Jami-Lee Ross confident he can win battle for Botany

6:04 pm on 14 May 2020

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is seeking to retain his Botany electorate in this year's general election - and his ability to win the seat will decide his political future.

Jami-Lee Ross arrives at Parliament for the first session of 2019. 12 February 2019.

Jami-Lee Ross plans to launch a new political party in time for the general election. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

In the 2017 election he beat his nearest rival, Labour candidate Tofik Mamedov, by 12,839 votes. But an ongoing legal battle with the Serious Fraud Office and his own bitter exit from the National Party in 2018 are added factors this time.

His former party is seeking to stand former Air New Zealand CEO Chris Luxon against him in September.

But Ross is confident he can retain Botany and said he thinks the public will be able to see past his outstanding legal battle with the Serious Fraud Office.

"I don't think that will be an issue. I think people see me as a whistleblower, someone who had the courage to speak out."

The former Auckland councillor first won the seat in a 2011 by-election following the resignation of National MP Pansy Wong and he's held the electorate ever since. When he was first sworn in he was the youngest member of Parliament.

Ross is one of the four men charged by the SFO in the National Party donations case - alongside a Chinese community leader who reportedly gave $100,000 to the party, and two others.

The name suppression for Ross and his co-accused Zhang Yikun, Zheng Shijia, and Zheng Hengjia, was lifted by the Auckland District Court in February.

Ross's original complaint was filed in October 2018 and in March last year it was referred to the SFO. He claimed National Party leader Simon Bridges had asked him to split $100,000 from a Chinese donor to avoid breaching the Electoral Act. Under the legislation political parties must disclose donations over $15,000.

Ross gave police a secretly recorded conversation between himself and Bridges where they discussed the donation as part of his complaint. But then in February he was charged for his part in the donations scandal.

New party in Ross's plans for election

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and even though the case hasn't been resolved, he's confident he can still launch his new party, Advance NZ, in time for the 2020 general election. But Ross admitted he still has to register the party.

"We're building our membership and I think we will pass the 500-member threshold in four to six weeks," he said.

Ross said while, as a minor party, it won't be able to stand candidates in all of the electorates, he's hoping to have at least 20 to 30 people running in key seats around the country.

He claims there's no party that sits in the middle ground between Labour and National and that's where he wants Advance NZ to be.

"I think people are unhappy with the current political environment and starting a party for them is worthwhile. I'm not saying everything the current government, or National does is wrong, but we need to have parties in the middle."

According to the New Zealand Electoral Commission there is no deadline for the registration of a political party.

But a party must be registered by writ day for the general election to be able to contest the party vote and submit a party list. It also has to have at least 500 current financial members who are eligible to enrol.

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