I HAD A somewhat clucky and regretful first interaction with, David Pocock the former Wallaby great looking to take Zed Seselja’s seat in the ACT Senate at the upcoming election.
One of the things on my ‘must do before Pocock launch’ list was grab the rugby superstar for 30 seconds to get a good photograph to publish with his speech.
My only other option at that point was a Wikimedia photograph with a chook under his arm – a lovely photo, but not for a campaign launch speech. People would’ve rightly asked if I was taking the piss.
I walked inside the venue and spotted Pocock straight away. Waiting a moment to get his attention, I introduced myself and told him what I was after.
Where do you want me?Pocock
My head said ‘I dunno, I just walked in’, but out of my mouth came “I dunno, it’s your image dude”. Straight away I realised I snapped back a bit quickly and to him ‘image’ probably doesn’t mean ‘photograph’. As I spoke glancing to my left I saw a photo and in the same breath followed up with: “right here”.
In under 30 seconds Pocock gave No Fibs the photo we needed and if he felt slighted, it didn’t show – if he did it was kind of him to ignore it.
I was left with a nice photo to publish and mortified by the thought that perhaps I’d insulted a bloke I greatly admire.
It’s worth noting, unlike many first run candidates, Pocock’s completely at ease having his photo taken and gives the shot in seconds not minutes. Media training and experience from his rugby career will be a huge campaign strength.
Arriving at Capital Brewing Company 40mins before the launch was due to start, I noticed a young man on the street outside preparing video equipment who told me, he was shooting for the campaign and it’d be available online hours after the event.
I ditched equipment no longer required and found a quiet cafe to upload and prepare Pocock’s speech I’d received while driving to Canberra last Sunday.
This underlined what I came to understand about Pocock’s campaign during the launch – organisationally at least, it’s one of the slickest and most professional first run independent campaigns I’ve come across.
It’s obvious Pocock means business and he’s got his team up for the challenge.
After my rather clunky photo moment with the ACT independent candidate, I spotted the independent candidate for Wannon, Alex Dyson running through details with an event organiser. He had plenty of table space so I grabbed some to do website chores.
A former ABC JJJ Breakfast host, Dyson was the event MC and there were performances from, Jack River and Lucy Sugerman.
After a walk taking photos, I arrived back at Dyson’s table where he was in conversation with a young man who told me:
I’m a mad Brumbies fan and spoke with David’s volunteers at a game, came along to see what it was all about and volunteered to help. I’ve never done anything like this before.
Later, when I left to drive back to Indi in north east Victoria, the young man was sitting at a table with the performers and members of the campaign team. He was utterly enthused and enthralled.
Moving through the crowd as the live music started, I noted an obvious rugby contingent. I think support from the rugby world is key for Pocock’s chances.
The younger rugby contingent were pretty easy to spot – very fit and some were bloody big units. I wondered if there were coaches, medical staff and administrators at the launch also.
If David Pocock was a superstar of any other sport, I’d take the advice of people who have a better grasp of the numbers and conclude he has no chance.
But it’s the rugby community and home to a swag of moderate Liberal votes – I think that substantially changes what’s possible.
Overall, there seemed to be a fairly even mix of ages at the event and like many community campaigns, some people brought their dogs.
No Fibs editor, Margo Kingston noted on social media it looked like a Liberal crowd, she’s probably right.
It’s a good note to make – Pocock needs to do more than just take votes from Seselja. To win he also needs a swag of votes from Labor and Greens.
There’s only one seat potentially up for grabs, Seselja’s. Katy Gallagher is safe even if she’s forced to preferences – Pocock needs to do that to win the Liberal seat.
Pocock’s campaign colours are light blue and a very red orange, predominantly on a black background.
Moving through the crowd I felt a sense of community coming together and taking action, an enthusiasm for the idea the people of ACT can control their political agenda, that doing politics can be a fun and positive experience and working together they can be the change.
ProACT founder, Clare Doube kicked off the speeches followed by Emma Pocock. You can read Emma’s full speech below.
No Fibs published David Pocock’s speech last Sunday.
And thanks, most of all, to the volunteers and to all of you who are making this possible, who are pushing for a better way of doing politics here in the ACT.David Pocock
We’re all human and we will make mistakes, but we can be committed to something bigger than ourselves.
For too long politicians have sought to weaponise fear and division as tools of the political trade, nowhere more so than on climate.
But the stakes have never been this high, and we’ve never been so taken for granted.
We can win this by making politics about people again.
Pocock’s speech reflected the sense I got from the crowd. I think it hit the mark.
After the speeches some of the crowd gathered outside the venue for the now mandatory all in group photo, except there wasn’t enough room for everyone and many stayed inside chatting.
I approach a group of four African women hoping for a Zimbabwean connection, I thought it might be interesting – three were South African, one was a Zimbabwean who’s known Pocock for a number of years.
No Fibs: You told me you’ve known David for quite a while, how long?
Yes, since my son was in high school, maybe 2012. I’ve met his parents as well.
No Fibs: What qualities do you think David would take to the Senate?
Honesty, doing it for the people rather than just for an image, he’s already popular. He believes in what he’s doing and he’s just out there for the community – he’s bought all of us here together.
No Fibs: Have you volunteered for his campaign?
Yes, I’ve volunteered.
I approach a middle age man with a child sitting on the ground beside him.
No Fibs: Why did you come to the campaign launch?
I think David Pocock could be a really wonderful addition for the Territory.
Do you know David personally or from his rugby career?
Obviously a massive superstar, I’ve watched him play rugby and really appreciated his integrity, standing against homophobic slurs and through and after his rugby career doing stuff for the environment that really packs a punch.
No Fibs: David’s opponent Zed Seselja had a go at him over his arrest at the Leard Blockade saying, he “got arrested for extreme Green activism“. What do you think about his actions there?
We need someone with courage that’s gonna cut-through and stand up for common sense. We’re need people like that in the Parliament to take the action needed to save the planet.
No Fibs: What are your main issues?
Action on climate change and making ACT count in the Parliament. We need a voice for change.
I spoke with the three young Canberrans in the photograph above about Pocock and his ACT Senate campaign.
No Fibs: Why did you come along today?
David’s someone who acts and performs with integrity. I think he’s someone who could represent the needs, wants and voices of probably younger people in the ACT. We came to see what his agenda was about, get to know him as a person and have a few beers.woman on right
No Fibs: So what do you think?
Yeah, well we ticked all those boxes. He seems like a bit of a legend. Keen to hear what more he has to say and probably going to be involved.woman on right
No Fibs: What’s your biggest issues for this campaign?
I guess first and foremost is we need to hear and see a voice for Indigenous people in Parliament and the Uluru Statement From The Heart respected and adhered to. That doesn’t affect me personally as a non-Indigenous person, but I think it’s important for Australians and First Nations people. I work in health care and I think it’s really important people in health care have fair wages and safe working conditions. I thinks it’s really important we listen to the voices of women and there is something to be done about domestic violence and the gender pay-gap.woman on right
No Fibs: How do you think David, as a bloke, will go representing these issues for women?
I don’t think you need to be a woman or a bloke to represent women’s issues because they’re everyone’s issues. I dunno, it’s something I need to learn a little more about, what his agenda is. I’m looking to learn more before I cast a vote, but in saying that David Pocock seems like someone who works, acts and behaves with integrity. I think his broader political agenda probably would address the things I’m interested in.woman on right
No Fibs: What brought you here today?
I’m really passionate about climate activism and David Pocock’s been at the forefront of climate activism. He stands on moving towards a zero carbon future and I’m very much in support of that. Also, he stands on Indigenous rights and he wants a Voice for Indigenous people in Parliament. I probably will cast my vote in his favour.Man on left
So you remember David locking himself to mining equipment at the Leard Blockade?
Yes and even with marriage equality he was right there. He walks the walk and talks the talk. When he talks about integrity – he is much more representative of the people than most Senators.Man on left
Yeah, he’s not a career politician.woman on right
No Fibs: The thing about David locking on at the Leard Blockade is he put his rugby career on the line.
Yeah, plenty of things he’s done, he’s said I’m standing up because this is what I believe in. Obviously if you captain the Wallabies you have a public profile and I think he used that for things he really believes in. Then I look at politicians and they’ve also got a massive public profile but they’re not using that to push the agenda of their constituency. I look at that and think David’s who I want in Parliament. When media covers it they say this independent or this minor party has the deciding vote. I think hang on, every Parliamentarian has a deciding vote. They should be representing the people, not the party.Man on left
No Fibs: Do you have anything you’d like to say?
I just wanna give two party politics a big drop kick. I think everyone’s tired of them. I’m tired of the lack of authenticity, the lack of follow-up in what the nation and people need and what we actually want. Buck passing, a lack of commitment and also a lack of respect. I’m keen for an independent anywhere and everywhere.Man in centre
During the week Pocock announced a policy aiming to “deal Canberra into” a 10-year national infrastructure plan starting with a national convention centre and stadium befitting the nations capital.
Canberra is home to some of the best facilities in the nation for elite athletes, but for the people of ACT venues to watch elite sporting events are thin on the ground and the nations capital lacks capacity to host large scale national and international events.
It’s not like Sydney where the NSW government is tearing down good venues seemingly to reward developers. Bruce Stadium was built in the 1970’s and an upgrade in 1997 shrank the playing field making it unsuitable for AFL.
Pocock’s vision for a “shared Stadium and Convention Centre Precinct” will probably be popular and seems a good policy to put out early – it’s local – it sends a message.
When I wrote up Zoe Daniel’s Goldstein launch, Margo Kingston couldn’t believe I already tipped Wilson loses. I tweeted that the moment I read she’d announced her candidacy.
Wilson was a silly incoherent reactionary when he turned up on Twitter years ago and still is. The massive foreseeable own goal over corflutes because his were only “ordered” – Wilson’s always been one strong non-Labor candidate away from losing his seat.
I’m unsure about Seselja’s capacity to run a smart campaign against a strong opponent. Attacking Pocock over his actions at the Leard Blockade always seemed like a bad idea to me, my reasoning was echoed by the people above.
The legend of Pocock, the way he played rugby and his actions on and off the field are intertwined. Seselja doesn’t seem to have a good sense of his opponent – he’ll need to get on that quickly.
Pocock has a big ground game with around 900 volunteers, Sesjela certainly won’t match it.
The other factor in the ACT senate race is the independent candidate, Kim Rubenstein. A seriously good candidate and a bloody shame she’s run into Pocock.
That’s a feature of the upcoming election, a plethora of ripper candidates all over the country. People I speak to lament good candidates bumping into each other – I try to view it as a positive, a sign people are waking up.
I wish I could say Pocock wins, the truth is it’s a long shot. Any independent running for one of two ACT Senate spots is up against.
What I can say with confidence is the Pocock campaign will be strong and a genuine threat to Seselja.
Emma Pocock speech
And good afternoon everyone. What a bloody pleasure to be here with you all.
This year marks the tenth year Dave and I will have called ourselves Canberrans.
I have always done that with a huge amount of pride.
I love this city, I love the people who call it home, and I love the very place itself.
The past few months, getting out and talking with so many of you has absolutely been an affirmation that the feelings I have about this place and about Canberrans are bang on. We’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of Canberrans about what they want for their families, our city and the country. And what I’ve heard is so much about how they, about how you, want to be represented and the kind of future you want to be part of building.
When ProACT came and told Dave that his name had come up time and time again in their kitchen table conversations looking for a Senate candidate who would truly represent Canberra and asked if he was considering running, it was a bit of a shock.
We had projects we were working on here – mobilising sport to tackle the climate crisis. And in Zimbabwe – working with local communities to restore nature and help build rural livelihoods.
It seemed, frankly, insane and impossible to throw in running for the Senate. Dave had just (finally) finished his Masters in Sustainable Agriculture after juggling rugby and study for a decade, alongside community development work and his involvement in a few small businesses. And we were trying to take our time after finishing up with rugby to think about what would come next.
But the more we sat with the decision, the more we began to feel like it was something we couldn’t walk away from.
We all know the times we are living through are strange. Things that used to happen every few generations are occurring too regularly now. A once in a hundred-year pandemic has quite literally plagued us. Fires, floods, war, and a growing sense of distrust in our governments and in one another.
These times call for courage and a kind of hope that isn’t whimsical, or blind optimism. Over the last few months what I’ve seen is that so many of us are filled with that kind of hope. So many of us look at the challenges in the world around us and greet them with defiance, courage and hope.
As Rebecca Solnit says, “To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”
We know, intuitively, that this kind of hope, this kind of giving ourselves to the future requires us to get up, to get out, to put in the work.
What I’ve seen in Dave over the last decade is a willingness to do that work. To listen carefully, to think deeply and to work incredibly hard to do what’s right for others.
I’ve seen his pragmatism and ability to work alongside people from all sorts of backgrounds, finding common ground and building solutions.
I don’t have to tell you all that this kind of leadership is a real departure from the kind of representation we have had.
We all know that their time is up. We don’t need more career politicians. We’re not interested in more of the same.
Here in Canberra, and around the country it’s clear millions of Australians want to be represented by people who will take their concerns seriously.
People who will work to turn the challenges we face into opportunities that benefit all of us.
People who will be truly accountable to their communities.
Of course, as Dave’s wife, I would say he’s the right person for the job. But after a few months of watching him learn on the job, and of hearing from all those hundreds of Canberrans, I think we have a chance here, in this beautiful city, to build a powerful movement, to do politics differently, to shape the kind of future we want.
But it’s going to take all of us.
So it’s with a huge amount of gratitude, not for Dave’s sake, or my own, but for the future of Canberra and the future of this lucky country, that I welcome you here today.
Let’s do that work together.