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Bridges escapes serious punishment after flouting video rules

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Oct 2019, 2:47PM
Bridges has been penalised but avoided the harsher punishments. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Bridges has been penalised but avoided the harsher punishments. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Bridges escapes serious punishment after flouting video rules

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Oct 2019, 2:47PM

Speaker Trevor Mallard has penalised National leader Simon Bridges for defying his ruling around the use of Parliament TV footage, but has declined any serious sanctions.

He had options including referring Bridges to the privileges committee or naming Bridges, which would have seen him banned from Parliamentary proceedings and his pay docked.

Instead Mallard, announcing his decision when the House sat at 2pm today, said the breach of Standing Orders was relatively trivial, and has placed restrictions on the number of supplementary questions that Bridges can ask during Question Time.

The National Party's overall number of supplementary questions will not decrease, but the number that Bridges can ask will continue to decrease if he continues to defy Mallard's previous ruling.

The issue came to a head following a complaint to Mallard two and a half weeks ago from Labour chief whip Kieran McAnulty over a National Party video that showed Labour MP Deborah Russell's speech in the House about wellbeing that included remarks about Greek philosophy.

Text accompanying the video read: "Still not sure what Labour's Wellbeing Budget means?"

Mallard ruled that the video violated Standing Orders about the use of Parliament's official television coverage of the House.

Standing Orders require the permission of all MPs shown for footage used for political advertising.

Reports that use extracts of official coverage must also be "fair and accurate".

Mallard ordered all political parties to take down any videos made this year featuring MPs in the House who had not given their consent - which only really affects National.

But National refused, and Bridges called Mallard's ruling "a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression".

Mallard said today said that National had initially indicated it would take down the video, and was "disappointed to have been misled".

But he declined to refer Bridges to the privileges committee, which could have recommended a number of punishments, from imprisonment to a fine.

The committee would have been unlikely to have come to a consensus as it is split with five National MPs and five MPs from Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

Mallard said he also had no intention to name Bridges for a video that was a "trivial breach of Standing Orders".

But it was his duty to uphold "the authority of the Chair, which is the authority of the House itself".

"I ruled that videos using Parliament TV footage had to come down by 5pm on Friday, 27 September. The Leader of the Opposition has defied that ruling.

"I cannot choose to selectively enforce the Standing Orders agreed by the House, any more than the Leader of the Opposition can choose to ignore Standing Orders he does not agree with."

Mallard's ruling means that Bridges would only be able to ask a restricted number of supplementary questions each sitting day.

This restrictions end if National's advertisements come down, but increase by one question every week they remain online.

Mallard said that the Standing Orders committee, in light of the current kerfuffle, was reviewing the current rules and it was up to the committee if they would be changed, and when those changes might apply.

He noted that Bridges had opposed looser rules around the use of Parliament TV footage when the Standing Orders were last reviewed in 2017.

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