Todd McClay, National MP for Rotorua, talks to Audrey Young in the second part of a Herald series on Parliament's backbenchers.
What highlights have you had in the past year?
The first was being asked to chair the finance and expenditure committee. It's a big step up and quite an honour if I look at other members in Parliament who have been offered the opportunity over the years to choose FEC. The other, and I wouldn't put one before the other, being able to negotiate support for my member's bill once it came out of the ballot with Act, United Future and New Zealand First to get my gang patch bill over the line [banning gang patches in Government- and local government-owned buildings]. I've received support from those parties to see it all the way into law.
Has there been a low point?
This is my fourth year as an MP and it has been busier this year than any of the other years, both in my electorate and here in Wellington, so if there was a lower point it would be not spending as much quality time with my wife and four children [aged 8 to 14, three boys and a girl] as I might choose to. But I only get to do the job that I have been honoured to be asked to do by the people of Rotorua by having a supporting and understanding family.
By way of other stuff ... what has continued to be a low point for me is the community of Kawerau that has a high youth suicide rate. Any youth suicide is too high but theirs has been particularly high over a couple of years, although the better news is that we did some work last year that has been worked through at a local level this year and, touch wood, we are starting to turn a corner on that.
What other MP makes people's lives better and does their party impress you and why?
There's a number of them ... Probably the one that I respect the most of other parties would be Te Ururoa Flavell. I find him to be a man of great dignity and respect and a lot of integrity and honesty. His electorate of Waiariki and Rotorua overlap. We work quite closely together on a number of local issues. I have a lot of respect for him because of the gravitas and dignity he brings to the job in Wellington, but the human side to his politics I see on a pretty regular basis around our electorate.
Do you engage in Facebook, Twitter or other social media and why?
Facebook I use ... as a tool to communicate primarily with people in my electorate about some of the stuff I am involved in ... visits I am involved in where I meet schools, businesses, individuals who impress me greatly. I don't use it largely as a political tool and the reason for that is that as a constituent MP, I firmly believe and keep reminding myself every day that my job is to get out among people and meet with them and talk to them and listen ... I've said to my kids who are on Facebook, and they have to be 12 before we let them go on there, being on Facebook is not doing your homework and so I think it is the same for politicians. While social media has a role to play that is important, as a constituent MP, there is nothing about social media that can come close to the same value as standing in front of a hall of people discussing an issue and understanding their trials and tribulations. I'm not on Twitter.
What is your position on the same-sex marriage bill and why?
I voted against it at first reading after spending a lot of time meeting and talking to my constituents. But I have also said I will continue to discuss the issue with people on both sides of the debate, primarily from my electorate ...
What books are you reading or planning to over the summer?
I am going to try and read books on an iPad for the first time - a Kindle on my iPad ... I've got a book that was given to me for my birthday by family - it's the new Richie McCaw book so I'll have a look at that. But this will sound a bit sad for a holiday, I have a few world trade negotiation and policy books that I am going to try and struggle through this summer .. ..
How are you unwinding over summer?
My wife's a Kiwi too but all my kids were born overseas so when we chose to come home it was so my children could do the stuff I did when I was growing up. Our holiday this year is going to be around camping and beaches. I want them to be able to enjoy for the whole of the school holiday all of the pursuits you can have around water in New Zealand which, by the way, nobody owns. We are going to be camping in and around beaches in the Gisborne area, a bit in the Bay of Plenty and for a week we are heading off into the bush to do a little bit of hunting and walking and staying in a hut away from everybody else.
What job do you want to do?
I absolutely love being the member of Parliament for Rotorua and it's the best job in the world and I'm really comfortable doing that, but before I came to Parliament I was involved with Pacific Island countries as their ambassador, the Cook Islands ambassador, and a lot of trade negotiations with the European Union and interestingly find trade and trade negotiation of great importance. Most people, when agreements are being negotiated, don't understand what they'll do and often when they benefit from them they have forgotten them. But New Zealand, as one of the best trading nations in the world with some of the best trade negotiators, I'd love an opportunity at some stage to be more involved in that.
Do you mean you want Tim Groser's job (Trade Negotiations Minister)?
I don't think anybody could do Tim Groser's job but I would love an opportunity to do more in an area I have done a bit of work in before.