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.

Following the anti-GST campaign and Victoria-wide swing of 1998, Russell lost McMillan, but came back again in the 2004 election, using a combination of lifelong, local community contacts, and using the finely honed marginal seat campaign skills he first used when he ran in the safe Labor seat of Streeton in 1984 and 1987.

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.

Russell considers the locking in of funding for the Pakenham bypass and seeing it through to fruition as a major achievement for the south eastern growth corridor.

In recent times he has spearheaded a campaign, along with Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, to see all Federal Government departments use Australian made, 100% recycled paper – ensuring important jobs and industry remain in the Latrobe Valley.

A co-chair of the influential Parliamentary Group on Asbestos related Disease (PGARD), Russell has been a strong advocate for the eradication of asbestos products and asbestos related disease both in Australia and overseas.

He is looking forward to continuing his role as a strong advocate in the Party room and the Parliament for his local community and policy areas of interest.