National has thumbed its nose at Parliament's Speaker, defying an order to take down attack ads featuring rival MPs.
Ten minutes before Speaker Trevor Mallard's 5pm deadline, National Leader Simon Bridges said National had no plans to take their videos down.
"Freedom of speech is of fundamental importance to our Parliamentary democracy and to New Zealanders.
"Yesterday's Speaker's ruling has regrettably put the National Party in the worst of all positions.
"The Speaker has neither referred the matter to the Privileges Committee for a definitive public hearing, nor ruled in our favour as we believe he should."
The Herald understands that National plans to post many more videos featuring rival MPs over the weekend in further defiance of Mallard's ruling.
In the moments after Bridges' statement, all 55 National MPs re-posted a video Mallard moved to ban on Thursday.
Mallard yesterday ordered all political parties to take down any videos they had made featuring MPs in the House who had not given their consent.
"While there has been some discussion about what constitutes a 'political advertisement', it is clear to me that videos that support one party or aim to reduce support for another party are the sorts of items covered by [Parliament's rules]," he told MPs in the House.
His ruling followed a National video that featured Labour MP Deborah Russell making a speech about wellbeing, but trailing off-topic and on to Greek philosophy.
Before the video, text read: "Still not sure what Labour's Wellbeing Budget means?"
National have ran such videos in the past – as have Labour.
However, Mallard's ruling only applied to videos that used Parliamentary footage within the last year.
Bridges yesterday called Mallard's move an "attempt at stopping the Opposition from highlighting what goes on in Parliament" and "a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression".
Bridges said Mallard had tried to stop National from holding the Government to account by drawing attention to Parliamentary proceedings.
"He has pushed the matter to a process, which effectively gags us for a significant period of time."
Bridges said after National pointed out that this would also include hundreds of videos from Labour, The Greens and NZ First when they were in Opposition, Mallard amended the ruling to only apply to videos posted this year, therefore this only really affects National.
"We have the highest respect for the role of the Speaker and his Office. But in the interests of freedom of expression and against censorship, we will keep the videos up to decisively bring this to a head," Bridges said.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Shadow leader of the House National's Gerry Brownlee said Mallard had no right to order the videos be taken down, as there was not breach of privilege.
"The Speaker should not be assuming the role of being the censor of what can and cannot be said or done or used with material that comes out of Parliament."
To the contrary, Brownlee said, Parliament should be the most open debating chamber in the country.
He aid Mallard has "massively overstepped" adding that it was an attempt to "muzzle" National.
Mallard has been approached for comment.
What could Mallard do now?
Public law expert and barrister Graeme Edgeler said the Speaker would now have to receive a formal complaint before taking further action.
If a complaint was made, Mallard could refer the matter to Parliament's Privileges Committee as a potential contempt of Parliament - a reasonably uncommon but not unheard of step.
The committee is made up for five MPs from Government parties and five from National and it would decide on whether there had been a breach and what an appropriate penalty could be. That could range from ordering an apology to a $1000 fine.
Parliament would then vote on whether to impose the penalty.
But Mallard could also opt to do nothing, Edgeler said.
"The Standing Orders Committee is conducting its three-yearly review of standing orders and one of the things it may consider is whether the rule against parliamentary footage for political ads should be gone," he said.
"Given National's newfound concern they may want it to change."