You've just finished your first year in Parliament. What has surprised you?
Nothing too much, having knocked around in politics [standing as a National candidate] for three elections.
What's been your most embarrassing moment as a fledgling MP?
Making a smart comment in a select committee and having it appear on the front page of the Dominion a month later and getting offside with just about every good citizen in Wairoa. I made a comment that it must have been a very good brochure the police sent to the UK to get four cops to go to Wairoa. When it was in print it sounded like taking the mickey. In fact having been a cop in several hard-to-fill stations, I knew what it was like. I had phone calls from the mayor, from the president of the National Party who happens to have lived in Wairoa ...
How does being an MP compare to your previous job?
It's a lot more fun. My previous job was a defence counsel in a small firm in Hawera, so I was locked in a little concrete cell with a fluorescent light and no window. I went to the other side (after being in the police), which didn't make my friends too happy with me for a while.
What are you passionate about achieving in Parliament?
I want to bring a sense of understanding about how life is at the bottom of the tree to National Party policy.
Why were you given a portfolio promotion?
I think I've had the chance to show a bit of understanding around social policy issues with the anti-smacking bill ... also a lot of people have understood I have a unique view of the policing role ... and will have some grunt.
Were you disenchanted with the police and what would you change?
I think to some degree the police have disengaged from society from where they were, say, 20 years ago. Police have almost become a little bit exclusive in who they mix with and what they do within communities. I think they've run off down some roads that are more about accounting to the Treasurer than doing what people want. There's been an over-concentration on road policing and a disengagement from ... real crime.
Would you split the traffic policing arm off?
I'd certainly look at having a greater differentiation between the police and transport - that's my personal view. When the merger occurred, which was more of a takeover, the flow of information stopped as soon as people in blue suits started handing out tickets. We need to re-engage with the public.
What portfolio issue are you currently most interested in and why?
There are changes I'd like to make around the youth justice system and how we deal with young offenders. One situation is, say, you get a Liam Ashley who is catered for within the schooling system with special ed funding and then he reaches a certain age, drops out and all of a sudden he's shoved on conservation corps-type courses with manipulative 19- and 20-year-old Fagans who suck him up into a life where he's never been.
What stands out about National's new leadership team?
Freshness and vibrancy. If there is going to be a narrowing of the gap between National and Labour as far as policy goes, the public are always going to want to hear it from a younger and fresher team.
Does the party need to be more centrist and if so why?
The party needs to grow the vote on the left and it's that group of voters in the middle that change governments. It's not a matter of selling your soul, it's a matter of being reasonable. If you look at where New Zealand's gone over the last 30 years, the Maori activists and the protesters we all used to cane have actually taken us to a place where we'd rather be, in many cases.
Which MPs outside of National have you made friends with and/or have respect for?
I've got a healthy respect for Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples. They just ooze mana. I've got a healthy respect for Sue Bradford's intellect. I disagree with her strongly on a number of issues and probably agree with her more than she would care to think. Nandor Tanczos has got a great grasp of social and criminal justice.
What's the best book you've read in the last year?
The Last Juror, a John Grisham book.
* Age 48, married with three children.
* Wanganui MP.
* Won the police portfolio and retains associate welfare (formerly held associate welfare and associate law and order).By Ruth Berry