footage featuring MPs without their permission would have to be taken down by 5pm on Friday, September 27. 

But when that time came, National MPs defied the Speaker's ruling by sharing the Dr Russell video on their social media channels, with their own authorisation statements. 

The defiance led the Speaker to punish National leader Simon Bridges by restricting the number of supplementary questions - or follow-up questions - he's allowed in Parliament, until the videos are removed.  

Edgeler advised the committee that there are arguments for and against restrictions on use of Parliament TV footage, but he said, "it ought to account for freedom of expression". 

However, he admitted there is a risk in footage being used to mislead, and he said that's something the committee will need to consider in its review. 

Labour MP Michael Wood said there is an argument for Parliament to be transparent. 

"My view is that interest can be undermined if any of us here individually use that footage in an abusive way," he added. 

Edgeler said as long as it's not misleading, footage should be able to be used by other parties to create content, even if it is just the last 10 minutes of a speech in Parliament. 

"If it's a good 10 seconds, and it's the nice summation at the end, or it's the final point, why not?"

Wood argued it will "always be in the interest of the one posting" the video. 

But Edgeler said the committee should "be careful" before imposing restrictions, and should consider loosening the current rules. 

Press Gallery chair Sam Sachdeva told the committee: "We seek freedom of expression and freedom of speech and the importance of holding politicians [to account], and it would seem to me that some liberalisation would be needed."

He said he believes the current rules are "too restrictive".

The Standing Orders Committee has previously removed a ban on using Parliament TV footage for "satire or ridicule".

Mallard now wants the group to review the current matter.