Thousands commemorate Waitangi Day in lower North Island

In Porirua, the young and the young at heart took in the music, food and fun rides. Source: 1 NEWS


'We can find no proof' says National Party President as Jami-Lee Ross accuses leader of breaking electoral law over donations

National Party President Peter Goodfellow says the party can find no proof of accusations made by Jami-Lee Ross today about the handling of its political donations, and says the party complies with the Electoral Act.

The MP for Botany today dropped bombshells, resigning as an MP, saying he believes party leader Simon Bridges is "a corrupt politician" and alleging he broke electoral law over donations.

He said Mr Bridges asked him to split a $100,000 donation from a wealthy Chinese businessman into smaller donations so it wouldn't have to be declared and become public.

Mr Bridges slammed the MP’s claims as "baseless" and Mr Goodfellow late this afternoon took a similar stance.

"We can find no proof of the accusations and assertions made by Jami-Lee Ross today in regard to the handling of our political donations," the party president said in a statement.

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

"We understand Mr Ross will be taking his allegations to the Police, and we invite him to do so. 

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

Fronting media earlier today, Mr Ross said he had a recorded conversation with Mr Bridges about the alleged events and would be taking the tape to police tomorrow.

Mr Bridges encouraged Mr Ross to go ahead and report the matter to the police.

The National Party leader today made a statement defending his position and welcoming a police inquiry into claims of electoral donation fraud. Source: 1 NEWS

National MPs today voted unanimously to expel Jami-Lee Ross from caucus, but Mr Ross got in first, announcing his resignation while the caucus was still meeting to discuss his future.

Following an investigation, Mr Bridges yesterday named Mr Ross as the leaker of his travel expenses.

Mr Ross made a number of claims about the National Party leader in relation to donations. Mr Bridges has denied any wrongdoing. Source: 1 NEWS


Israeli court's Lorde fine a 'political stunt' says Andrew Little

An Israeli court's decision to order two New Zealand women to pay damages for convincing singer Lorde to cancel a show in Tel Aviv was a "political stunt" that goes against principles of freedom of speech, New Zealand's Justice Minister says.

Jewish-New Zealander Justine Sachs and Palestinian-New Zealander Nadia Abu- Shanab were last week ordered to pay $US7800 ($NZ11,870) for causing mental harm to three Israeli teenagers who had purchased tickets to the concert.

The lawsuit was the first ruling to cite a controversial 2011 Israeli anti- boycott law that allows civil action against entities who call for a boycott of the state.

The duo have rejected the ruling, and have instead used the attention to raise more than $NZ34,000 on a crowd-funding website to support mental health organisations in Gaza.

Justice Minister Andrew Little today said the court process lacked procedural fairness.

"It's very unusual for a court in one jurisdiction to be making decisions that affect people in a different jurisdiction," he said.

"It does look to me like a political stunt - at least the legislation on which the court was operating was a political stunt - and it should be treated accordingly."

In December, Sachs and Abu-Shanab's letter to Lorde was published by website The Spinoff.

Days later, the 21-year-old Kiwi musician cancelled the performance, which was to conclude her Melodrama world tour.

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab say they won’t pay, and are fundraising for mental health services in Gaza instead. Source: 1 NEWS


Breast cancer sufferers march on Parliament calling on Pharmac to fund two 'game-changer' drugs

Women with breast cancer and their supporters marched to Parliament today calling for Pharmac to fund two drugs for those in the advanced stages of the disease.

More than 29,000 signatures were delivered, calling on Health Minister David Parker and Pharmac to fund the Ibrance medicine, as well as more than 1500 signatures calling for funding of another drug called Kadcyla.

Petition organiser Terre Nicholson is reported as calling both drugs "game-changers" and said it can extend the lives of women with advanced breast cancer by two years.

"It’s literally a lifetime for us. We all have very important reasons to want extra time - time to spend with our family and other loved-ones…" she said in a post on the Breast Cancer Coalition Aotearoa website.

"With rapid advances in research, a cure or something close to it may only be a few years away.  We want to be alive to see it," she said.

Women taking Ibrance at the moment are paying more than $5500 a month for the drug, BCCA reported.

March organiser Wiki Mulholland said today’s march was a chance for women with advanced breast cancer and their whanau and friends to be heard.

"We want Pharmac to do better. We think whether you’re rich or poor, it shouldn’t matter, you should have access to the life-extending drugs that you need," she said.

Ms Mulholland said the number of signatures gathered was heartening.

"No one’s perfect so I’m hoping that from the message that we put out today that Pharmac are able to take a look at themselves, to be able to maybe put in a review and see is there a better way to do this - is there a way that all New Zealanders can access what they need instead of just the rich or some."

Labour MP Louisa Wall thanked those who delivered the petition on behalf of the health select committee.

"We will have to look at the system that currently is not providing what some people would say are the most effective medications for people who need access to those medications, it will mean that we will scrutinise Pharmac’s role and their ability to provide medications to all New Zealanders who need them," she said.

Health Minister David Clark said in a statement that it is not up to politicians to "second guess" the experts at Pharmac on which drugs are funded.

"This Government respects the independence and impartiality of Pharmac," he said.

Mr Clark said while the petition is "completely understandable," strong evidence is needed to support the case.

"When comparing New Zealand’s per capita spending on drugs with other countries, it’s worth bearing in mind the Pharmac model makes drugs more affordable to the taxpayer."

National MP Jo Hayes said she believes the funding process is outdated.

"If, as a politician, the last legacy that I leave in this House is help to drive through legislation to free up these drugs for our whanau and whanau whanui (extended family) then you know, I will have done something great in this House," she said. 

Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said the Government agency was unable to say if or when a funding decision would be made for Ibrance or Kadcyla.

"Ultimately, we want to continue making the best choices we can, expanding available treatments for all New Zealanders based on a robust, evidence-based approach," she said.

Ms Fitt said there’s a range of factors that affect how much of a priority funding a specific drug is, including health benefits, the amount of funding available, clinical trial results, supplier negotiations and other funding applications on the table.

A funding application was received for Kadcyla in August last year.

In February this year, a funding application was received for Ibrance.

Last year, the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee recommended funding Kadcyla was a low priority.

Pharmac asked the Cancer Treatments subcommittee for further advice on the drug, as well as advice on Ibrance, last month.

The advice from this is yet to be published on the agency’s website.

Ms Fitt said the funding systems between countries are often not comparable, in response to those petitioning that say New Zealand is lagging behind other OECD countries when it comes to funding some modern medicines.

March organiser Wiki Mulholland says many stage four breast cancer patients turned out, while Labour's Louisa Wall says the funding system will be scrutinised. Source: 1 NEWS

Simon Bridges on caucus support: '55 MPs today say he [Jami-Lee Ross] is wrong'

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

Mr Bridges has addressed media after Mr Ross stepped forward earlier today with his claims that the leader had broken electoral donation law.

It follows on from yesterday when the party leader 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.

Mr Ross questioned Mr Bridges' leadership and criticised him heavily. He claimed he was not alone, with other members of the party not satisfied, but said they would remain silent.

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.

In Parliament today Mr Mallard said Mr Ross will now be regarded as independent MP. Source: 1 NEWS

"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."

He said the party would continue to be united and look ahead to the future.

"Jami-Lee Ross is no longer part of National in terms of our caucus going forward and we'll be resolutely strong and united and focused on the things that matter to New Zealand."

However, Mr Ross this morning had already announced he will resign from his seat, step down from the party, and will stand as an independent in any by-election for his Botany seat.

Mr Ross said he once thought Mr Bridges was capable of being Prime Minister, "but now that I see what he's really like it is clear that he's not".

Mr Ross made a number of claims about the National Party leader in relation to donations. Mr Bridges has denied any wrongdoing. Source: 1 NEWS

"I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician."

Mr Ross also alleged 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.

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."

"He is completely wrong, this is now and should be a matter for the police, for him to put up and for them to investigate it. It has zero chance of success because it's 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.

"I've complied with electoral laws at every single moment, and nothing will come of this," Mr Bridges said.

"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 leader today made a statement defending his position and welcoming a police inquiry into claims of electoral donation fraud. Source: 1 NEWS