MONTHS before the election entered its frantic final stages, Dan Tehan began jogging and lifting weights to prepare for the physical exhaustion of campaigning.
Tehan’s re-election challenge is far from a political fight for life but he is burning with enthusiasm, relaxed and very much in his element just days before September 7.
After Saturday it’s more than likely that Tehan will help form government for the first time in his political career.
Throughout a 40-minute interview with The Standard, Tehan draws comparisons between politics and the AFL at least five times — both in terms of setting targets but also the physical demands of travelling thousands of kilometres supported by a diet of coffee and fruit.
“I’m probably operating on at least six-and-a-half hours sleep. I can handle five, but less than that I start to find I’m getting weary,” Tehan said.
It’s been a mostly easy campaign for Tehan. He has delivered on major promises like money for an integrated cancer care centre, funding for the Great Ocean Road and has thrown a lot cash at small communities.
Attacks on him as a ‘parachuted candidate’ last election are now a distant memory. About five people stop the interview to shake his hand as he talks outside a cafe on Kepler Street.
He rejects the idea the early criticism made him work harder to be accepted in his country electorate.
“I consider I’m country to the bootstraps,” he says.
Indeed there are cracks in the sides of his R. M. Williams boots after visiting almost every town in Wannon.
“People can call me whatever names they like or say whatever they want — while they’re wasting their breath on that it’s giving me more time to focus on the things that matter.
“You can’t be a local in the whole electorate, it’s impossible.”
He hasn’t heard much from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott — just the occasional text message of support.
Tehan has been tipped by some as a future minister, possibly under an Abbott government. His credentials on trade are well regarded.
“That is something I’m happy for other people to speculate on. I can tell you my focus is on Saturday.”
“To me it’s one day at a time.
“If you take a professional athlete when everything is set about one day, what happens if they twist a knee and require a full knee reconstruction?”
Tehan’s first term in Canberra has very much been spent as a spectator, watching the brutal contest of a hung parliament unfold.
“I think if we’ve seen anything in the last three years — the carnage of this Parliament, that’s a reality.”
There seems to be two uniforms in Tehan’s closet. Suits for funding announcements and R. M. Williams for everything else.
Sport more than culture is his forte. He can’t remember the last book he read (although he calls back after the interview to say it was The Rose Project, read with his Hamilton book club) . He hasn’t seen any of the big name TV shows and listens to the news and cricket rather than music as he drives through the blur of country electorate towns.
“I don’t allow myself to listen to any music during the campaign. For us it’s different. You’re not at home to watch the news so for me the only way to stay up-to-date with what’s going on is to tune in (to the radio).”
Politically speaking Tehan is still something of a newcomer.
“That’s been the huge learning curve — understanding personalities and understanding how to get things done given all those competing personalities.”
But after this weekend and securing legacy announcements like cancer centre funding he could well be on his way for bigger things.
So what does he plan to do after the election?
“This will be fantastic no matter what happens. On Sunday Richmond have made their first final since 2001 and I’m a keen Richmond supporter.
“They’ll be playing at the MCG at three o’clock on Sunday. It’ll be a great way to tune out.”