Jami-Lee Ross

Last updated

Jami-Lee Ross

Jami-Lee Ross Portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2011
Chief Government Whip in the House of Representatives
In office
2 May 2017 26 October 2017
Prime Minister Bill English
Preceded by Tim Macindoe
Succeeded by Ruth Dyson
Deputy Chief Government Whip
In office
7 October 2014 2 May 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Tim Macindoe
Succeeded by Barbara Kuriger
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Botany
Assumed office
5 March 2011
Preceded by Pansy Wong
Majority12,840 (2017)
Personal details
Born (1985-12-10) 10 December 1985 (age 34)
New Zealand
Political party Advance New Zealand (2020-present)
Independent (2018–2020)
National (2003–2018)
Spouse(s)Lucy Schwaner

Jami-Lee Matenga Ross [1] (born 10 December 1985) is a New Zealand independent politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Botany electorate in Auckland since the March 2011 Botany by-election, when he became the youngest MP at the time. He was previously a local government politician on the Auckland Council and, before that, was on the Manukau City Council from the age of 18.


Elected as a member of the National Party, Ross resigned from the party's caucus on 16 October 2018 after he accused National leader Simon Bridges of corruption. Ross has been accused of harassment and bullying behaviour toward staff.

Early life

Ross was brought up by his grandmother as his mother was "not in the best space to raise a child", and he has never met his father, who descends from the Māori iwi of Ngāti Porou. He attended Dilworth School, [2] a boarding school for pupils from difficult backgrounds, then Pakuranga College, but left without formal qualifications. He holds a commercial pilot's licence from April 2012, [3] having trained at Ardmore Flying School. He has also studied towards a politics and economics degree at the University of Auckland. [4]

He is married to Lucy Schwaner, a former member of the Howick Local Board. [5] [6]

Early political career

Auckland Council
2010 2011 Howick Citizens & Ratepayers

Ross joined the National Party in 2003. He was elected to the Manukau City Council in 2004, aged 18, and worked as an electorate secretary in Pakuranga for MP Maurice Williamson. [7]

He stood for a place on the new Auckland Council in the 2010 Auckland local elections, winning a seat for the Howick ward. He was subsequently elected co-leader of the Citizens & Ratepayers ticket. [8] He resigned from the Council on 7 March 2011, after being elected to Parliament. [9]

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
2011 49th Botany National
2011 2014 50th Botany 54 National
2014 2017 51st Botany 29 National
2017 2018 52nd Botany 27 National
2018presentChanged allegiance to: Independent

National Party, 2011–2018

On 27 January 2011, the National Party selected Ross as their candidate for the Botany by-election to be held on 5 March 2011, to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Pansy Wong. [7] He won the election with a majority of 3,972. [10] Upon his swearing into Parliament Ross became the youngest Member of Parliament, taking the title of Baby of the House from Gareth Hughes, a Green Party MP. Ross was re-elected as MP for Botany in the November 2011 election and 2014 election. [11] [12]

Ross served as one of the National Party's whips in Parliament. He was appointed Third Whip in 2013, was promoted to Junior Whip after the 2014 election, and elected as Senior Whip after the incumbent Tim Macindoe was appointed as Minister of Customs in May 2017. [13] Ross contested the Botany seat during the 2017 election and was re-elected again. [14]

Simon Bridges expenses scandal and split with National

On 2 October 2018, Ross issued a statement that he was standing down from his portfolios and from the front bench of the Opposition due to personal health issues. His transport portfolio was picked up by Paul Goldsmith, and Judith Collins took over his infrastructure portfolio. [15]

On 15 October 2018, National Leader Simon Bridges stated that Ross had been identified as the National Party leaker after the party's inquiry into the leaking of Bridges' travel expenses. Bridges said the inquiry report identified Ross as the most likely source of the leak, and he accepted that finding. [16] Ross denied the accusations and issued a series of tweets prior to the press conference alleging that Bridges had attempted to silence him for speaking out against his leadership decisions, including an election donation that allegedly broke the law. [17] Bridges also indicated that National would seek disciplinary action against Ross. [18] [19]

On 16 October, Ross alleged during a live press conference that Bridges was a corrupt politician who had violated electoral law several times, including accepting an illegal NZ$100,000 donation from Chinese businessman Zhang Yikun. Ross also publicly denied allegations that he had sexually harassed several female staff, claiming that Bridges and Deputy Leader Paula Bennett were trying to smear him and had pressed him into going away on medical leave. Ross also announced his resignation from the National Party, and his intention to step down as MP by the end of the week (Friday, 19 October), which would have trigged a by-election in his Botany electorate. That same day, the National Party caucus voted to expel Ross for disloyalty. [20] [21] [22] Ross also tweeted photos showing Bridges and Zhang Yikun at a National Party event. Bridges denied Ross' allegations as baseless and said it was a matter for the police. [22]

The following day, 17 October, Ross spoke to police in Wellington and soon after released an audio recording between himself and Bridges on Facebook. Notably, it included Bridges describing National List MP Maureen Pugh as "fucking useless". [23] On 18 October, the news website Newsroom released an exclusive report, with four women accusing Ross of incoherent rages, harassment, and bullying behaviour. The women had spoken to Newsroom journalist Melanie Reid over a significant period before the recent media publicity around Ross' conflict with his former National colleagues. [24] [25]

On 19 October, Katrina Bungard, the National candidate for Manurewa, identified herself as one of the four women who had allegedly been harassed by Ross. She praised the way that National had dealt with the complaints and the other women for coming forward with the allegations. Ross indicated that he was seeking legal options. [26] Later that day in an interview with Newstalk ZB journalist Heather Du Plessis Allan, Ross admitted to past extramarital affairs with two women – including a married MP. He also announced that he would not resign his seat in Parliament. [27] He currently continues to represent the Botany electorate as an independent MP.

On 21 October, it was reported that Ross had been admitted to a mental health facility in Auckland by police. [28] [29] He was discharged two days later. [30]

On 25 January 2019, Sarah Dowie was revealed as the MP Ross had had an affair with. Ross had disclosed this in October 2018, but the news media chose not to name her at the time. After it was learned that a police investigation had been launched into a text message allegedly sent by Dowie to Ross, media revealed her identity. If the message is found to breach the Harmful Digital Communications Act, it is punishable by up to three years in prison. [31] [32] On 31 July 2019, the Police declined to pursue charges against Dowie. Ross responded that he welcomed the conclusion of the inquiries, stating "this has been a traumatic time for many people. I am glad it is now behind us all." [33]

SFO fraud investigation, 2019–2020

On 12 March 2019, it was reported that the New Zealand Police had referred Ross' complaint about Bridges' disclosure of political donations to the Serious Fraud Office. Bridges has denied any wrongdoing and asserted that it is a National Party matter. [34] [35]

On 29 January 2020 the Serious Fraud Office announced they had charged four people in relation to the claims made by Ross in 2018 around the $100,000 donation. None of the sitting National Party MPs at the time, including Simon Bridges, were among the four charged. [36] On 19 February 2020, it was reported that Ross was one among four people charged by the SFO over a NZ$105,000 donation made to the National Party in June 2018. The SFO alleged that Ross and the other defendants had committed fraud by splitting the 2018 donation into sums of money less than $15,000, which were then transferred into the bank accounts of eight different people before being donated to the National Party. [37] [38] On 25 February, Ross appeared in court where he pleaded not guilty to the charges relating to the National Party donations. [39] [40]

Alleged foreign influence in New Zealand politics

In early March 2019, Jami-Lee Ross called for new regulations on foreign donations to political parties. Ross' statement was made in response to a Parliamentary hearing on alleged foreign interference in the 2017 New Zealand general election. [41]

Alleged misconduct allegations, February 2020

In early February 2020, the news website Newsroom reported that Ross was under investigation from Parliamentary Service for alleged bullying against staff members at his Botany electorate office, who had been placed on leave. [42] Ross has denied any allegations of wrongdoing and claimed that the allegations levelled against him were part of a "wider, politically-motivated attack." [43] [44]

Advance New Zealand

In April 2020, Ross announced that he would form a new political party, Advance New Zealand. [45]

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  1. "2011 Botany by-election: Results of the official count". New Zealand Gazette . 16 March 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  2. "No Plan B for Botany's young gun". The New Zealand Herald. NZME. 5 February 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  3. Refer to talk page
  4. "No Plan B for Botany's young gun". The New Zealand Herald . 5 February 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  5. Smith, Simon (23 January 2013). "Chairman fails in attempt to dump deputy". Auckland Now. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  6. "Local board member who quit within minutes paid $1600". 16 December 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Nats and Labour make choices for Botany". TVNZ. 27 January 2011.
  8. Orsman, Bernard (12 October 2010). "Defeated but defiant: right wing's new faces hint at old-style politics". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  9. Howick councillor Jami-Lee Ross resigns scoop.co.nz, 7 March 2011
  10. "Final Botany results counted, Jami-Lee to be sworn in". Newshub. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  11. "Official Count Results – Botany 2011". Electoral Commission . Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  12. "Official Count Results – Botany 2014". Electoral Commission . Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  13. Nicholas Jones (2 May 2017). "Promotion for Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross to senior whip position". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  14. "Botany – Official Result 2017". Electoral Commission . Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  15. "National MP Jami-Lee Ross stands down for health reasons". Radio New Zealand. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  16. "Watch: Jami-Lee Ross identified as National Party leaker". Radio New Zealand. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  17. "'Disloyal disgrace': Judith Collins, Maggie Barry slam Jami-Lee Ross' 'appalling' tweets". Newshub. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  18. Bennett, Lucy; Walls, Jason (15 October 2018). "National MP Jami-Lee Ross identified as Simon Bridges' expenses leaker". New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  19. Watkins, Tracy (15 October 2018). "National Party leader Simon Bridges points finger at Jami-Lee Ross in expenses leak inquiry". Stuff.co.nz . Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  20. "Jami-Lee Ross: 'I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician'". Radio New Zealand. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  21. "Live: Jami-Lee Ross quits National, accuses Simon Bridges of 'corruption'". Stuff.co.nz . 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  22. 1 2 "Jami-Lee Ross tweets pics of Simon Bridges and Chinese '$100k donor' as MP accuses National Party leader of electoral fraud". 1 News. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  23. "Jami Lee-Ross arrives at police station". Stuff.co.nz . 17 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  24. Reid, Melanie; Mason, Cass (18 October 2018). "Jami-Lee Ross: Four women speak out". Newsroom . Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  25. "Four women accuse Jami-Lee Ross of harassment, bullying". Radio New Zealand. 18 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  26. Devlin, Collete (19 October 2018). "Four women accuse Jami-Lee Ross of harassment, bullying". Stuff.co.nz . Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  27. du Plessis-Allan, Heather (19 October 2018). "Exclusive: Watch – Jami-Lee Ross admits to affairs with two women". Newstalk ZB . Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  28. "MP Jami-Lee Ross admitted to mental health care". New Zealand Herald . 21 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  29. "Jami-Lee Ross taken into mental health care". Stuff.co.nz . 21 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  30. "Jami-Lee Ross out of Middlemore Hospital". NZ Herald. 23 October 2018.
  31. "Police probe text allegedly sent from phone of MP Sarah Dowie to Jami-Lee Ross". New Zealand Herald . 25 January 2019.
  32. Watkins, Tracy (25 January 2019). "Sarah Dowie named as National MP investigated over text to Jami-Lee Ross". Stuff.co.nz . Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  33. Coughlan, Thomas (31 July 2019). "No charges for Sarah Dowie in relation to text". Stuff.co.nz . Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  34. "SFO to investigate Jami-Lee Ross' complaint on National Party donations". Radio New Zealand. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  35. "Jami-Lee Ross' complaint about National donations referred to Serious Fraud Office". New Zealand Herald . 12 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  36. Forbes, Steve (30 January 2020). "MP Jami-Lee Ross avoiding media after Serious Fraud Office charges four people". Stuff . Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  37. Roden, Jessica (19 February 2020). "MP Jami-Lee Ross among four charged over National Party donations". 1 News . Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  38. Murphy, Tim (19 February 2020). "Jami-Lee Ross one of 4 charged by SFO". Newsroom . Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  39. "Jami-Lee Ross, three Chinese businessmen plead not guilty to National Party donation charges". 1 News . 25 February 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  40. Hurley, Sam (25 February 2020). "National Party donations: MP Jami-Lee Ross pleads not guilty to SFO charges". New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  41. "Jami-Lee Ross wants new rules around financial donations to political parties from foreigners". 1 News. 8 March 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  42. Reid, Melanie (5 February 2020). "New allegations surround MP Jami-Lee Ross". Newsroom . Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  43. Reid, Melanie; Jennings, Mark (5 February 2020). "Jami-Lee Ross says he hasn't acted 'inappropriately'". Newsroom . Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  44. Walls, Jason (5 February 2020). "Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross says new misconduct claims a part of politically motivated attack". New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  45. "Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is forming his own political party – Advance New Zealand". 29 April 2020.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Pansy Wong
Member of Parliament for Botany