The Jami Less Ross affair
By Richard Harman (author)
Huge questions now surround the sudden decision by Botany MP Jami Lee Ross to step back from Parliament for an indeterminate number of months to sort out what yesterday was variously described by National Leader, Simon Bridges, as a health issue or a “potentially embarrassing issue.”
Well placed sources last night told POLITIK that Ross was being advised by National Party board member, Glenda Hughes, as he took his time out.
(Hoqever the National Party head office says this claim, which came from a credible National Party source, is "utterly false.")
Bridges made an enigmatic statement about this possibility yesterday by saying that he could confirm that Ross’s decision was “unrelated to the ongoing leak investigation.”
The NZ Herald Political Editor, Audrey Young, wrote yesterday that “of course the MP's leave is unrelated to the leak investigation because the investigation has not yet reported its findings.
“Bridges has to say it is unrelated.
“Jami-Lee Ross has denied being the leaker.
“He has simply pleaded his case for needing time off work and Bridges absolutely must accept an MP at his word.
“He has no evidence not to.”
That doesn’t mean to say that Ross is not under suspicion.
NZ First Leader Winston Peters claimed in Parliament on September 19 that he knew who the leaker was.
“Pay the money (that National’s inquiry is costing) over to us, and we'll give you the answer,” he said.
“Ha, ha! It is phenomenal.”
When Peters began this short speech in the General Debate, Ross was in his usual seat on National's front bench immediately to the left of the Speaker.
“There are members over there that should be very nervous.
Peters was standing in his usual position, two seats below Ross but on the other side of the House.
He then said “I won’t look at them” and then he turned to face where Ross had been sitting.
He then said: “Or look where they should be, because if I do, then the suspicion will be cast on them without us getting the reward for disclosure.”
Three days later, “Whaleoil” (Cameron Slater), who has a connection to Peters via their mutual friendship with lawyer Brian Henry wrote a post saying: “I believe that Winston Peters does know who the leaker is. It is pretty much an open secret now among National people. I understand that the leaker has admitted as such to some Young Nationals in Auckland. I also know now who it is, and that is from many sources, all saying the same name. The clock is ticking.”
Whether he is the leaker or not, POLITIK understands from National Party sources that Ross does have personal issues that he has to deal with.
Bridges said yesterday that he could be away for some months which means that the re-allocation of his portfolios amounted to something of a mini shadow Cabinet reshuffle.
Two of the Opposition's best performers have been rewarded.
Judith Collins picks up Ross’s infrastructure portfolio which means she can now go head to head with Shane Jones and Paul Goldsmith takes over transport meaning he can oppose Phil Twyford.
Andrew Bayly, who has been an impressive performer on the Finance and Expenditure Committee picks up Revenue which means he will play a central role early next year when the Tax Working Group reports.
Ross holds one of National’s safest seats, Botany, which he won in a by-election in 2011 when Pansy Wong was forced to resign from Parliament over her misuse of Parliamentary travel perks.
He started out in local body politics as a Manukau City Councillor aged 18 in 2004. He holds a commercial pilot’s licence and lives in Dannemora, Botany, with his wife Lucy. Together they have a son and a daughter.