Whaleoil Audio: Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett &Jami-Lee Ross

Audio tape of meeting between Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett & Jami-Lee Ross,

Bridges

I’m moving now…to….to act…. but the…the situation is Jami-Lee, we’ve got wider factors going on here, I’ve got media now sniffing around and so I’m very concerned that… if the worst situation is to leave this…and…and so I intend to act. Short of you saying that… will put out the statement we’ve talked to, to demote you in the way I’ve said.  So I suppose, the best I can say Jami-Lee is I urge you to take the much better option for you, and for the caucus, which is to go with the statement and to take some time out.

Ross

Dude, you’re pushing me over the edge here.  I’m not well after Wednesday.

Bridges

The issue is Jami, Jami-Lee… that if I don’t do this it will be (unintelligible) for you.  I give you my 100% assurance that if you go with the statement along the lines we’ve talked about, I will never badmouth you in relation to this.  Privately, publicly on background, off the record in any way.  I will do everything within my power to keep the things we’ve talked about last week out of the public.  I will do everything.  Because actually, as I said to you a number of times, I am trying to have your interests very much front and centre, as well as the wider issues I’ve got to take into account.  And so I come back to you…I come back to it….I urge you to do the statement.  I would then do a statement, a brief stand-up…. I would make it clear, it’s about, you know, whether you want it to be medical, which is clearly part of this, or whether you want it to be family, or whatever about that.  You’re taking time out, I’d be clear there’s no, you know, no wrong conduct or any of those sort of things.  And we’d move through it, and that would be the best way to deal with it.  that. But there is no…. I don’t have the ability now to stop this.  Because I do now have to control this, given the media, given the caucus and so on.

Ross

(Sighs) Can you remind me what the statement is?

Bridges

I don’t have it on me because I haven’t been in contact with you and so I…but it is along the lines of…you… for medical reasons taking the time out. You could, you can, you obviously have a number of reasons for this, and so you could tailor that for the way that you think is best for you and your family.  But there is no sort of blame thing in any of that in relation to you.  I think the truth is Jami-Lee, we can get through it, and you can get through it, and you come out the other side if your attitude after some time out is good, and positive, you can be promoted again.

Bennett

And get the help that you need Jami-Lee.  It’s just, as we were trying to say in a text last night, it’s just you having a chance to have some control over it.  And we can’t control it either…so…we can control it if we do this proactively.  But as Simon says, and back you 100%, and back you with getting the help that you need and everything else.  And the statement just sort of says “That you were speaking to Simon in recent days, you have asked to take time out until early next year, you can give your reasons for that, whether it’s family or whether its medical, and then you can just kind of, get that sort of space that you need, and we can sort of back off, and you can get the help that you need, and we can back you 100%.

Bridges

Should we send it to you?

Ross

Why are you so adamant on getting rid of me for four and a half months?  That…. that would be…. if I’m isolated and on my own for such an extended period of time, that’s actually worse for me. Can’t it be a month or the next four week sitting block?

Bridges

No, no.

Ross

Why is the rest of the year so…..

Bridges

I’ll tell you why, I’ll tell you why.

Ross

Why, why is the rest of the year so important?

Bridges

Because Jami-Lee, there’s a lot in play here.  There’s the reasons that I asked you to see me on Wednesday night. And they are serious.  And as I said, there is a therapeutic way through this, which is you choosing this path. But a month, to even a couple of months, I don’t think cuts it. I don’t think it is at a level that gets you the help, and gets you into the head space that I believe, knowing all the things I know now, you need to be in. And I also just think, for you, as you sort of see your way through this, you shouldn’t see it as isolation. Its time spent with your family, you know to spend with some others, maybe rekindle some relationships that are out there for you.  And if there is a requirement of support from us outside of parliament, we can provide that.

Bennett

And you still have the support of your colleagues if you go down this path. And you won’t, you don’t need to be isolated completely.

Ross

It, it…. a doctor is even saying isolating me is, is worse.

Bennett

Well we, you don’t have to be isolated from it, but you can’t be in Wellington before the end of the year.

Ross

What is happening that is so important before the end of the year?

Bennett

You just need…. we need longer than a couple of months, is the reality of it.  And we’ve gotta manage expectations of others and the seriousness of what you’ve done.  I mean if we put this to caucus Jami-Lee, it would be far…. we are giving you just such the lightest option we possibly can in the light of what we’ve got in front of us.

Ross

But you haven’t even told me what I’ve supposedly done.

Bennett

Well we’ve told you all about the disloyalty stuff Jami-Lee and quite frankly if that was put to caucus that would be enough.

Ross

The stuff around harassing staff, which I reject, that is the worst because….and I don’t even know what that is.

Bennett

Well you do know what the disloyalty stuff is, and that’s been put to you really clearly and if that was put to caucus that would be enough. You know? And so we are trying to give you the lightest possible way out of this. And you know, even to the point and…your behaviour from here, and how you can redeem yourself, as Simon says, there is a way back.  But, you’ve got to take it man.  But in light of everything that’s going on and that you’ve done, we are offering, because we do care about you, and we need to help, we are offering you the lightest we possibly can.

Ross

If you force… the current environment is that, if I am forced out for the rest of the year everyone’s going to assume things about me that are not true. And I have a reputation as well.

Bennett

But you can get through that with how you work your statement which I think is very well worded. You can do that because you will have our backing completely and we will stand with you.  And that’s what you need right now.  You’ve got to understand the alternative is not to do nothing, the alternative is, that Simon is going to go out in an hour making a statement that you have been demoted.  And that is…that is all we are putting to caucus and quite frankly that would be huge, and we don’t want to do that.

Bridges

Jami-Lee, if you take the statement, and I’m saying this for you, not for me, right?  I just want you to understand that really clearly. Okay? Actually, there’s downsides in me letting you off for what you’ve done.  If you take the statement for you, and your behaviour subsequently is good, I will never refer to the matters we talked about on Wednesday, Thursday again.

Ross

I am sorry about our conversations on Thursday.  I’d suffered pretty badly on Wednesday night, I was not in a good space.  I am sorry for, I’m sorry for our conversations subsequent.  I didn’t mean that, mate.  We were such best buddies six months ago.

Bridges

I agree, I agree.

Ross

How did it get this bad?

Bridges

Well it’s a shame that it’s come to this.  Believe you me, I didn’t want it to and I’m sure if you’d thought things through, you didn’t want it to be like this either.  But the problem is Jami-Lee, we are now where we are.  I promise you…. I’m not…I don’t…we’ve got a situation now where there’s media around this, and you know we need to deal with where we’re at now.  And the truth is, if I don’t act in one way or another, my concern is it will be worse for you. The best scenario is you take the statement. I accept that it’s not perfect from your perspective, far from it, but I am absolutely certain if you continue getting the help that you need, if you focus on your family, if we don’t unduly isolate you, you will get through it, and you can come back in a good way that is filled with possibility.  But the other way, got…had so many problems with it, I don’t have… they’re all bad scenarios, I don’t have good ones, and I have to act on them.

I think we should send you the statement Jami-Lee.  It will only take a few minutes.  The problem we’ve got now is in a little while we’ve got a caucus cal,l and I’ve yet to decide what I’m saying to them. Which is either, that if you…. for the reasons that you can decide, are taking some time, for family and so on, and that you will come back after that, or that I’m demoting you and going through that show.  Look I appreciate how stressful this is for you, for me, for Paula and ultimately for the caucus.  But I need you to think about it and to go with the statement from you, because it is the best option for you, and your family and the caucus.

Ross

So, it would be for medical reasons?

Bennett

If that’s what you want.  I think either medical or family is your best option.

Ross

Medical is true.

Bridges

Yeah, yeah. So that’s right.  That’s right. There’s no shame in that.

Bennett

And, and it means that everyone will back off you to.  The media and all that sort of stuff, which I think’s important.  And then we as a caucus, can support you and make sure that you’re not isolated.

Ross

The reality is in last few days…. been pretty dark

Bennett

We wanna help you Jami-Lee, we really want to help you.

Ross

So, I’m broken at the moment.  So for medical reasons?  Can we just not put a time on it? In terms of public, we can have an agreement between us, but can we just say that it’s unspecified, it would be likely months but not specify anything around that?

Bridges

Can we say a few months?  I want to be clear Jami-Lee.  I am not accepting this year.  It’s not happening. Okay? And it is because it’s about, whilst I will never refer to it, the poor conduct I see in you and my loss of confidence in you, and the need for us to work through that, and take…and time can heal that.  And also, because I think it’s about you.  I am open to playing with the words a bit on that, if that’s what you really want, if that matters to you, but I do want you to be crystal clear, you are not coming back to Wellington and caucus this year.

Ross

Let’s just not say that publicly.

Bridges

Okay, okay, okay.

Ross

The other thing is, my reputation is important here and I disagree with what…I reject the allegations…but that’s not something I can fight; however, my reputation is important to me and the problem with going because you have lost confidence in me, is that in the current climate I am going to be accused of being the leaker and that is….

Bridges

But I won’t say that, I won’t say that if you take the statement option, Jami-Lee.

Bennett

So, if you put your statement out, and that you’re stepping down for your reasons, we won’t be saying that.

Bridges

I won’t be referring to any conduct, behaviour, anything, it will be all about you making a decision for yourself, for medical reasons, whatever that statement, we will stick to that very strictly.  There will be no reference from me, you have my absolute word to any, any of the things that you know, I said to you I lost confidence on.

Bennett

And that’s how you can keep your reputation. And that’s what I mean, we will stand behind you if you take some control of this.

Ross

You will be asked if it’s to do with that.

Bennett

We’ve though through all of that, and we’ve got all of the answers.

Ross

What are the answers?

Bridges

It will be along the lines of…. let me just have a look here because I haven’t got all the paperwork in front of me because I wasn’t necessarily expecting this Jami-Lee, but I’m just trying to find here….

Bennett

Is it to do with the leak?

Bridges

No, it has nothing to do with the leak.

Bennett

Do you still have confidence in Jami-Lee Ross?

Bridges

Yes.

Bennett

Is he getting the support that he needs?

Bridges

Yes.

Bennett

When will he be back?

Bridges

We anticipate a few months.

Ross

What are the nature of the medical reasons?

Bridges

Private and personal matters to Jami-Lee, so I’m not going to be commenting on them.

Ross

Okay.  Simon…

Bridges

All right well, yep.

Ross

Six months ago, was so good. I believed in you and backed you to the hilt. I am sorry that we are here.  It’s all… and I’m not well now, as a result of lots of things that have happened, and I’m just sorry.

Bridges

Thank you, Jami-Lee.  I appreciate that. I appreciate you saying that you are sorry.

Ross

And I’m pretty broken.

Bridges

And believe you me, I am really sad that we’re at this point as well.

Ross

It’s awful.

Bridges

It’s incredibly sad.  And that’s why we have thought so much about how we can get you through this.  And I promise you, if your behaviour…. if you take the help you need over the next few months, you can come back.  You know you shouldn’t see this as any kind of end. There’s a way back and there’s a long history of members of parliament who have done far crazier stuff than you have Jami-Lee, who’ve come back and been very senior ministers, and so I just don’t…we will get through this, I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be perfect next week, because it probably won’t be, but we can… will get through it.  I give you my word, I’m not going to be doing anything in any way, in front of the scenes, behind the scenes, that is against you.  I will actually be doing everything I can to stop that. But I tell you what, give it a week and we will be through it.  And then it will really be in your hands to get some help, get that help going, take some time out.  If you do that, you can be back.

Ross

I’m pretty broken and I’m on the edge, so please just be careful

Bennett

We are going to back you mate, we are going to back you on this.  We are trying to give you the best possible scenario we can, for the situation we have got in front of us. And that is Simon that is leading that.

Bridges

I have zero tolerance for people who are in any way trying to bad mouth you, or muck you around behind the scenes, okay?

Bennett

100% you need backing and you need support right now.

Ross

Thank you.

Bennett

All right?  We’re going to send you that statement, because we’ve only got a few minutes.

Ross

All right.  Thank you.

Bennett

Okay.  We will email it to you.

Ross

Thank you.

Bennett

We will talk again shortly.

Bridges

We are going to get there mate.  I know how dark it is at the moment.  But we are going to get there.

Ross

I don’t think you know how dark it is.

Bennett

We can get there.

Ross

Okay. Thank you.

Bennett

We’re going to get there.

Ross

Thank you.

End of recording.


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