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Opposition will fight attempt at censorship

The Labour Party’s attempt at stopping the Opposition from highlighting what goes on in Parliament is a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“Speaker Trevor Mallard has ruled that MPs have until 5pm on Friday to take down publicly available footage from Parliament that appears in their social media videos.

“Sound bites have been used this way for decades in all forms of media and by all New Zealand political parties. It’s the more recent accessibility of social media to highlight soundbites that has rankled the Labour Party and seen them petition the Speaker.

“The Speaker’s interim direction/ruling means parliamentarians cannot highlight soundbites from Parliamentary TV, but any outside media can. This is just a gag on the National Party.

“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.

“National believes that Parliament should be accessible to all New Zealanders. We believe in robust political debate. We believe our videos make Parliamentary process accessible and engaging.

“Rather than a Standing Orders hearing, which will take months and is designed to gag the National Party, we will work to ensure this is resolved urgently.

“We are seeking that assurance from the Speaker, or we will consider other options.”

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