Secret recordings of a conversation involving Jami-Lee Ross, Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett have been leaked to The AM Show.
The clip features Mr Ross talking to the National Party leadership ahead of his decision to take personal leave at the start of October.
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The comments on the tape suggest the National leadership team was trying to cover up the wrongdoing by Mr Ross. They discuss what reasons they will give for his leave - medical or family. Ms Bennett says medical leave would be better, as it would reduce media interest.
"So it would be for medical reasons?" asks Mr Ross.
"Is that what you want?" asks Ms Bennett. "I think either medical or family."
"Medical is true," says Mr Ross.
"That's right," says Mr Bridges. "There's no shame in that."
"And it means everyone will back off you too - the media and all that sort of stuff," says Ms Bennett.
His alleged disloyalty was discussed on the tape, but importantly the harassment of staff was also mentioned. Mr Ross asks for clarification about the harassment allegations against him, but Ms Bennett doesn't oblige.
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"You haven't even told me what I've supposedly done," Mr Ross says.
"Simon told you all about the disloyalty stuff Jami-Lee, and quite frankly if that was put to caucus, that would be enough," replies Ms Bennett.
"The stuff around harassing staff which I reject, that is the worst. I don't even know what that is," says Mr Ross.
"Well you do know what the disloyalty stuff is, and that's been put to you really clearly. If that was put to caucus, that would be enough," says Ms Bennett. "We are trying to give you the lightest possible way out of this."
Mr Bridges and Ms Bennett also take Jami-Lee Ross through a plan to minimise media coverage and the fallout for Mr Ross - and Mr Bridges also promises not to reveal the nature of the alleged wrongdoing.
"I give you my 100 percent 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, in background, off the record in any way," Mr Bridges can be heard saying.
"I will do everything within my power to keep the things we talked about last week out of the public [inaudible]. I will do everything."
Ms Bennett and Mr Bridges repeatedly say they care about Mr Ross and his mental health, adding that if he follows their instructions he could be back in Parliament next year - and could even be promoted.