Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

The backbenchers: Mike Sabin, National Party MP for Northland

Mike Sabin's family and career experiences have helped his first term as a backbencher.

Mike Sabin, 45, is also a published author. Photo / APN
Mike Sabin, 45, is also a published author. Photo / APN

Have you got a personal goal for 2104? Professionally it would be obviously securing a re-election for the National Government. On a personal level I want to be effective at working out and operating the machine of Parliament to ensure that the right "products" are derived from the machine by way of policy, or funding and resources. To be effective, you've got to know how that machine works, so you've got to know how to plug what's effective for the electorate into it and you need to know how the political machine operates in Wellington. So I want to step up and continue to be an effective operator to achieve that. Being an MP for me is not enough. It's actually being about an effective contributor to work out how you derive the products that your community and your country needs from the machine.

What were your personal highlights for 2013? As a Government backbencher it is a reasonably challenging role. You need to operate in a constructive manner but not one that is overtly problematic.

There are probably two highlights. One would be some policy development that I have done around Members' Bills. I have had four Members' Bill proposal approved and they have now found their way into the ballot under various members" names including one myself and probably the other was helping to achieve a range of results for the Kaipara District Council [through a bill validating irregularities in rates related to the massive cost overruns on the Mangawhai waste water scheme]. I've made a fairly strong play for the Auditor General to essentially compensate the council to the tune of about $30 million for their failures in it. I take personal satisfaction about finding ways to add value rather than just being a participant.

What select committee business did you enjoy most this year? I'm not a member of the education and science committee but I assisted them with the development of the surrender and retention component of the education amendment bill that gives clarity to schools and boards as to how they manage drugs and weapons in their schools. There was quite an uproar in 2012 from teachers, unions and principals about the Education Amendment Bill being too light in the area of managing drug and weapons issues in school. I was able to get in there and help with my background [a police officer for 12 years] and get a piece of legislation that has been roundly supported. I've also enjoyed the work on social services committee working on the biggest welfare reform since the modern welfare system was implemented. It was relatively controversial stuff including drug testing and tightening up social obligations. And I've become deputy chairman of the transport and industrial relations committee. I've been very pleased to be involved in some of the legislation like the Pike River legislation and some of the amendments to the Employment Relations Act.

Did you do a law degree? No, I did a bus-law degree. I was a detective. You do your training in criminal law to a fairly high level but it's not a degree.

What MP in another party impressed this year? I would probably say Shane Jones, the reason being the guy is an enigma in many respects but he fronted and rose Phoenix-like from the position he found himself in, and I think the way he managed that and dealt with the Labour Party leadership selection, it's not everyone who can ride out that sort of storm.

If John Key wanted to shout you to dinner for being such a diligent MP, where would you go and why? Probably his place for a barbecue. And I'd want to take a few mates as well - Alfred Ngaro, Mark Mitchell, Paul Goldsmith, Ian McKelvie. My idea of having a graze and having a catch-up that a good place to do that is over a barbecue.

What has been your most memorable holiday job? Probably doing the milk run back in the day, when you used to be able to get bottled milk in your driveway. I did it for a number of years in Whangarei and every day used to be a constant competition to beat the time I don't the last day. I was at school and raising money to buy bikes or go on rugby trips but it was a great way to keep fit and feel you were doing something good in your community. I would have done it for nothing but it was a bonus because I got paid for it.

Did you have a special beach as a child? As a child we always used to holiday at Oakura [north of Whangarei] in a canvas tent that leaked like a sieve when it rained. Every Christmas and New Year holiday was in a tent, sailing around in a Sunburst dinghy, learning how to dive and just a quintessential Kiwi beaching holiday. And now I live at Coopers Beach so when I do manage to get home, I can wash away the Parliament life with a quick dip in front of the house.

Can you name somewhere overseas you'd really like to visit? I'd probably like to go to Italy and see all the Roman colosseums. The origins of my name go back to the Roman tribe of Sabines with an E. I've never been to Italy but I would like to go one day.

Can you recommend a book, film or album you've enjoyed in the past year? I can tell you of a very, very good book. It's called The Long Way Home by Mike Sabin. I authored my own book. I wrote it when Darryl, my son, had his brain injury [playing rugby in 2009]. It's a book about Darryl's injury and recovery and the challenges we overcame to get him from an unsurvivable situation to fully recovered. He's now a motivational speaker. He just launched his business this year and I published the book to coincide with the launch. It's basically the five life-lessons I learnt in dealing with his challenge. But my favourite movie and one I have watched many times in The Shawshank Redemption.

How will you be spending the summer break? This year for the first time in I don't know how long, I am going to switch off my emails and spend some time with my family and re-orientate myself. We've got my three kids coming together for the first time in years so I'm going to spend a couple of weeks with them. One of the things with this job is you become so absorbed in it and you spend a lot of time away that one day you'll wake up and realise that while I was doing my job, my family grew up. Brook [son and political journalist] and Darryl are both grown and I have a nine year-old daughter. My partner Sandra, has three children, 15, 15 and 14. Father of three and blended family of six brackets, Brady Bunch. So nothing really. Just family time at the beach.

- NZ Herald

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