NZ pushing for special relations with UK after Brexit

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has met with Boris Johnson, just days out from NZ heading the UN security council. Source: 1 NEWS


Simon Bridges did talk to businessman at centre of donation claim, says Paula Bennett

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett says Simon Bridges did talk with Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun, but is unsure whether they talked about a donation.

Bryce Edwards says having two Maori at the head of the party shows how progressive it has become.
Source: 1 NEWS

Paula Bennett as she stood with National Party Leader, Simon Bridges, while he spoke to media about Jami-Lee Ross. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Jami-Lee Ross quit the National Party yesterday and will lay a police complaint today over what he says are corrupt practices by the National party's leader.

Mr Ross has now contacted Wellington police to arrange a time to meet so he can lodge the complaint.

The Electoral Commission said it had not received any complaints relating to the matter, but would provide assistance to the police.

Mr Ross alleges he has a phone recording suggesting Mr Bridges had asked him to split a $100,000 donation from Mr Zhang into smaller parts, so it was below the threshold where it would have to be made public. Yesterday Mr Bridges responded to those claims saying Mr Ross' law breach claims were "baseless, false but serious allegations".

Paula Bennett told Morning Report that Mr Bridges told her he did in fact meet with the businessman and the subject of supporting the party may have come up.

"[Mr Bridges] said he certainly had conversations with [Mr Zhang] and with others that have wanted to support the National Party."

However, she said she was hesitant to comment, because she didn't want to misrepresent anyone as this was based off another conversation and she was telling it third-hand.

"He certainly had dinner with him, he's trying to recall that dinner and all of the conversations, and then I think he's seen him at other functions, which Jami-Lee Ross has put photos out. He certainly thinks that it may have come up that he had said I want to support the National Party, Simon knowing I think that Jami-Lee knows him probably did put him on to it," she said.

"We're trying to dig our way through all of this, it is very complex, we're not sure what Jami-Lee Ross has done, he's kind of woven this through, It's not straightforward. I am hesitant and now I don't want to misrepresent.

"I'm pretty sure that through all of that ... I'm pretty sure that [Yikun Zhang] has wanted to support the National Party, I'm trying to remember whether or not it was from Simon or whether or not via Jami-Lee [that she heard it]."

On the other hand, she said the party members were all fund-raising in different ways all the time.

"It's not unusual for people to want to support us and give us money and then it's not unusual for us to then file it with the party and do it that way.

"We get donations all the time... It wouldn't be unusual for me not to know."

She said amid all of this she was still confident that Mr Bridges had not done anything illegal and encouraged Mr Ross to go to the police if he had information stating otherwise.

"I'm not exactly sure what [Mr Ross] was alleging. From the sounds of it, he has gone and picked up the donation and then he has gone and split it up. We're trying to go through all of our records.

"But what I do know is Simon has not done anything illegal, he has not filed anything he shouldn't have or in a way that shouldn't have been done, if Jami-Lee Ross wants to go to police and thinks he has information then he should do that."

Mrs Bennett said Mr Ross phoned Mr Bridges with the intent of entrapping him and may have doctored the recording to try to incriminate him.

"I mean Jami-Lee Ross himself has said that he phoned Simon with the explicit purpose of entrapping him so I don't know what sort of tape he's going to give out, whether it's doctored, whether or not he's tried to set him up. I'm not sure."

Yesterday, Mrs Bennett told media that Mr Ross was not accused of sexual harassment by the party, as he claimed, but was accused of inappropriate behaviour as a "married Member of Parliament".

She said she was not trying to bring in his family in the situation but merely tried to clarify the allegations.

"He had gone out there and said we had been accusing him of sexual harassment of women and that's not true, and we haven't done that and he likened himself to Brett Kavanaugh, which was quite extraordinary in his hour-long stand-up, so I continued to be asked about sexual harassment and we hadn't put sexual harassment to him, but we had put inappropriate behaviour to him."

Jami-Lee Ross at his resignation press conference Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

In an extraordinary day at Parliament yesterday Mr Ross dropped a bombshell on his former party and its leadership.

In his 53-minute press conference, Jami-Lee Ross levelled a string of serious allegations about Simon Bridge's conduct as leader and outlining what he said was a breach of electoral law.

Mr Ross said in May this year he and Mr Bridges attended a dinner at home of Mr Zhang who the following week offered a $100,000 donation.

Mr Ross claimed Mr Bridges asked him to get the donation, but also split it into smaller parts so it was below the threshold where it would have to be made public.

Mr Ross said he did so, splitting it into smaller donations below the $15,000 threshold - and rang Mr Bridges back and recorded that call.

"I reminded him that he had dinner at the individual's home, he acknowledged this by saying yes, I reminded him that he was offered a $100,000 donations, he also agreed with this point by saying 'yes', I then told him the $100,000 donation had been received, he expressed his excitement by saying 'fantastic'.

"I then asked him what he wanted done with the donation and we discussed how to tell party president Peter Goodfellow."

Mr Ross claimed a month ago National's general manager Greg Hamilton asked him about the split donation and who gave him the money.

"I advised Greg that Simon Bridges arranged the donation and I was tasked with collecting it, I further advised Greg that if he felt the law hadn't been complied with then the donation would have to be returned. He thought that would be a shame."

Mr Bridges has flatly rejected all Mr Ross' allegations.

"They are baseless, in relation to the Electoral Act they are entirely false, and 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."

Mr Ross said he would publicly release the recording after he had been to the police, along with his text messages with Greg Hamilton.



Yesterday was National MP's 'worst' day in politics – 'Frankly despicable behaviour'

The National Party are looking to "move forward", after a day one MP said could be described as "probably the worst" in his political career.

On TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, MP Chris Bishop spoke of the events after a tumultuous day in New Zealand politics, after Jami-Lee Ross came out swinging against National Party leader Simon Bridges. 

"I've had some great days in politics, being elected was pretty cool, being sworn in," Mr Bishop said. 

"I've had some bad days and yesterday was probably the worst, to be honest."

He said his party expelled Mr Ross for "gross disloyalty, frankly despicable behaviour".

"No political party can tolerate some of the things that Jami-Lee Ross has been going around doing. It was a pretty unique series of events yesterday but we'll get through like the strong team we are and regroup around Simon and move forward from here."

Chris Bishop said he’s had some bad days, but “yesterday was probably the worst”. Source: Breakfast


Political commentator says Jami-Lee Ross saga is a 'failure of leadership' by Simon Bridges

Labour's former party president has called outgoing MP Jami-Lee Ross' recent allegations against Simon Bridges breaking electoral law as "utterly unprecedented in New Zealand politics".

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams told TVNZ's Breakfast this morning that the Jami-Lee Ross saga is a failure of leadership from Simon Bridges.

"It is, as you said, absolutely extraordinary. I can't think of anything in my very long memory of politics in this country that matches it," Mr Williams said.

"What has he accused Simon Bridges of? Well, essentially, corruption over a political donation, and if it's half true, Bridges is in trouble."

He said Mr Bridges "should have answered that question" on allegations into electoral fraud, and that he “kept fudging it” during a news conference yesterday, that came after Mr Ross' dramatic hour-long appearance.

"I did not hear Simon Bridges deny it yesterday," he said.

The former Labour president said the claims could be very serious if proven true, calling it “utterly unprecedented in New Zealand politics”.

"Things have got way out of hand in the National Party caucus. Basically, it's poor leadership. When somebody is going off the tracks in the way that Jami-Lee Ross was clearly going off the tracks, a leader has got to see what's coming and get them back on the tracks. This is really a failure by Simon Bridges."

He said the security of Mr Bridges' position as National leader is dependent on the outcome of the by-election, which was triggered following Mr Ross' announcement of his resignation from Parliament yesterday.

"If National has a poor result, and if Jami-Lee Ross wins it, then it's all over for Simon Bridges, in my view," he said.

Mr Williams said it would be "not likely but not impossible" for Mr Ross to hold on to his seat in Botany as an independent.

"Jami-Lee Ross is a good campaigner, and he has a good organisation in that electorate. Whether that local organisation has stuck with him throughout this bizarre episode, we’ll find out in the next few weeks."

Mr Williams said yesterday’s allegations "could well affect their polling", which has been "very stable since the election".

"The Labour Party vote did not twitch during the Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri episodes. This is on a different scale, however, and I think if the National Party party vote starts to go down in the polls, then that is a severe problem from Simon Bridges."

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams says the Jami-Lee Ross saga is a failure of leadership from Simon Bridges. Source: Breakfast

Sir Peter Jackson meets Prince William at the red carpet premiere of They Shall Not Grow Old

Sir Peter Jackson has rubbed shoulders with Prince William on the red carpet for the Kiwi director's new film.

They Shall Not Grow Old documents WW1 using previously unseen footage which has been colourised and restored.

Much of the footage came from Britain's Imperial War Museum, and Sir Peter's army of technicians has used advanced digital technologies for the restoration.

The World War One documentary created with 100-year-old footage premieres in London next month. Source: 1 NEWS

The film has also been converted into a 3D format.

Alongside the film's cinema release, a copy of the film will be sent to each high school in the UK for teaching purposes.

Early reviews of the movie from the UK are favourable.

They Shall Not Grow Old documents the first world war using previously unseen colour footage. Source: Breakfast