Northland MP Mike Sabin wants to be a driver so sitting in the back seat isn't his favourite position.

He's a realist, though. The first term National MP knows he's doing his apprenticeship in the House, but he'd be keen to move forward should the party lead the Government again after this year's election.

But having more say, chalking up more results, making a difference - that's not usually highly achievable from the back bench.

"Of course I aspire to higher honours and would like to be a minister," he says during his summer holiday at his beachfront Coopers Beach home. "Being an MP is not sufficient, in my view."


There's no point being there if you don't make a difference, Sabin says.

"You can get swept through a political career and come out the other end and think 'I didn't achieve anything'. That's not for me."

He describes the Government as "a machine" that churns out "products". He is hell-bent on learning how to work that machine- pull its knobs, get it cranking. He's quick to point out the machine is just a metaphor for a system. If you don't understand how it works, you can't work it.

Sabin doesn't mean to depersonalise the political process and the people it is supposed to work for.

"Fundamentally, one of the core functions of an MP is to ensure that not only do people have aspirations, we have to ensure the right environment is available to enable them to achieve them."

He's strong on - and did help set up the "machinery" for - a pan-organisation, local and central government Northland economic development focus.

Usually, the best a backbencher can do to instigate legislative change is have a private member's bill picked out of the ballot, debated and possibly pushed through. Non-ministerial MPs can only have one in at a time but Sabin's got his bets covered with four bills in the box, three of them under other MPs' names.

Even only two years ago the former detective probably would not have chuckled at a suggestion all four bills sound a bit, er, punitive; that he might become known as the "policeman of parliament". A police officer is a law enforcer, he says. A politician is a law maker. "But I'm no shrinking violet, I'm not afraid to take things on."

He re-emphasises law-making is hard to do from the backbench. And from the Opposition benches, he adds with almost a hint of humility, even sympathy for the current Opposition.

But it boils down to application and determination - there are the "never do's, the gonna do's and those who are already doing", he says.

"I will work with anyone - any NGOs, local politicians, central politicians, anyone who can put their hands on their hearts and say 'I will work for Northland'."