AS Jeremy Davey looked out over the Indian Ocean in front of Christmas Island's Golden Bosun Tavern, he did not have to imagine the desperation of the 48 asylum seekers who struggled and drowned just off the rocks on December 15, 2010.
The 37-year-old former Kawana junior rugby league player and Kawana SLSC member has looked deep into the eyes of despair many times in his border protection role with the Australian Navy.
Now a federal election candidate with the Palmer United Party, Mr Davey joined a fact-finding visit to Christmas Island.
He said it was not hard for him to remember his first encounter with a refugee boat carrying 270 people off Broome.
Dangled over the side of his craft, held around the ankles by crew mates, he reached down to the found
ering boat to pluck women and kids from the deck.
"I was small and light, so it was me who was held over the side and grabbing hold of people,'' he said.
"They cling to you like you are their saviour. There is desperation in their eyes but also trust.''
Davey, who joined the Navy as an 18 year-old after finishing school at Kawana High, resigned earlier this year after 18 years service principally in border protection roles based in Cairns and Darwin.
Last weekend's visit, the first by any political party this campaign despite the prominence of the asylum seeker issue, is one of many Mr Davey has made to Christmas Island.
His decision to nominate as the PUP candidate for Moreton, Queensland's most marginal seat, was driven in part by his concern about border protection policy being shaped as a political response to a "misinformed" public.
Mr Davey said the positions of both Labor and the Coalition may be populist responses to some sectors of the electorate, but lack a strategic, outcome-driven focus, were ridiculously expensive and put Australian service men and women at risk.
The Palmer United Party policy calls for asylum seekers to be allowed to fly directly to Australia without visas as long as they carried identity papers or a passport.
Those assessed to have valid claims would be allowed to stay. Those who do not would be returned.
It's a policy the party says is more humane, cheaper, would destroy the people smuggler business model and was in line with common practice.
Mr Davey is concerned at the impact of present policy on his former colleagues.
"The boarding teams are good guys and girls,'' he said. "They are receiving physical injuries doing a job they shouldn't have to do. Many are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They're pulling decomposing bodies from the sea.''
Mr Davey comes from a family of Nationals voters but feels the merger with the Liberals in Queensland has cost politics a voice.
"When the Katter United Party formed it had good ideas around primary production,'' he said. "But it's been taken over by rednecks and homophobia.''
He says Palmer candidates needed to be brave to put its refugee policy to voters who had every right to be angry at the profiteering of people smugglers.
However he said their victims were all real people and most genuine in their claims.
With two children, he is married to Wendy, who continues to pursue her own naval career.
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