Politics

National seeks independent advice after Ross allegations

National leader Simon Bridges says his party will seek independent advice on how to improve its internal processes in the wake of issues raised about former MP Jami-Lee Ross’ treatment of women.

Bridges has also denied any involvement in Ross’ admission into mental health care over the weekend, saying he didn’t find out until after the fact.

National MPs were regrouping for their caucus meeting on Tuesday morning after a hellish week of allegations made both by and against Ross, including Newsroom’s account of four women’s experiences with the Botany MP, and his U-turn on plans to resign his seat and contest a by-election.

Speaking to media on the way into caucus, Bridges said he stood by his actions throughout the leak inquiry and his treatment of Ross in the lead-up to his admission for treatment.

“I think that I’ve done the right thing every step of this in difficult circumstances: my priority now of course is those who’ve been hurt including Jami-Lee Ross.”

While he regretted saying before the release of the leak report that Ross’ reasons for medical leave were “embarrassing”, he had acted “entirely consistently with the specialist medical advice at every step of this”.

Bridges said it was not credible to suggest that the leak investigation could have been withheld from public release, given the need for openness and transparency.

Independent advice sought

However, he planned to speak to the Parliamentary Service this week about making sure women working for the party felt safe, following the allegations of Ross’ poor treatment of female staff.

He would also seek independent advice for the wider party structure “to make sure we’ve got the best systems and processes so women do feel safe, they do feel confident in outcomes”.

“I don’t think that there is a cultural issue that has been displayed here, I think the reality is though there are several people affected by what has happened  and I want to make sure we get it absolutely the best we can for the future.”

How exactly that independent advice would be structured was “an open question”, although it was unlikely any report would be made public.

“I think what caucus sees is a leader who’s making the right decisions for the right reasons at every step of this in trying times.”

Bridges said he had not found out about Ross’s admission for treatment until after the fact, although he would not comment on the role of anyone else in National.

He said it was “incredibly unlikely” the party would use the party-hopping law to remove Ross from Parliament while he was unwell.

Bridges denied his leadership was under threat as a result of how he had handled the issue, saying: “I think what caucus sees is a leader who’s making the right decisions for the right reasons at every step of this in trying times.”

Goodfellow defends NDA

National Party president Peter Goodfellow, whose role in brokering a non-disclosure agreement between Ross and one of the women has been called into question, defended his actions and said both parties had been happy with the outcome.

“We acted very promptly, we acted quickly, we helped them to resolve the differences and move on...

“It was a private matter for them, if that’s the way they wanted to deal with it, that’s the way they dealt with it.”

Goodfellow said it was the only time during his presidency that people involved in a dispute had requested confidentiality.

“Ultimately we don't give favours for donations, so there's nothing to change there, what we need to do is make sure people are only too well aware that actually the perception is very important.”

Asked about Ross’ allegations of a donations cover-up, Goodfellow said his claims were “completely at odds with what we see in our own records”.

“Ultimately we don't give favours for donations, so there's nothing to change there, what we need to do is make sure people are only too well aware that actually the perception is very important.”

Goodfellow said police had not yet spoken to him as part of their investigation, and he did not know whether they would take the complaint seriously enough to talk to him.

Colin Zheng, the associate of Zhang Yikun whose possible candidacy was discussed in a secretly recorded conversation between Bridges and Ross, was “one of dozens” making their way through National’s candidates college which had only just begun.

“I’ve known him for some time, I think actually he’s a good potential candidate for us - I encouraged him to enter the college,” Goodfellow said.

Newsroom is powered by the generosity of readers like you, who support our mission to produce fearless, independent and provocative journalism.

Become a Supporter

Comments

Newsroom does not allow comments directly on this website. We invite all readers who wish to discuss a story or leave a comment to visit us on Twitter or Facebook. We also welcome your news tips and feedback via email: contact@newsroom.co.nz. Thank you.

With thanks to our partners