National moved to head off a backlash from the Indian community yesterday by deploying its Indian MPs around Indian media .
List MP Parmjeet Parmar said she had been speaking on Indian radio stations and her message was simple; It was Jami Lee Ross, not Simon Bridges who said on the recording released yesterday by Ross that two Chinese were better than two Indians.
But even so the backlash against the recording yesterday was intense.
The most notable reaction came from the Indian High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli who tweeted: “Shocking attitude. Highly inconsistent with NZ values. Hopefully an aberration. India and Indians respect and admire this country and its people. Not everything is up for sale. Running a country is different from managing David Jones.”
Indian Weekender editor Sandeep Singh said it would be interesting to explore “what makes Mr Ross think so, and Mr Bridges as well, if he backs that assertion.”
“Indeed, Mr Bridges is heard clearly giving a tacit approval and not countering the alarming assertion,” he said.
.Ms Parmar told POLITIK she would not tolerate any stereotyping behaviour from anyone.
And she blamed Jami Lee Ross for the whole conversation in which she said he had tried to lure Bridges into saying certain things.
“Simon is very clear about it,” she said.
“He values every member of the team; it’s not because someone is ethnic or non-ethnic because we are here on merit.
“This is the beauty of a democratic country.
“I am a migrant, and I can say this. If you fulfil the basic criteria, you can put your hand up, and you can go through the whole selection process.
“if you are successful through being elected on the list you become a member of parliament.
“And Simon really values the changing multicultural face of New Zealand that is reflected in our team.”
It is worth going back through the recording.
First Ross suggests that the donor (Yikun Zhang) is propsing a second Chinese MP for National.
Ross: You may recall at the dinner they did discuss candidacy, and another Chinese candidate.
Bridges: Two MPs, yeah
Ross then introduces the idea that the second candidate could be Zhang’s son, Colin.
Ross: Colin Zhang? The younger one, he’s put his name in for Candidates’ College and so I assume he’ll get through and we’ll make some decisions as a Party further down the track as to what we want to do with candidates.
Bridges is equivocal about this and clearly not anxious to make any commitment.
Bridges: I mean, it’s like all these things, it’s bloody hard. You’ve only got so much space. It depends where we’re polling, you know? All that sort of thing… two Chinese would be nice, but would it be one Chinese or one Filipino? What do we do?
Bridges is introducing some realpolitik about list construction here — there were seven ethnic names in the top 50 positions in National’s 2017 list. There were two Indians, one Chinese, one Korean and one Filippino.
There were also three Maori; one Cook Islander and one Samoan.
So 12 non-Pakeha candidates in the top 50 almost exactly match the non-Pakeha percentage of the New Zealand population which is 26 per cent.
So Bridges’ logic makes sense; if you add in a Chinese candidate how do you fit them in. Ross’s proposal is brutal.
Ross: Two Chinese would be more valuable than two Indians, I have to say.
Bridges: Which is what we’ve got at the moment, right? Your problem there is you end up in a shitfight because you’ve got a list MP – you’ve got two list MPs – it’s a pretty mercenary cull – sitting MPs, all that shit.
All Bridges can see by upsetting the balance is trouble. So while the perception is that he did not counter Ross’s blunt proposal; he did not accept it either. His reply looks like a rather typical Bridges attempt to evade giving a direct answer at all.
National yesterday also released a series of texts between Ross and party general secretary, Greg Hamilton, which showed that Hamilton was insisting that the law be followed over the controversial donation.
The texts did not substantiate claims by Ross that they would support his allegation that Bridges ordered the splitting of a $100,000 donation into $15,000 slices, so it did not have to be declared.
But the big blow against Ross was a Newsroom investigation quoting four women who claimed he had had relationships with them (some sexual) and he had harassed and bullied them.
National Party officials have been talking about the prospect of this investigation being published by Newsroom since Ross was put on medical leave by Simon Bridges on October 2.
Ross has said that he was confronted by Bridges and deputy leader, Paula Bennett, with allegations of sexual harassment at their meeting that week which led to his leave.
One of National’s senior female MPs described Ross to POLITIK shortly afterwards as the “Harvey Weinstein” of the caucus.
Ross has now disappeared. He has left Parliament without making a valedictory statement, essentially in disgrace.