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Gareth Hughes debates Parliaments anti satire rule

When an MP confesses to burning music CDs in middle of a copyright debate and doesn’t get the irony or another likens the Internet to the evil computer from the Terminator films, they deserved to be satirised.


Whenever a politician holds up a snapper, minces down a catwalk, planks live on television or says the French love their coq/Rooser, we deserve to be satirised.

Mt Speaker, when I asked an advisor – the now famous Hey Clint - for media advice right in front of a TV camera, I deserved to be satirised. No, I didn’t run those lines past Clint

We deserve to be satirised, the public deserve the right yet for 8 years this House has hid behind powerful rules to try and stop it.

It was Juvenal who wrote nearly 2000 years ago “In times like these it is difficult not to write satire” and for anyone who thinks that two millennia on satire is now dead or can be banned, to also paraphrase Robin Williams – satire is alive and kicking in our Parliament.

I rise to support this report which urges a review of the ridiculous rule, Appendix D of the Standing Orders which prohibits people using the publicly available Parliamentary TV footage for “satire, ridicule, or denigration”.

As part of this review both the Clerk and the Chair of the Parliamentary Press Gallery proposed removing the prohibition on the use of the official television coverage.

What is incredible – this isn’t some ancient rule from the dawn of the Television age, it was a modern rule, devised under the last Labour Government well and truly in the Internet age.

When this rule was implemented back in 2007 Vernon Small wrote it seemed to be aimed at trying to protect MPs from themselves.

The Green party tried to strike out the satire provision, but was voted down 111-6.

While it was never formally invoked, it has been reported that at least two people had been called in to the Speakers chamber for ‘a chat’ and I know for sure it has played a chilling role for political parties to use actually MP’s language and behaviour captured on video in this chamber to further political debate.

What has been positive is that the public still made and uploaded their videos and memes to the web – even Hey Clint - but I believe they should be protected by robust parliamentary protections and bill of rights Act defence, rather just relying on the Barbara Streisand effect for defence.

Satire has an honourable tradition

From Aesop to Aristophanes, Ovid to Orwell and Voltaire to Vonegurt it’s played an important role in our culture and democracy.

Particularly in our Parliament where our decisions impact real people, it’s crucial people can comment on our decisions and even use our own words and actions in this house to share with others.

It’s a good step forwards that this report recommends a Standing Orders Committee review.

The report states the reasoning for this recommendation is that the current rules risks making Parliament seem out of touch and wary of criticism.

While that’s true for me it’s not the major reason for my longstanding opposition – for me it’s simply a matter of that I believe in the freedom of speech and the citizen’s right to use satire as a form of criticism or commentary.

For us in a position of power it’s right that we make ourselves open to fair comment, scrutiny and evaluation which is more important to me than how we look.

As the Clerk of the House told us – maybe its time for Parliament to grow up.

I also note the report only recommends reviewing the rule. It’s a step in the right direction but we shouldn’t think serious change has been achieved yet.

The ball is now in the Standing Orders Committee court and I urge all parties to commit now to removing this rule.

I hope Parliament can lead on this ridiculous rule but we also have the ability to protect those who seek to use parody, satire and the freedom of expression to comment more broadly from other barriers.

We know it has been used by the rich and powerful to block dissenting voices, we’ve seen it with the Teressa Gatting and Telecon video takedown, Darren Watson’s Planet Key video and the legal papers filed against the Civilian.

These have highlighted the lack of satire protections in NZ law.

I have drafted legislation to expand the fair use protections citizens in other countries like the US and Australia already have in our Copyright Act. I believe this should be extended to the Broadcasting and Electoral Law Acts as well – and as we remember the words and sentiments we said in support of freedom of speech earlier this year over Charlie Hebdo, let us no forget.

If the country is going to extend copyright terms as looks likely in the TPPA, New Zealand should give New Zealanders the fair use defences others have