New Federal Senator Brett Cooke – maybe?
“Being a police officer for 22 years, my job was to serve the community and I feel that being elected is exactly the same — you've got to serve your constituents,” says Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Federal senate candidate, Brett Cooke.
For the past two-and-a-half year, Brett has played an active role in NSW politics as Member for Orange, Phil Donato’s Chief of Staff. But at the federal election on 18 May, he is looking to step out from behind the scenes and onto the national political stage.
Born and raised in Bathurst, politics was never an ambition for Brett as a young man. After leaving school, he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and joined the police force — a choice that just seemed natural to him.
“As a third-generation police officer it sort of runs in the veins, you could say,” said Brett.
“There was probably about six or seven people in our family who were cops at the time, so I was surrounded by police. It wasn’t really a hard decision to make.”
After graduating from the academy, Brett’s early years in the force were spent at Enfield and other stations across Sydney’s Inner West, before specialising in witness security as part of the State Protection Group based out of Surry Hills.
During this period, Brett also found time to acquire a commercial helicopter licence.
“I think I'm an adventurous kind of person and it is not something I'd always wanted to do, but I happened to be at the site of a helicopter retrieval when I was in my early 20s and I was in awe of the role of a helicopter and what it could do. That spawned an interest and when I'm interested in something — I go full tilt at it,” said Brett, who for a long period split his working week between the police force and flying helicopters.
“I was working for a company that had the AGL gas pipeline contract and I flew for them for a number of years. I'd fly three or four days a week and then work the other days as a police officer doing 12-hour shifts — so I was working seven days a week at that time. I haven't flown for a number of years now and I do miss it.”
But then Brett met his wife Julia, a fellow police officer who also hailed from Bathurst. Together they left the city and took a posting in Orange.
“I met the love of my life, married and we got a transfer out to the bush, where we started a family,” said Brett, whose work here involved investigating local drug supply.
In 2011, Brett retired from the police force and went looking for a new adventure.
“I needed a change. Twenty-two years is a long time having to deal with the rigours of policing and in all honesty, I wanted to pursue other things… I've got an adventurous spirit and I wanted to pursue my love of the outdoors,” he said.
So, Brett purchased a hunting and fishing touring company in British Columbia, Canada.
“In 2009, I’d been for a trip over to Canada and helped out as a horse wrangler and an assistant guide in British Columbia with another outfit and that sparked my interest in Canada and all things wild,” he said.
“When I'm interested in something, I just go at it and so I operated that for a number of years, where I'd host Australians and Kiwis on their wilderness adventures in North America.”
Although Brett describes himself as always being a ‘interested voter’, it wasn’t until Phil Donato won the seat of Orange that he found himself in the world of politics.
“I've known Phil since he first came to Orange and we became good friends. He was after employees to staff his office and I was only too happy to come on-board and help him, said Brett.
He said that since entering the political world he has come to believe that people deserve better local representation, which is what has led him to throw his own hat in the ring.
“Phil Donato got elected because he's doing what he's supposed to do. I mean he is great at what he does, but every elected politician should be working just as hard. It is not hard to do, but sadly, I'm not seeing that universally performed across the state and indeed the country,” said Brett, who doesn’t appear to be daunted by the move into public life.
“There really is no difference other than stepping in front of the camera,” said Brett. “At the end of the day, I'm saying the words I had formerly written and suggested. It is basically speaking what I believe in and delivering my own message.”