Let’s talk about tax.
Or more particularly let’s talk about one of our own. Deborah Russell – tax academic – who has recently put herself forward to become the Labour MP for New Lynn following David Cunliffe’s resignation from Parliament.
I first met Deborah in early 2005 when she joined Inland Revenue policy. Before she started there was discussion of her two unusual features. She had a PhD and – at that time – didn’t know anything about tax.
A month or two later I was at meeting which Deborah and her manager attended. I can’t remember the point of that meeting but in it Deborah had to give a short outline of what she was working on – an FBT issue I think. In her two minutes she suscinctly and crisply nailed the point of the FBT rules, the current problem that needed fixing and the technical solution. Now tax peeps we all know how hard it is strip away the detail and simply convey the key messages and Deborah – ‘who didn’t know anything about tax’ – was doing that from almost the first day she started working in tax.
I also particularly remember the blissed out look on her manager’s face while she was talking. He couldn’t believe his luck. He had won the pools with her.
She became a well regarded member of the division as much for her intelligence and work rate as her good humour and willingness to help her colleagues – professionally as well as personally. All while she was the mother of quite young children herself. She had a number of unglamorous projects including creating a tax expenditure for bloodstock which would stick in the craw of any tax person – but she got on with it and made sure it was done properly.
In 2014 following a stint in Adelaide and having moved to Massey where she teaches incipient CAs tax (bless you) she stood for Labour in the safe National seat of Rangitikei. Again an unglamorous job but a necessary one for the Labour Party.
In the last year or two she has become the media’s go to person when they want sensible comment on tax. Impressively even though she is a Labour Party activist she has always been able to explain the issues in clear politically neutral way. Just like she did in that first meeting in 2005. So it is no surprise that these qualities have also make her a regular commentator on Q&A and National Radio.
If she becomes the Labour nominee she and her family will move to New Lynn. And like increasing numbers of Aucklanders they will face the full horror of the Auckland housing market. A horror not faced by those lucky enough to have always lived in Auckland.
This will make her at one with the majority of her constituents. And combined with Deborah’s unfailing ability to do the work that is necessary – not just the high profile glamorous work – will make her a tireless advocate for the people of New Lynn. Plus she now has a national profile and can foot it effortlessly with the likes of Michelle Boag. So front bench material too.
Intelligence; clarity of thought; and good humour. As well as generosity of spirit and sheer dogged hard work.
And now the good people of New Lynn also have the opportunity to get that same blissed out look her manager did in 2005 – when they find she belongs to them. Look forward to seeing this.
Go well Deborah. New Lynn – and New Zealand generally – needs you in Parliament.