National Party leader Simon Bridges could face a number of rarely used punishments for defying the Speaker's ruling to take down National Party videos that use Parliament TV footage.
Speaker Trevor Mallard could make an announcement as soon as 2pm today, as he is meant to tell the House as soon as possible if he decides to refer the matter to the privileges committee.
The committee could recommend a number of sanctions including imprisonment, though this has never been used in New Zealand and a $1000 fine is likely the most serious realistic option.
Mallard could also decide to do nothing or, if he referred it to the committee, the committee could decide to do nothing or recommend demanding a simple apology.
The issue came to a head following a complaint to Mallard two and a half weeks ago from Labour chief whip Kieran McAnulty over a National Party video that showed Labour MP Deborah Russell's speech in the House about wellbeing that included remarks about Greek philosophy.
Text accompanying the video read: "Still not sure what Labour's Wellbeing Budget means?"
Mallard ruled that the video violated Standing Orders about the use of Parliament's official television coverage of the House.
Standing Orders require the permission of all MPs shown for footage used for political advertising.
Reports that use extracts of official coverage must also be "fair and accurate".
Mallard ordered all political parties to take down any videos made this year featuring MPs in the House who had not given their consent - which only really affects National.
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But National refused, and Bridges called Mallard's ruling "a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression".
What happens now?
There is no time limit on Mallard's response, but if he refers Bridges - who the complaint from McAnulty is about - to the privileges committee, he has to announce that in the House at 2pm on the day he makes his decision.
Mallard would not be drawn on what he might do when asked by the Herald.
The privileges committee investigates allegations of breach of privilege or contempt of the House and makes a recommendation to the House, which then votes to decide whether to adopt the recommendation.
Matters of privilege can be punished by imprisonment, a fine (up to $1000), formal censure, suspension from the House, or restrictions of access to the parliamentary precincts.
But these have been rarely - if ever - used; no one has been imprisoned, four non-MPs have been fined (the last in 1903), at least two MPs have been censured (for criticising the Speaker), and three MPs have been suspended from the House (also for criticising the Speaker).
"Imprisonment has never been resorted to by the House of Representatives, although a proposal was made and debated in the House in 1896 that the President of the Bank of NZ, who had refused to answer certain questions put to him by select committee, be imprisoned," writes David McGee in Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand.
"The proposal was defeated and a fine imposed on the president instead. A further proposal that he be committed into the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms until the fine was paid was dropped."
The most common punishment is to require the offender to apologise.
Getting the privileges committee to agree to punish Bridges will be difficult; the committee is split between five MPs from governing parties Labour, NZ First and the Greens, and five MPs from National.
Regardless of whether Mallard decides to refer the complaint to the privileges committee, he can make a ruling about National's refusal to take down the video.
That power comes under the Standing Orders that deems the Speaker responsible for ruling "whenever any question arises as to the interpretation or application
of a Standing Order and for deciding cases not otherwise provided for".
Naming Bridges would be among the most serious censure Mallard could give to Bridges, which would see him suspended from Parliament and his pay docked.
He would be banned from entering the debating chamber, casting a vote or a proxy vote, sitting on a select committee or lodging oral or written questions.
It is rare for a Speaker to name an MP, though Mallard did so with National MP Nick Smith in May this year.
It is thought that the last time an MP was named was in 2006 - and was Smith again.
Suspension is for 24 hours, or for seven days if is the second time in a parliamentary session, or 28 days on the third occasion.
If a member physically fails to leave the House – and Smith did - the Serjeant-at-Arms is called by the Speaker to enforce to ruling.
Video rules under review
The Standing Orders committee is currently doing its three-yearly review and, given the current kerfuffle over the use of Parliamentary TV footage, is asking for special submissions on video issues.
To avoid any perceptions of bias, the committee generally makes decisions during election year that won't take effect until after the election.
Conditions for the use of official television coverage loosened after the last review in 2017, when parties unanimously agreed to drop the ban on using coverage of proceedings for "satire, ridicule or denigration".
National members on the committee, including then-Leader of the House Simon Bridges, blocked attempts to further loosen the rules.
Any decision Mallard makes about the current matter will have be to on the current rules, not on what they might become.