Once Pauline Hanson's right-hand man and now a trenchant critic, David Oldfield comes across as a barrel of contradictions.
He's an animal lover, so much so that he teaches his two boys not to step on an ant, not to kill a spider and never to hurt an animal - flies, cockroaches and mosquitoes exempted. But he's a former hunter, he has hand guns and will "absolutely" teach his boys to shoot. He also believes there is no need to change Australia's tough gun laws, apparently putting him at odds with his former party whose latest spectacular crash was precipitated by the spectacle of two of its officials on an undignified mission to solicit money from the American gun lobby.
One of Oldfield's strongest criticisms of Hanson is that she's essentially an empty shell, an actor with no real concept of what she's saying and no understanding of the policies she espouses. He likens her to an actor who fans mistakenly believe is real. And yet he says the mess that is One Nation is Hanson's fault and rather than blame the lunatics that surround her she should accept that it is her doing.
He says Hanson is "more the machination of her supporters than she is a person in reality", a characterisation that seems to bypass the fact that Oldfield himself was once one of those very supporters who tried to turn Hanson into the leader of a party in his own image.
His Twitter account, while moribund for a year, nevertheless had an especial focus last year on people from cultures not his own - the African gangs ("none of these primitive grubs should have ever been here in the first place"), complaining Aborigines ("sack her and send her to hunt and gather!"), and Muslims ("Being concerned about Islam doesn't mean you're racist, but it may suggest you are aware of issues facing the modern civilised world.").
But Oldfield's message now is of restraint. Don't always speak your mind, he tells his children. Sometimes it's better just to shut up and look after your own life.
He says he wants his children to be "decent, honest fair, love animals and appreciate that humans don't own the planet, we live on it".
"I'm continually telling my children that I want them to be better than I am, that I want them to learn from the mistakes that I've made ...
"I don't want them going into politics. I don't want them to speak up when they would be better for themselves being quiet. Because the biggest mistake that I've made in my life is speaking out when I would have been personally better off by shutting up.
"I think that you'll have a much happier life if you stay away from politics, and stay away from controversy and stay away from the idiotic notion that you are responsible for anything other than yourself and your family."
Oldfield, demonstrably, hasn't shut up and arguably is considerably more charitable about animals than his fellow humans. His insistence that people convicted of crimes should be deported - including New Zealand citizens even when they have lived almost their entire lives in Australia - has none of the softness he reserves for his children and the animal world.
But he argues a difference for animals and says that as a nationalist rather than an internationalist, there is nothing illogical about deporting a criminal to become someone else's problem. We have enough criminals of our own; we should get rid of any we can.
Oldfield, 61, is back in the public eye because he is promoting his memoir.
He was Tony Abbott's adviser when Hanson caught the attention of the nation with her swamped-by-Asians maiden speech. Oldfield says at the time he was unhappy with the direction of the Liberal Party, having expected serious changes on immigration and multiculturalism under John Howard. He persuaded Hanson to set up a party as a way to move the Liberals to the right, and he argues success on that front.
But he quickly discovered Hanson was "well-meaning but not very well-versed" and "she was extraordinarily difficult to deal with; her heart was not exactly what you'd call in the right place".
She is highly scripted, but has little understanding even of her own messages, he says.
"It's hard to say what Pauline really believes in. The difficulty with Pauline which I've never been able to get people to fully understand is that Pauline is ... a very, very simple person who is angry and stubborn and utterly self-absorbed and self-centred ...
"Pauline's most significant interest is the accumulation of wealth. The only reason Pauline keeps going is because she loves the adulation, she loves the Comcars, the trips, the travel, the staff."
...the biggest mistake that I've made in my life is speaking out when I would have been personally better off by shutting up.David Oldfield
But Hanson has survived in politics, with Malcolm Roberts joining her this year in the Senate. And the Svengali-like control that Oldfield and Ettridge exerted over One Nation was blamed for early disintegration of a party marked by dysfunction virtually since the day it was set up.
But Oldfield insists, nevertheless, that she is responsible for the state of her party.
"You can't ... just say it's always been all these men around her. She is responsible for picking them, she is responsible for putting them in the positions, she's the absolute boss of everyone in the party," he said.
As for Oldfield, after more than 25 years in public life - starting with the Manly council and Abbott's office, rising to the arrowhead of One Nation with David Ettridge as his fellow lieutenant, then a seat in the NSW upper house until 2007, and stints in broadcasting before more recent appearances on reality television - he is now a father to two young boys with half a mind to start writing fiction on his northern beaches property surrounded by animals.
"I'm very interested in animal welfare," he says. "I live essentially fringing on the bush and I actively save and look after any animal I can that needs my help. I have a lot of animal friends." He counts four horses (but not horse racing, which is cruel and unnecessary), two dogs, pet snakes, a lovely pet parrot, and he would have more if he had time to give each the proper attention.
Although judging by his detailed response when asked what advice he would give Hanson now, perhaps he still has a hankering for the big hill.
Much truncated, his advice is to hand control of the funds to an administrative wing, set up branches, do police and character checks on candidates, review media appearances to improve, get on the front foot on policy, "read, read, read" to become informed, stop blaming other people, become smarter and more self-aware, learn how to find good advice "rather than taking advice from whoever you happen to trust on that particular day", and learn "greater capacity for flexibility and understanding, get over your anger".
This interview was done without the benefit of having seen Oldfield's book, but he characterises it as a book without exaggeration or embellishment, and one that is even self-deprecating.
He says he has made mistakes. And while he doesn't point to specific events, he apparently sees his major mistake as speaking too often.
"The things that I stood up for have brought me also a great deal of heartache and trouble," he says.
"I'm stuck with that ... but don't want that for my children."
He's bring up his boys to never be violent, especially to women, and to "run away" from a woman rather than risk hurting her trying to defend themselves or on a physical confrontation. His boys learn karate, but preferably not to use it.
"If you've got time to stand and fight you've probably got time to turn and walk away and that is always best. These are lessons that I didn't learn in life."
- Before You Judge Me - Being David, by David Oldfield is published by New Holland Publishers ($29.99).