Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross has used a briefing to MPs by spy agencies to imply the Chinese community sought to have a Chinese minister installed in a future government during an event attended by Simon Bridges.
Government Communications Security Bureau director-general Andrew Hampton and Security Intelligence Service director-general Rebecca Kitteridge appeared before the justice select committee this morning to speak during its inquiry into the 2017 general election.
Such an inquiry is usual following an election. The focus of the inquiry this time is on foreign influence on elections.
Ross, the independent MP for Botany, left National last year in a blaze of publicity and bad blood following the leaking of leader Simon Bridges' travel expenses to the media.
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Among his accusations were that Bridges acted improperly over donations from a Chinese businessman. Bridges has denied the accusation. Ross laid a complaint with police, who have referred the matter to the Serious Fraud Office.
Ross asked Kitteridge whether the SIS had ever raised concerns in briefings to ministers or the leader of the opposition over "specific individuals" posing a threat to New Zealand's interests in an election or political environment.
"You're asking a kind of hypothetical question, but what I can say is that in this area we've provided briefings, as we're required to do, to both ministers and the leader of the opposition across this area of concern," Kitteridge responded.
Ross then asked if the leader of the opposition (Simon Bridges) was basing comments he made on May 14 last year following an event where discussions centred on a desire by the Chinese community to have a Member of Parliament appointed as a minister in a future government on intelligence he received.
"He said to me 'I can't do it because basically the spooks are telling me he's a Chinese spy'," Ross said.
Kitteridge said she didn't comment on intelligence provided.
A spokeswoman for Bridges today declined to comment on Ross' claim.