Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just looked up the relevant Standing Orders—406 and 407—when it comes to considering a matter of privilege. Standing Order 406(1) states that “If the Speaker considers that a matter involves a question of privilege, this is reported to the House at the first opportunity.” Standing Order 407 then makes it clear that that matter is automatically referred to the Privileges Committee. From your ruling, you have decided that the video footage concerned has been edited. That in itself is a contempt of the House. Standing Order 410(r) makes it clear that “publishing a false or misleading account of proceedings before the House or a committee:” is a contempt of the House, and you have indicated that you believe that the video footage is misleading. Appendix D makes it clear that the use of video footage from the House in a political advertisement is also a contempt of the House. Therefore, following the Standing Orders, having made that decision, you have satisfied the criteria of 406(1)—you have alerted the House’s attention to it. Therefore, the matter must stand referred to the Privileges Committee.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): It might be more useful to hear your view on the somewhat extraordinary position being put to you and the questioning of your judgment by the Leader of the House. Can I just say that your decision today is not one that can be taken lightly by anyone in this House. It would appear that what you are saying to members of this House is that we are more constrained in making comment about political statements that are made in this House than any outside media might be. That seems to be an incredible censorship of what should take place inside a transparent democracy. So while we are not going to challenge, obviously, from the floor of the House the decision you have made today, I do want to make it very clear that we think your ruling is harsh and very destructive of open democracy in New Zealand.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): This matter was well-canvassed during the most recent review of the Standing Orders. During that review of the Standing Orders, the proposals were made to remove those restrictions on use of the footage of the House in their entirety. The removal of the prohibition on satire was removed. The removal of the prohibition on the use of footage from the House for political advertising was not supported by all parties, and one of the parties that firmly opposed that was the National Party, represented by the member who has just resumed his seat.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): That is quite correct, but the member over there assumes that he is the arbiter, as does the Speaker today, of what constitutes political advertising. The reality is 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. So it is a difference—[Interruption]
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, is the member over there, who is the subject of that video—
SPEAKER: No, that wasn’t the member who interjected.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: —and published herself as being proud of being part of this, really saying that this was a serious contribution to the debate in the House and not something that some people might find somewhat strange? What I think we’ve got here is a situation where you have said you will wait until there is consideration by the Standing Orders Committee before you come down with further decisions about the way in which this might progress—or possibly progress—to the Privileges Committee, but you’ve also acted as a judge by, effectively, denying the Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to use footage in the way any other media outlet in this country is legally and inside Standing Orders able to do. Also, you have said that the Speaker can now determine what is content of an advertising nature on a political party’s website. That, I think, is a step well beyond the responsibilities of the office you hold.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I think there is an important point that the shadow Leader of the House has completely wrong in that statement. That is, if the media took video footage from the House and edited it and used it in a way that was misleading, that gave a misleading impression of what somebody had said, then they too would be in contempt of the House.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): There he goes again, acting as the judge in this case, which is not before the Privileges Committee—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Addressing me on this.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am. I’m looking at him, but I’m addressing you, sir. It would seem to me quite simple; the statements that are made in this House should be as public as possible. It is not appropriate to misrepresent—
Nicola Willis: That’s right. Here, here.
SPEAKER: Order! Who’s interjecting then? Nicola Willis; stand, withdraw and apologise.
Nicola Willis: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It’s not appropriate to misrepresent them. But the question is whose judgment decides what a representation is? That has always been a difficult point. There was no alteration of the content of the speech from the member concerned. There was no commentary over the top of the speech of the member concerned. Simply, a presentation of it, and the asking of a question. Not unreasonable.