Official portrait, 2011
|Chief Government Whip in the House of Representatives|
2 May 2017 - 26 October 2017
|Deputy Chief Government Whip|
7 October 2014 - 2 May 2017
|Member of the New Zealand Parliament|
5 March 2011
|Born||10 December 1985|
|Political party||Independent (2018-present)|
Jami-Lee Matenga Ross (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 sexual harassment and bullying behaviour toward staff.
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 M?ori iwi of Ng?ti Porou. He attended Dilworth School, 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, having trained at Ardmore Flying School. He has also studied towards a politics and economics degree at the University of Auckland.
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. He resigned from the Council on 7 March 2011, after being elected to Parliament.
|New Zealand Parliament|
|2018–present||Changed allegiance to:||Independent|
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. He won the election with a majority of 3,972. 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.
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. Ross contested the Botany seat during the 2017 election and was re-elected again.
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.
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. 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. Bridges also indicated that National would seek disciplinary action against Ross.
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. 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.
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". On 18 October, the news website Newsroom released an exclusive report, with four women accusing Ross of incoherent rages, sexual 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.
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. 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. He currently continues to represent the Botany electorate as an independent MP.
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. 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."
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.
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.