The Canberra Liberals’ Mark Parton has been kicked out of the ACT Legislative Assembly for refusing to remove a TikTok video and saying that Speaker Joy Burch was “destroying democracy”.
The first video posted by Mr Parton showed him eating chicken satay and drinking Coke in his Assembly office and included footage of the first floor of the Assembly. Mr Parton commented on how good his lunch smelled while narrating comments from former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope supporting the Liberals’ million trees policy.
Speaker Joy Burch sent out an email to all members of the Assembly reminding them about the video guidelines, which prompted Mr Parton to post a second video, titled “Don’t destroy democracy”.
Ms Burch said the video implied she did not support democracy and demanded that he withdraw the comments.
“The broadcasting guidelines state members must seek and obtain permission to take still photos of the Assembly, and even when permission is sought and granted, filming must not be used for electioneering,” Ms Burch said.
“In my view, using the photographs of the Assembly facility to promote a Liberal party election policy is a clear breach of these guidelines.
“The implication in the second video is that I am opposed to democracy and that I am not being impartial in my duties in singling out Mr Parton.”
Mr Parton withdrew his comments but refused to take down the second video. He said that he was still seeking advice after taking down the first video, which displayed the Assembly.
“I would like to apologise for stepping outside of those broadcast guidelines. We have deleted the videos which feature the footage from inside the chamber, but I am continuing to seek advice on the second video,” Mr Parton said.
Mr Parton, a prolific social media user, was subsequently removed from the Assembly for three hours. He’s since conceded that both videos must be removed.
“I will be nipping this in the bud and complying with the Speakers’ direction before 5 pm this afternoon”, he told Region Media.
“But I am somewhat dismayed that as a Parliament we have wasted so much time on this when I would have thought it would have been better directed trying to assist people in Canberra.
“I am a little perplexed that it got anyone’s attention.
“In this COVID period, all politicians have been very much hamstrung in our ability to connect with people, we cannot doorknock we could not go to shopping centres for many months, elected members should have gone out of their way to find different ways to connect with people.
“That is one of the reasons I took up TikTok, it is the fastest growing social media platform in the world by far and I think it is worthwhile connecting with that audience.
Ms Burch said that speakers must only be criticised through a substantive motion, referring to examples when previous MLAs had criticised the Speaker in the media, before having to withdraw the comments or issue an apology.
She said she was only enforcing the Assembly’s guidelines.
The incident came on the same day that a new book from ANU researcher Dr Lucien Leon examines the impact memes had in the 2019 Federal election.
“Meme combine pithy slogans with powerful imagery. It is material that can make or break today’s campaigns,” Dr Leon said.
“The visual satire produced and disseminated throughout the campaign not only presented a clear and critical engagement with events as they transpired, but also provided a reliable gauge of the electoral mood.”
With less than four months until the Territory’s election, Mr Parton may well continue to employ the tactics of his Federal counterparts.