Tuesday 23 October 2018


Where's Jami? Jami-Lee Ross has promised to expose what he alleges to be the corruption and moral failings of at least some of this country’s leading parliamentarians. When a person promising revelations of this kind is suddenly uplifted and immured in a secure mental health facility, the public has a right to know on whose authority it was done; how it was accomplished – and to what purpose?

LOCKING DISSIDENTS AWAY in mental institutions was arguably a more humane sanction than sending them off to the gulag. Even so, many of the stories that have emerged from the Soviet Union of the 1970s and 80s are just as chilling as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s description of the camps. “Patients” subjected to chemical lobotomisation wandered the corridors of state asylums like ghosts. By no means all of the citizens detained were released, and those who made it out were much changed. For a start, they were no longer dissidents.

Learning that a New Zealand Member of Parliament had been detained under the Mental Health Act, it was hard not to think of those Soviet era victims. After all, the MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross must be counted among the most destructive malcontents ever to occupy a seat in the NZ House of Representatives. His determination to punish the National Party and its leadership for (as he saw it) abandoning him, was threatening to dissolve all the protections so painstakingly erected by MPs to keep themselves safe from each other’s spite. Prior to Ross’s detention, the party was looking at weeks, perhaps months, of drip-fed excoriation. Who knew how much undiluted political acid Jamie-Lee had in his possession?

Who has that acid now? Who is in possession of Ross’ property? His family? The unnamed mental health facility detaining him? The Police? The National Party? What, if any, obligation are those holding Ross’s phone, his laptop, his hard-copy files, under to keep them safe from prying eyes? What, if anything, has been happening at Ross’s home and/or his parliamentary and electorate offices in the time that has elapsed since he was taken into state custody? Has anyone come calling? If so, who was it – and what were they after?

The public has a right to know the answers to these questions. That would not be the case if Ross was just another citizen, but he is much more than that. Ross is someone who has promised to expose what he alleges to be the corruption and moral failings of at least some of this country’s leading parliamentarians. When a person promising revelations of this kind is suddenly uplifted and immured in a secure mental health facility, the public has a right to know on whose authority it was done; how it was accomplished – and to what purpose?

In particular, the public has a right to know what part, if any, the most obvious beneficiary of Ross’s extraction from the political environment, the NZ National Party, played in his detention.

There has been some comment to the effect that National has a duty of care to Ross. Such a claim presupposes that, in its dealings with Ross, National stands in a relationship akin to that of an employer. Such a presupposition is hard to reconcile with the fact that all political parties are voluntary organisations, whose members are free to remain with them, or leave, as they see fit. Having announced his resignation from the National Party on Tuesday, 16 October, Ross had clearly exercised his right to exit the organisation. Whatever relationship existed between Ross and National ended then. So, why, five days later, was the National Party giving out the very strong impression that it had, in some way, been involved in his detention under the Mental Health Act?

Moreover, if some nebulous duty of care towards Ross remained on National’s part, then why was the party so aggressive in its response to his actions. If its MPs were convinced that their former colleague was mentally unwell (something which the National Opposition’s spokespeople had strongly insinuated in a number of public statements) then why did they feel it necessary to so dramatically increase the stress he was under?

On his Whaleoil blog, Cameron Slater states that it fell to him and at least one other person to inform Ross’s wife of her husband’s fate. This information is deeply disturbing: suggesting, as it does, that at least one of Ross’ next-of-kin was not told of his situation, or even his whereabouts, by the authorities responsible for his detention. If confirmed, it raises serious questions about the legality of the entire process.

This is why the public deserves a full explanation of the Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? of Jami-Lee Ross’s detention. There may be a completely acceptable reason for the MP for Botany being taken into custody; and those responsible may have been acting in strict accordance with the provisions of the Mental Health Act; but given the extraordinary circumstances in which Ross and his antagonists were enmeshed, and the very high stakes for which they were playing, the people of New Zealand need to hear it – all of it.

The old Soviet joke had it that the Russians must enjoy the best mental health in the world, because only an insane citizen would complain about living under Communist rule – and so few did. It’s the sort of black humour that dictatorships have long been famous for. Let’s hope that New Zealanders never learn to laugh, however sardonically, at their own loss of freedom.

This essay was posted simultaneously on Bowalley Road and The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 23 October 2018.


Anonymous said...

'All's fair in love and war.'

peteswriteplace said...

A very good question?

Patricia said...

I agree Chris. Many years ago it was not uncommon for complaining wives and sexually active young women to find themselves in mental hospitals and so it is not impossible for political dissidents could find themselves in the same place.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Guerilla Surgeon wrote: "I'd love to see (National) in complete disarray".
I do not. I would prefer to see the members of the National Party principled and united. "

Then we will have to agree to disagree. Because while I am pretty sure I've seen the National party united for most of its life, I have yet to see it principled. Unless you count selfishness as a principal. And I rather they were fighting among themselves than trying to sabotage whatever wishy-washy attempts labour are making to spread the wealth and power.

John Hurley said...

I've found him Chris

J Bloggs said...

Speaking as someone who has worked within our health system, albeit only briefly in the mental health sector, I'm pretty sure that there is no way, given the current shortfall in crisis mental health facilities, that JLR would have be admitted if he wasn't mentally disordered.

We already have the situation where people who need emergency mental health care are discharged as soon as possible to make room for incoming crisis patients, so the bar for getting admitted into one of those beds is pretty high. And quite frankly, the National party, particularly as an opposition party but even if it was the government, doesn't have the sort of clout it would require to make it happen if JLR isn't unwell.

While the politically motivated shenanigans makes for good conspiracy theory speculative discussions, the people who work on the mental health front line won't give a stuff - there aren't enough crisis beds as it is to waste one on a politically motivated silencing of someone who is not mentally disordered.

As for the comparison to the Soviet Union - as far as I'm aware, NZ has yet to define opposition to the government as a mental disorder the way the Soviet communist party did, which is what formed the underpinning of that practice, so while making for an interesting digression, it has very little relevance to the circumstances under which the NZ system operates, and in fact does a disservice to the hard working staff of the NZ health system.

Quite frankly, I would have expected better from you, Chris.

PS - Do you really believe anything Cameron Slater has to say on matters that he has his grubby fingers in, particularly when it is to his benefit?

Patricia: The days when the mental health system had the capacity to absorb unnecessary admissions is now well and truly past - and has been for over 20 years. We don't have enough capacity for those who do need help, let alone those that don't

Rob Miles said...

I agree with Patrica the New Zealand mental health system has always seemed tome to reflective of values and judgements a hundred years out of date and if you did not conform the usual expected career path of finding a wife or husband and a good job and settled down to a respectable role in the community, you were by definition in the view of psychiatrists and the community, you were mentally ill and a criminal. My father never regarded himself as a New Zealander even though born in Brighton he probably lived most of his life in New Zealand. He always said I am English not a New Zealander. In many ways he was very much a New Zealander,( if in many ways a product of 1930s Australia, wartime and late 1940s UK and US) as Sandra Coneys said most of the professionals who fought in WW2 and then came back to be Accountants lawyers, or secondary teachers were not very different from Rob Muldoon, Fred Allen or Sandra Coney or David McPhail's father they all were pretty much like Muldoon or Sandar Coney, intelligent like Muldoon in IQ terms, but basically holding to the values and limits of the ordinary kiwi ( they said they same about Margaret Thatcher- yes she was intelligent, very mcuh in academic terms, but really she was just an ordinary person, not intelligent at all in the terms of and believers they could revenge the 49 tour by coaching the All Blacks in 1980 or 1970 victory and that was pretty much all they were.
So i broad terms those who started secondary school betweem 1946 and 1970 were victims of that generation and the fundamental human liberation beyond Mulddons decision to stop the restrcitive clothing imposed by the ridiculous 1640 clothes regime imposed if the Nelson Cotton Mill and the 1967 liberation of the changes which allowed Playboy, penthouse, 10 ocklock closing and in 1978 the Massage Parlour Bill which defacto legislated prostituttion was the 1984 Labour Government decision to open the bars 24 horus allowing drinking and effectively the basic human right to go out and drink alone and the attempt to finally close down the bastardry of the New Zealands mental health system which at base was nothing more than a different application of the Vagrancy Act. Those like Colin Craig who support those measures or those like some minor NZ First members who support providing pointless uneconomic work like tree felling, government railway workshops, etc really should be stripped of their vote and legal rights as those who support a feudal society are not New Zealanders and neither are the fundamentalists or gloryville supporters, frankly if you support that sort of low rent SA Nazi garbage you do not deserve any rights anc should be opposed with all the power of the state.
Jamie Lee Ross to me marks him as low class person who should not be in the National Party or a member of parliament. If you are Simon Bridges you have a respectable name and are qualified. And if you are me Robert Frederick Fancourt Miles you are definition qualified to be the Conservative prime Minsiter of Britain; the Liberal Party Pm of Australia or the US War Secretary. If you are actually middle class or a genuine military officer you do not do most types of working class work. If your a genuine ofocier or actor you go not do menial work or be a waiter. An electrician, or car mechanic are moderately resepctable. Farm workers too low to vote

Anonymous said...

Chris, JLR scabbed on his party, his leader and his wife.
He was found out and is now paying the penalty.
I have compassion but he should not be in Parliament getting taxpayers remuneration.

Kat said...

The big question is should a party as rotten to the core as National be the recipient of taxpayer funding. Time for a clean out.

Unknown said...

Interesting and timely Chris.

You may want to correct spelling of JLR's name - it's weirdly spelt Jami-Lee.


Wayne Mapp said...

Is this intended to be a serious post? I cannot conceive that the NZ Medical system can be influenced in the way you suggest.
I know that conspiracy theories have a certain appeal, but I never thought you seriously indulged in them.

Anonymous said...

Good article Chris.

Weirdly his name is Jami-Lee, not the expected spelling... you might want to correct that.


Geoff Fischer said...

Jami-Lee Ross has been silenced. It appears that he is now detained at the pleasure of the New Zealand state, and that a few mental health professionals have been complicit in his detention.
That is not all all surprising. The state has recourse to a selection of all kinds of professionals, including journalists, judges, and medical practitioners who will do its unlawful bidding when it claims that the security of the state is threatened.
The category of "mental health professionals" in New Zealand covers the full range of political opinions, including the frankly fascist. It is nonsense to pretend otherwise.
A state that targets its own citizens for assassination will not scruple to lock up a dissident and "embarrassing" politician on the pretense of caring for his mental health. It has become clear that Ross did not admit himself to a mental health facility. He was seized and is being held incommunicado by the New Zealand state authorities. It is that simple.

Unknown said...

I don't think JL Ross has broken any laws?! He's exercising his rights. I hope he's okay. It just seems suspicious that he's ousted from his National Party in such display and fanfare. Nek minit he's detained in an asylum?! Espionage?! Trevor Mallard duck is on the case, one hopes. I'm watching.

greywarbler said...

Is that what Chris is saying Anonymouse? Isn't his main message about transparency so that we can see that proper legal channels have been followed? It's not really about whether Ross has been a good, loyal boy.
That's a different point at issue.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Wayne Mapp.

I haven't suggested anything, Wayne.

All I've done is offer an interesting historical reference and ask the sort of basic questions the nation's journalists should have asked and answered - or, at least, tried to answer - from the get-go.

It is interesting, however, to see you trot out the conspiracy theory claim. It's what right-wing politicians trepidatious about the truth emerging from a dark set of circumstances always rely on as a means of distraction.

The use of the term is also intended to suggest that the offending party is, well, a bit mad - oh, wait a minute, isn't this where we came in?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's funny isn't it, they were so sure that it was either Mallard or some "left-wing bureaucrat" in his office who had leaked the original travel expenses. And it turns out to be somebody in their own caucus. Well, excuse my schadenfreude.