In this weeks episode of ‘Simon Says’ Simon Bridges has described Speaker Trevor Mallard’s recent ruling as an ” a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression.”
“Speaker Trevor Mallard ruled that National Party MPs have until 5 pm today to take down publicly available footage from Parliament that appears in their social media videos.
Simon says that “sound bites have been used this way for decades in all forms of media and by all New Zealand political parties” and that Mallard’s ruling means “parliamentarians cannot highlight soundbites from Parliamentary TV, but any outside media can.” He called the ruling “a gag on the National Party.“
Simon then said:
“National believes it is important for New Zealanders to see how their elected representatives perform in Parliament, whether it’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson not knowing what one per cent of GDP is, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni not knowing what CPI stands for, or Education Minister Chris Hipkins admitting mass redundancies as part of his Polytechnic reforms.
“What seems to have tipped Labour over the edge, prompting the privileges complaint, is a video of Labour MP and Chair of the powerful Finance and Expenditure Committee Deborah Russell describing ‘wellbeing’ as part of the ancient wisdom, where she shared the story of Diogenes casting his bowl aside to drink water just out of his hands.
“The video did not attack or criticise the Labour Party or the Government. It accurately reflects Dr Russell’s speech to Parliament about the meaning of ‘wellbeing’.
“Junior Labour Whip Kieran McAnulty laid the complaint with the Speaker about National using publicly available footage for the video. He wants to stop us from being able to show any Parliamentary footage.
“When National was in Government, Labour also used footage from Parliament. Often heavily edited. We didn’t complain as we stood by our record and we encourage political debate.
That all sounds really convincing and I am all for protecting freedom of expression especially since the National Party (unlike the Act Party) have not been strong defenders of free speech in the past. Obviously they start to care when it is their freedom of expression that is being censored. However, there is just one small fly in the ointment of what Simon Says.
The National Party may well have let the Labour Party get away with breaking the rules in the past when National was in government but they cannot now use that as a defence for them breaking the rules now.