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Russell has lived in the McMillan electorate all of his life. He was born in Koo Wee Rup, and lives in Pakenham with his wife, Bronwyn. They have three adult children.
Russell was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990 for the seat of Corinella. He narrowly lost the 1993 election, however in 1996 was successful in gaining election to the seat of McMillan.
Russell has played a pivotal role in acquiring drought relief for farmers in Gippsland, securing the mobility payment for people with disabilities and giving assistance to small businesses in the region.