Ten Questions with...
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- Congratulations on retaining the Pakuranga electoral seat. At 29 years old, you’re the second youngest MP in Parliament this term and you’ve been given four complex shadow portfolios – Police, Serious Fraud Office, Youth and Corrections. What do you bring to these roles?
Maintaining law and order is one of the most important roles of Government and something I am passionate about. I have a law degree and practical experience working with the community and the police in my roles in local government and as an MP helping to create a safer community. Before becoming an MP, I was the chair of the Community Impact Forum at the Auckland South Corrections Facility which looks the social impact of the prison on the wider South Auckland community.
- Corrections has been in the spotlight after the six-day riot at Waikeria Prison. What do you think of conditions at the prison and what should happen now?
The prison riot was unlike anything we have seen in New Zealand. The entire upper jail has been destroyed. The conditions at the prison have been well documented in an Ombudsman’s report and it was clearly beyond its use-by-date. However, this is no excuse for the riot. A new prison is being built at the site, which prisoners might have been in by now if Labour hadn’t delayed the build by two years. A full independent inquiry is now needed, including the response of Corrections and gang involvement.
- Do you have any previous connections or experience of policing?
During my time on the Manurewa Local Board, I held the role of “community safety”, working with police on a range of issues to promote a safer community in Manurewa.
- Police has placed a temporary halt on recruitment till at least May. Do you have any concerns about this?
The Government promised 1800 additional police officers, but has failed to deliver so far. The timing of this temporary halt is incredibly unfortunate as we see organised crime and gang activity and influence growing rapidly and more police being shot at while doing their jobs.
- Where did you grow up and what led you to pursue a career in politics?
I was born in Rotorua, grew up in South Auckland and went to Manurewa High School. My passion for politics comes from my involvement in the community and my belief that politics is about community service.
- How do you deal with people who might be inclined to not take you seriously because of your relative youth?
Most people are more interested in what I can do for them, not how old I am. Every day I am getting a bit older – and wiser (though, that is a question you can ask my wife!).
- You studied law and commerce at university, worked for a time in the banking industry, opposed changes to the country’s marriage laws and abortion laws. How do you define your values now?
I’m proud of the fact we live in a country where people are able to hold a wide range of views. I describe myself as centre-right. I believe in the importance of limited government, people taking personal responsibility for their lives, and making sure we build stronger families and safer communities.
- Last term, you campaigned for changes to the law on the sale and supply of synthetic drugs, which have become a serious health issue in New Zealand. Tells us about that.
Synthetic drugs are a scourge on society. Last term I brought legislation to Parliament to increase the penalty for those found guilty of supplying synthetic drugs from the maximum two years’ imprisonment that was the existing law. The Government voted against my bill, but I’m pleased that it did address the issue, and synthetic drugs are now considered Class A substances.
- What are your aspirations for New Zealand Police this term?
My role as opposition spokesperson is to hold the Government to account for its promises and to advocate to ensure police have the resources they need. I’m very concerned about increasing gang violence and organised crime activity, and the number of incidents where police are being shot at or having firearms presented at them.
- Tell us about your family and what’s your idea of the perfect summer holiday?
I’m married to Rebecca and we have two children. Our daughter, Anna, will be two in March, and by the time this publication is printed, we will probably have welcomed our second child who is due on February 4. I grew up camping over our summer holidays and find it the best way to relax and refresh. Living a simple life somewhere near a lake or the beach for a couple of weeks.