Not many election candidates go into an election proposing the growing of narcotics as the new industry to revive an economy.
But Peter Mailler is up-front about it: “Medicinal cannabis is one of our key platforms. It's potentially a multi-billion dollar industry for Australia.
“There are two million people who would potentially benefit from medicinal cannabis products. Demand massively outstrips supply. The opportunity for rural and regional people to benefit from it is going to be limited until we get the supply issue sorted.”
He says the government policy is to import cannabis for legal medical use but relying on foreign growers misses an opportunity: “We have a very strong view that Australia and regional Australia should be at the forefront of developing a domestic industry to take control and take the lead in the opportunity and benefit for the area.”
He doesn’t think farmers in a conservative area might balk at switching from sheep or grapes or tomatoes to a harvesting a drug because it wouldn’t be existing farmers who would do it – the cannabis growing industry would be in addition to current agriculture.
“Medicinal cannabis is not going to be grown in the field”, he said. He envisages a much more controlled, industrial process with opportunities for university research and other ancillary businesses.
The cannabis project is only part of his pitch to voters, the core of which is his strong belief that rural issues have been neglected by MPs – and in particular, he argues, by Barnaby Joyce – who get power too easily.
“We're here to create an environment that means that major political parties can't take the result of an election for granted. They can't take a vote for granted. If we can make these seats marginal in the eyes of the majors, we'll get much better political service.”
So is the aim to win or just to get a sizable vote?
“You’ve got an incumbent – or a former member – who isn't even bothering to campaign. The first and foremost way to fix most of the problems we have is to motivate the local member to want to fight for you because he'll lose his seat if he doesn't”, said Mr Mailler.