'Misleading' National Party ad left online by MP Simeon Brown despite assurances to Speaker Trevor Mallard it was deleted

A "misleading" National Party ad posted across its social media platforms was left online by at least one Opposition MP, despite assurances it had been removed earlier in the day.

House Speaker Trevor Mallard said in Parliament earlier on Tuesday he had received a letter from Health Minister Chris Hipkins raising with him a "matter of privilege" - a reference to matters affecting Parliament's rules.

The image, posted to the National Party and some MPs' social media pages, was made to look like a Labour Party letter and showed a written answer by Hipkins to National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti about COVID-19 testing.

Mallard described the complaint as an "alteration or misrepresentation of a reply of a written question posted by the National Party on social media" and said the "altered reply purported to be from the Minister of Health and is on the face of it misleading".

Even though the ad was authorised by National leader Judith Collins, she later said she didn't see the post before it was published.

Mallard said Collins apologised and he had no plans to take any further action because Parliament is set to be dissolved on Sunday ahead of the election. 

"The leader of the Opposition has apologised," Mallard said. "I have been assured that the material has been removed from social media and in light of the impending dissolution of Parliament I do not intend to take any further action."

The screenshot, taken at 5:03pm, shows the post still up on Simeon Brown's Facebook page.
The screenshot, taken at 5:03pm, shows the post still up on Simeon Brown's Facebook page. Photo credit: Facebook

But a screenshot of National MP Simeon Brown's Facebook page taken by Newshub shows the post on his page was still up at 5:03pm on Tuesday - after assurances were given to Mallard it was removed. It remained on his page until it was deleted at about 5:20pm, shortly after Newshub sent a query to National about the post still being up. It is unclear whether the post's deletion is related to Newshub's inquiry.

Mallard has been contacted in relation to the post being left online despite being told it was deleted.

On Tuesday evening, Collins reiterated her apology over the use of Labour's letterhead in the ad.

"I was not aware of the use of the letterhead because I did not see the graphics before it was posted to social media," she said in a statement.

"I've apologised, on behalf of the National Party, for that use. It should not have happened.

"The posts have now been taken down."

Mallard said in Parliament that under "normal circumstances" he would be "inclined" to refer National's ad to the Privileges Committee - sort of like Parliament's court - because the post "purports to be authorised by the leader of the Opposition" even though Collins says she did not see it before publication. 

"The general manager of the New Zealand National Party has taken responsibility for it," Mallard said. "The post involved the manufacture of a fake ministerial letterhead to lend authenticity to the misrepresentation."