Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is joining his Advance New Zealand party with the conspiracy theory-driven New Zealand Public Party.
The Botany MP will co-lead the new party with the Public Party leader, Billy Te Kahika, who wants to stand in Te Tai Tokerau.
RNZ's Morning Report host Corin Dann started their interview this morning by asking Ross if he, like Te Kahika, believed the novel coronavirus was a bioweapon being used against the public.
Here's how their exchange played out:
Ross: "I think there are New Zealanders out there who feel we have lost a lot of rights and freedoms to this Covid-19 issue and there's questions that are being asked."
Dann: "But do you believe that it is a bioweapon, man-made, being used against people?"
Ross: "Covid-19 is a real virus and it is impacting people around the world. We have in the situation in New Zealand that we no longer have that virus."
Dann: "Is it a man-made virus that is being used as a bioweapon to undermine our democracy? I just want an answer on that question."
Ross: "Covid-19 is a virus that has been in New Zealand and we have lost a lot of rights."
Dann: "Are you not going to answer that question?"
Ross: "Covid-19 came out of China. It wasn't handled well by China. It was handled by a Chinese Communist Party."
Dann: "Just to be clear, sorry Mr Ross, but this is really important because if you don't agree with that I'm struggling to see why you would form an alliance with a political party that does."
Ross: "What we have done yesterday and what we have launched here is an alliance of parties. There is more to Advance New Zealand and the New Zealand Public Party. The model of parties in the past where small parties have come together and united to try and form an election campaign has been successful in the 1990s and the early 2000s. There's a number of other parties that are talking to us."
Dann: "Sure, but why would you align your party with someone who believes in, frankly, ridiculous conspiracy theories which are an insult to those who are working on the front lines dealing with Covid-19, to the families who have people dying - why would you align yourself with that?"
Ross: "I think its insulting to say that New Zealanders who care about rights and freedoms shouldn't be listened to or be taken seriously at all. There are people out there who believe that we have lost a lot of rights and freedoms, who believe that our sovereignty over many many years has been eroded."
Dann: "Can you give me an example of how our sovereignty has been eroded, give me an example of what I can't do today, that is being prevented because of Covid-19?"
Ross: "I've been banging on about New Zealand's sovereignty being eroded by New Zealand's inability to question the Chinese Communist Party regime and stand up for what we believe are normally human rights abuses and what we believe is foreign interference ... our country and big political parties are bought and sold by Chinese foreign money coming into the country and we no longer question China. We have aligned ourselves so economically with China that we have lost a lot of credibility with the likes of the United States and with the United Kingdom."
Dann: "Ok so you're saying you would freeze - this is your policy not the Public Party - you would freeze the free trade deal with China, are you serious about that?"
Dann: "And what would be the economic consequences of that move?"
Ross: "If you let me answer, we need to seriously review the foreign inference in our country from the Chinese Communist Party. If you look at what the academics are saying, if you look at what our own spy agencies are saying, we are subject to foreign interference from that nation. No economic goal should be so great that we are prepared to give away our rights and freedoms and give away our right to self-determination."
Dann: "I'm sorry, how is it that we don't have self-determination because of a free trade deal with China?"
Ross: "I'm saying that there should be consequences and we should seriously look at our relationship with China."
Dann: "I want to come back to the issue of the China free trade deal because if you are going to advocate this policy, it would be useful if you could tell us what the economic impact would be from freezing a deal that is $30 billion in two-way trade in a time of great economic uncertainty. What is the impact of that? Have you done any figures, any numbers?"
Ross: "The economic impact would be we have great opportunity to have free trade with other nations because we are not taken seriously enough."
Dann: "People would lose their jobs, thousands of people would lose their jobs. That would be a devastating blow to this economy at a time when we simply wouldn't be able to take it. We have no tourism, we've got no export education."
Ross: "No, you're assuming by ending the free trade agreement there would be zero trade between a country. We trade already with countries we don't have free trade agreements with, but there are greater economic opportunities by looking at other countries and realigning ourselves to our more traditional trading nations. We don't have a free trade agreement with the likes of the United States, they don't take us seriously. They think we are too closely aligned with China. We need to ensure that we are more broad in our foreign outlook around the world. We aren't. Our political parties are too aligned with the Chinese Communist Party, foreign interference in our nation is becoming more and more rampant and I don't think politicians in Wellington have been standing up or looking at this closely enough. They all want to turn the blind eye."
Dann: "One last issue. You want to review all of the agreements with the United Nations?"
Ross: "We want to ensure that we are involved in agreements that are in the best interest of New Zealand and we think that over many many decades governments have signed up to UN agreements and signed up to agreements which may not be in our best interest."
Dann: "And how many of those are binding?"
Ross: "You know that when governments sign up to agreements they are doing it because they want to get involved in these particular agreements."
Dann: "How many are binding?"
Ross: "It's not unreasonable for us to say 'let's look at this and ask whether we are doing the right thing by the country'. Asking questions, having reviews, is not unusual in politics ... and you know what, we had two-and-a-half-thousand people [at the party event] yesterday."
Dann: "You see the problem is, by you validating their concerns about the United Nations because they believe it is somehow taking over New Zealand's sovereignty and they've got major issues with the development goal agenda. The UN is serious stuff, I mean, they're dealing with famines, they're dealing with wars, they're dealing with peacekeeping, and this is undermining confidence in the only thing we've got. Yes, it's flawed, but we haven't got anything else."
Ross: "There is no issue with listening to advice from other countries and other organisations. What we should be doing though is questioning whether we are doing the right thing for New Zealand. That's all this is about."
Dann: "You're happy to lend your name - as someone who was the chief whip of National Party - to the Public Party and its policies, be it their scepticism around 5G, 1080, fluoridation, anti-vaxxers - you're happy to lend your name to that?"
Ross: "When you have been involved in one of those big political parties you see how much of a cult they are and you see how much of a big problem just blindly following what the big political parties are. There's an opportunity for small parties unite together and challenge the status quo. That's what this alliance is about... I think there's going to be some real momentum here."