Former Wallabies captain David Pocock is vying to become the first independent senator for the national capital.
Pocock was born in Zimbabwe before moving to Brisbane when he was 14 years old.
An Australian citizen, he is also eligible for both Zimbabwean and South African citizenship but will be renouncing both ahead of his foray into federal politics.
Since retiring from his rugby career, which included a stint as vice-captain of the Brumbies, Pocock has been a prominent environmental activist and philanthropist.
He has co-founded numerous charities and, in 2014, he was arrested for chaining himself to a digger at a coal mine protest.
Pocock, who has lived in Canberra since 2012, said his motivation to make the switch from rugby union to politics came out of frustration with the current crop of politicians.
“Like everyone, I’ve been watching politics over the last three years and getting increasingly frustrated at the way politicians aren’t addressing the big issues we’re facing and aren’t actually representing communities,” he said.
“We’ve currently got a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who keep telling us that people don’t want government in their lives.
“But I think what people really want is the government to actually get on with governing.”
Pocock vying to become the ACT’s first independent senator
The ACT and the Northern Territory did not have senators until Australia’s 1975 election. Since then, the ACT has only ever elected Labor and Liberal senators.
In recent decades, the Greens and several high-profile independents have targeted the Liberal-held Senate seat. However, in most elections, the Liberal Party has managed to be voted in without relying on preferences.
Pocock estimated his pitch for votes would come down to his views on the need for climate action.
“We know we need bold climate action to have a great future as a country,” he said.
“We are living with the effects of climate change already and we need politicians who are looking further ahead than the next three years.
“We’ve got to reframe climate action as the economic opportunity it is – it’s no longer a cost, the cost is not acting.”
Key focuses: National Voice to Parliament and voluntary assisted dying bill
Ensuring a constitutionally enshrined National Voice to Parliament would also be a key focus for the sportsman if he snagged an ACT Senate seat.
“We’ve got the oldest living cultures in the world in Australia and it’s time we better engage,” he said.
“That’s how we can actually build a thriving future.”
Pocock said he would also join the push to have the right to debate voluntary assisted dying returned to the territories, taking specific aim at Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who has been clear in his opposition to the idea.
“Canberra’s changed a lot over the last few decades and we need to be able to make more decisions about what affects us,” he said.
“And we can no longer have a senator who argues against territory rights.”
He said voluntary assisted dying was what the vast majority of Canberrans wanted and their representatives should be fighting to make that happen.
“As someone who has had a grandfather endure a drawn out and painful death, I think it’s a really important conversation and something that’s much needed in allowing dignity,” he said.
“We’re smart enough as a community to be putting safeguards in place and doing that in a way that is good for all of us.”
For Pocock, there was never any question as to whether he would run as part of a major political party or as an independent.
He said he believed there was a lack of integrity in politics at the moment, and said independents were uniquely placed to fix that.
“As an independent, you’re representing your community, you’re accountable to them,” he said.
“You’re not having to roll out highly workshopped lines that you don’t believe in.
“You’re not having to take a policy platform to an election that doesn’t actually represent the people that you’re representing.”
Pocock will not be the only independent candidate on the ticket – constitutional law expert Kim Rubenstein has also thrown her hat in the ring for a Senate seat.
But Pocock is confident that he has a chance.
“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could win,” he said.
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