DEBORAH RUSSELL

• Former academic, specialising in tax and philosophy
• Family: married to academic Malcolm Wright, three daughters, one at university and twins who have just finished year 12
• MP for New Lynn, first elected 2017.
• Chairwoman of the environment select committee
• Fun fact: born in Whangamomona, 1966
• Guilty pleasure: KFC.

What was your best speech about this year and why?
I think my best speech was on Suffrage Day. I got to speak in the general debate that day and I used it to talk about my great great great great aunt who was one of the suffragists and I took it from there to talk about the franchisement of women.
What issue would you like to see passed in a private member's bill?
I've got my own bill in the ballot and it is about disclosure for companies so that small creditors get to know what companies' payment behavior is so that if you are a small business, you know you are going to get paid on time because that is the history of the company you are doing business with.
You've got a background in finance haven't you?
I started out as an accountant long, long ago and I segued into philosophy, then I went back to taxation. I've done a lot of things.
What were your political influences, if any in your upbringing?
My family was pretty non-political – didn't really engage much. Mum and dad always voted but probably the social justice teachings through the Catholic Church. I'm not a church-goer any more but those social justice teachings have stuck with me.
Have you ever had an inspiring teacher?
Yes, I have had an inspiring teacher. It was Ida Gaskin who taught English at New Plymouth Girls' High for many years but then she spent six weeks teaching us at Sacred heart Girls where I was when I was in seventh form and she took us through Othello and King Lear and a whole lot of TS Eliot's poetry and she was just amazing.
If you could be fluent in a second language, what would it be?
It would have to be te reo. I speak only a few words of te reo, a bit of French, a bit of Latin because that's useful but te reo.
What have your highs and lows been this year?
In terms of highs I have been doing a bit of work on kauri die-back which matters in my electorate so there is some stuff coming through on that now. It is nice to see that coming through as an influence – not really a high but just 'yeah that's good, I've done that.' Lows would be the effect on my family and missing family events, missing times when my girls wanted me to be at home to talk to me. Their dad's fantastic but actually sometimes they just need their mum.
You're in New Lynn following David Cunliffe. Was that a hard act to follow?
It is a hard act to follow. David has huge profile in that electorate and he has it there still but he is an old, old friend of mine and he has been really supportive so bless him.
What's your view on the personal use of cannabis and have you ever smoked it?
I think I've smoked dope I think about five times in my life, in my 20s, not since. I'm not too concerned about the personal use of it but I do worry about it for people aged 25 and younger because of the effect on brain development.
What's the most pressing international issue at present?
I'd have to say the discord being produced by President Trump who I think is throwing the old relationships into disorder and that worries me because out of disorder you can get conflict.
Brexit - good, bad or you don't care?
Bad. Look I was in the UK earlier this year on an environment committee trip and at that time the public servants were like possums caught in the headlights. It was coming at them and they didn't know what was going to happen and so Brexit is going to be a disaster for the British economy.
If you could take an Opposition MP to dinner, who would it be, where would you take them and what would you want to talk about?
You know who it would be? It would be Ian McKelvie. I ran against him in Rangitikei back in 2014 and he is a real gentleman. I'd go to the Taumarunui cossie club and sit down and have a really good yard about what he sees as the issues still in that electorate. He's a great guy.
He's also the wealthiest MP isn't he?
Yeah. It'll be my shout.
What movie, book or concert have you enjoyed this year?
I think it was probably Wonder Woman [the movie]. My girls and I went and we loved it – and the Abba one that came out as well [Mama! Here we go again] because they were just good light-hearted fun.
What do you plan to do this summer to unwind?
Garden. Our section is a bit of a mess. Our girls have all got summer jobs so we are not going anywhere so I'm going to garden and wind down.
Where do you garden? What do you like?
We've got a place in Titirangi. It's got lots of native bush around it but I've also got a herb garden in recent months and it needs weeding and tending to and there's another lot full of native grasses that I want to shift and put some lovely old-fashioned flowers in there.
Likes and dislikes?
I do like cooking, I enjoy gardening, I enjoy knitting or craft work and I've done some needlepoint from time to time because you have to think a little bit about it, not so much that it is hard to think but it take your mind off anything else so it is quite zen-like and it's all stuff that is a bit creative and slows me down a bit so that's good. Dislikes? I don't like it when people are mean to other people. There is very little a dislike.
Wasn't someone mean to you in the House this year?
I don't know. Nicky Wagner who is normally quite lovely just let slip a muttered comment which I think she thought she had only said in her head but she said it out loud. She called me an unparliamentary word [bitch].
Fun fact?
My secret vice is KFC. I always feel a bit embarrassed. So I've got my car all marked up with my face all over it but I never like taking it into a KFC in case people say 'look at her – she's eating KFC.'
You quite like tweeting don't you?
I enjoy Twitter. I try not to argue with anyone on Twitter because that is just bad for everyone but it's fun. I like tweeting pictures of Te Maunga [Taranaki] as I fly passed it. Twitter's good for one-liner but some of my best Tweets come from my husband.