17 Oct 2018

Fanning the flames: Ross tweets photos of Bridges' meeting

10:10 am on 17 October 2018

Jami-Lee Ross has added fuel to the fire, tweeting photos of a fundraiser attended by Simon Bridges and a businessman, where he alleges a $100,000 donation to the party was offered.

Jami-Lee Ross addresses media

Jami-Lee Ross addresses media Photo: RNZ/ Rebekah Parsons-King

He has also tweeted photos of a meeting between Mr Bridges and the businessman Yikun Zhang at a private dinner, which Mr Ross says he attended, in May.

Mr Ross claimed that Mr Bridges asked him to collect a $100,000 donation from a wealthy businessman and was at pains to point out the donation should not be made public. He said the donation was split into smaller amounts below the $15,000 declaration threshold.

He has now released photos on Twitter claiming proof of the meeting between the businessman and Mr Bridges.

The source of the photos appear to be from a post on Chinese social network Weibo.

The Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee has told the Speaker to strike Mr Ross from their Parliamentary list, after the National caucus unanimously voted to expel him.

Ahead of Question Time today, the Speaker Trevor Mallard stood and informed the House that the National Party Parliamentary membership had changed.

Mr Ross' profile on the National Party website has also been quite promptly removed.

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Photo: RNZ

It follows on from yesterday when Mr Bridges said an inquiry into a leak on his expenses identified Mr Ross as the likely culprit.

Mr Ross denied those claims and said Mr Bridges was attempting to use his contact with a local police area commander and a journalist as evidence that he was somehow involved.

Read more:

Jami-Lee Ross makes explosive allegations against party leader

National MP Jami-Lee Ross announced he will resign his seat and step down from the National Party, and will stand as an independent in any by-election for his Botany seat.

Speaking to media at Parliament in a stand-up that lasted almost an hour, he alleged Mr Bridges had broken electoral donation law and said he would put in an official police complaint.

He alleged he had a recording of a phone call that implicated Mr Bridges and planned to take it to the police tomorrow.

Mr Ross said he had had a mental breakdown as pressure was ramped up on him to leave the party.

He said Mr Bridges breached electoral law several times, and that it was not acceptable.

"I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician," he said.

Mr Ross said his dramatic falling-out with Mr Bridges was the reason he was the target of a campaign to push him out of the party.

The campaign started three weeks ago, he said.

He was "marched to Simon Bridges' office" where he was told four women had approached deputy leader Paula Bennett, claiming Mr Ross had harassed them. He said Mr Bridges asked him to resign his portfolios, leave Parliament, and return to the backbench at the beginning of next year.

He strenuously denied allegations he had harassed anyone.

Mr Ross said he did not leak Mr Bridges' expenses, but he leaked the text message from the person who did, which said the person who had leaked the information was in a fragile mental state, and asking for the inquiry into the leak to be called off.

He said the Botany by-election would be a referendum on Mr Bridges' leadership.

Simon Bridges voices caucus unity and rejects allegations

National Party leader Simon Bridges is adamant the party is united under him after now-ousted member Jami-Lee Ross criticised his leadership.

After a caucus meeting that was being held during Mr Ross' press conference, the party leader announced that by unanimous vote Mr Ross was expelled.

"As the strongest possible action that the caucus can take and that's because we are united, we are strong in the interest of New Zealanders and we are not going to tolerate that kind of appalling behaviour we've seen from Jami-Lee Ross, where he has put himself above both caucus but also New Zealanders," Mr Bridges said.

"Fifty-five MPs today say he is wrong, 55 MPs today won't tolerate anything about Jami-Lee Ross, he is not longer a part of our caucus, he is irrelevant as far as we're concerned.

"I have the unanimous support of my caucus, we have dealt with a lone wolf MP, who has leak, lied, made a number of wild allegations, we're now putting a line on that and moving on."

However, Mr Bridges said Mr Ross' law breach claims were "baseless, false but serious allegations".

"I invite Jami-Lee Ross to take those matters to the police and I invite the police to investigate them fully and promptly, because they have zero chance of success given that they are false," he said. "I hope [police] get on to it very quickly because I have done nothing wrong."

Mr Bridges said he would not delve into the details of the alleged $100,000 donation and whether he was aware it was made or not.

"Everything that Jami-Lee Ross has been saying, because we are talking about guy who is lying, who is leaking, who is lashing out... I have done absolutely nothing wrong and that will be shown to be the case."

On the other hand, Mr Bridges insisted that he had been compliant of electoral laws.

"We have followed all of the rules here in terms of the National Party and that will be shown."

Mr Bridges said he would not pursue legal action against Mr Ross.

The National Party President said he could find no proof of "the accusations and assertions" made by Mr Ross.

Peter Goodfellow said in a statement that National's handling of their political donations was clean.

"The allegations made by Mr Ross appear inconsistent with the donor information we have to date, including information previously supplied by Mr Ross," it read.

He, and leader Simon Bridges, are inviting Mr Ross to take his allegations to the police.

"The National Party complies with the provisions of the Electoral Act, and our donations are comprehensively audited by a third party every year," he said.

Reactions from MPs

Deputy Leader of the National Party Paula Bennett has tweeted that the caucus and National Party is strong amidst "disloyalty and threatening behaviour".

Her comments were supported by MPs Amy Adams and Maggie Barry.

Meanwhile, when asked for comment by journalists, Winston Peters played the theme song from the film Kelly's Heroes, called Burning Bridges.

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