Dissident National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross will resign from Parliament on Friday, triggering a by-election in the safe National electorate seat of Botany in east Auckland.
In an extensive statement to reporters at Parliament, Ross also accused party leader Simon Bridges of corruption in the way he’d handled the offer of a $100,000 donation to the National Party by an unnamed Chinese businessman in May this year. He vowed to lay a complaint with the police tomorrow and would release a secret recording of a conversation which he claimed would prove Bridges had planned to subvert provisions of the Electoral Act.
Ross continued to deny leaking Bridges’ travel expenses after an investigation by audit firm PwC and John Billington QC. Billington’s report, published yesterday, found Ross was the most likely person to have leaked the details of the costs Bridges racked up on a nationwide tour earlier this year after he took the leadership following Bill English’s resignation.
Ross also revealed that Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett had sought to sack him, claiming they had received reports from four women that he had sexually harassed them.
Ross denied those claims and likened his situation to that of newly appointed US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was facing Senate confirmation hearings where claims of sexual attacks were being heard at the same time as Bridges came to Ross with the harassment allegations.
He said he intends to stand as an independent candidate in Botany, a seat he has held since he replaced Pansy Wong in a by-election in 2011.
His statement came ahead of a National Party caucus meeting at which Ross faced censure and possible ejection from the party. That could have made him the first MP to be caught under the recently passed ‘waka-jumping’ legislation to prevent MPs leaving their political party and staying in Parliament.
The by-election has no impact on the balance of government. In the unlikely event that someone other than Ross or the National Party’s candidate were to win the by-election, it could increase the government’s majority.
Ross said it was true that he had suffered a “medical emergency” at the time Bridges stripped him of his portfolios and put him on medical leave as part of what Ross described a “dramatic falling-out” with Bridges.
“A doctor has said I’m fit to make decisions and to speak publicly,” Ross said.
He said the recording he had of a conversation with Bridges would show that he had been enthusiastic about a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman and that he wanted the donation split into amounts that would limit its public disclosure.
“I can no longer serve in a political party led by a corrupt politician,” Ross said.