A party that has plunged into conspiracy theories is in a standoff with the Speaker over misleading use of parliamentary footage

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross has been referred to Parliament’s privileges committee over an anti-vaccination ad produced by his new party that uses misleadingly edited parliamentary footage.

Advance NZ, which in July formed an alliance with Billy Te Kahika Jr’s conspiracy-driven NZ Public Party, has attracted significant attention on social media for a video of edited parliamentary footage titled: “Say no to Labour’s Forced Vaccinations Agenda”.

Newsroom will not reproduce the claims in full, but a fact check of the video by AFP New Zealand concluded it had “cut key parts of [politicians’] sentences to doctor the meaning of the exchange”.

Comments from Housing Minister Megan Woods and National MP Erica Stanford had been chopped up in a way that misrepresented the context of the parliamentary debate, the outlet said.

After Newsroom asked Speaker Trevor Mallard about the video on Thursday evening, he wrote to Ross asking him to take it offline and confirming the matter would be referred to the powerful privileges committee.

The rules for the use of parliamentary footage were tweaked last year, after a fracas between Mallard and the National Party over its use of parliamentary proceedings in social media advertising.

While the rules were liberalised somewhat as a result, the new guidelines made it clear that excerpts of parliamentary coverage cannot be used “in a way that is misleading”.

Under the new guidelines, the Speaker can direct that use of the coverage be stopped, while also determining that its use involves a question of privilege.

Failure to comply with a direction from the Speaker can be treated as a contempt of Parliament, with possible penalties including a fine, the formal censure of the House, or suspension of an MP from the House.

Mallard told Newsroom he could not comment further given the matter was now before the privileges committee.

In a statement, Ross said the party “entirely rejected” Mallard’s decision and would not pull the video off social media.

“We further reject the draconian measure the Speaker is using to try censor [sic] a political party’s videos in the middle of an Election campaign,” he said.

Ross repeated his party’s misleading claims about the Government’s vaccination plans, and said that all medical procedures should be personal decisions for individuals.

“Given the Speaker is a Labour List Candidate, he should not be using his position to censor videos in a way that protects the Labour Government,” Ross claimed.

 “Billy Te Kahika and I will keep ruffling feathers and challenging the establishment. 

 “We will not blindly accept the Speaker’s direction, and we will confront head on whatever Privileges Committee process lies ahead.”

As reported by Newsroom this week, the NZ Public Party has had an outsized impact on social media platforms including Facebook, although experts warn against reading too much into the activity from a small but enthusiastic group of followers.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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