Sitting on Clive Palmer's private jet, Craig Kelly knocks on the pristine panelling.
"Touch wood," the United Australia Party leader says, chuckling.
Mr Kelly is telling staff he has avoided contracting COVID-19, putting it down to a weekly dose of the dewormer ivermectin, an unproven treatment which the Therapeutic Goods Administration says can be dangerous.
His promotion of supposed alternatives to vaccines and fierce objection to workplace mandates led him to resign from the Liberal Party early last year, under fire for spreading misleading medical information.
To the vast majority of Australian voters, Mr Kelly's views are likely to feel as distant as the rural Australian landscape 40,000 feet below the mining billionaire's sleek jet.
"There's a lack of logic to the issue he's promoting," says Dominic O'Sullivan, a professor of political science from Charles Sturt University.
"The vaccination rates across Australia show that most people are quite happy to be vaccinated, including in regional areas.
"That distinguishes him from other populists who appeal to people's genuinely-held concerns, even concerns other people might find objectionable."
Mr Kelly acknowledges his views could work against him in his southwest Sydney seat of Hughes, where he was elected as a Liberal MP in 2010. Polling suggests Mr Kelly may only attract five per cent of first preference votes.
But he vows to fight on as he travels across regional Australia, which he says has been forgotten by the National Party.
Mr Palmer, the UAP founder who is also running for a Queensland Senate seat, is funding the campaign. He is spending at least $70 million supporting 151 lower house candidates and 21 other Senate contenders.
The UAP says its internal polling is much higher than published figures, and it believes it can pick up seats in regional Victoria, where many grew weary of lengthy pandemic lockdowns.
On the ground, there is support from a fervent few.
On May 12, days out from the election, 50 UAP members huddle under a gazebo to escape the fog and driving rain to meet Mr Kelly in a Shepparton park.
Mr Kelly sits on the edge of a picnic table, welcoming questions from the young and elderly, factory workers, sheep farmers, families and students.
They want to hear his views on the mandates, perceived overreach from police and the government, and understaffed hospitals.
"Whatever the result is we'll all be able to hold our heads high because we'll be on the right side of history," Mr Kelly tells them.
That afternoon, the Palmer plane lands in Mildura, a border town on the Murray River, where red outback dirt peeks through paddocks of saltbush.
Supporters fill a room at the Reddy Pub in Red Cliffs, 13 kilometres from Mildura, where Mr Kelly ramps up his rhetoric, claiming his views on vaccines have been censored.
In less than five minutes, the crowd raises nearly $4000 for the local candidate to advertise in a free newspaper on election weekend.
The next morning, Mr Kelly visits Fossey's Distillery, a gin bar covered in grapevines and filled with colourful patchwork armchairs.
Local media pepper him with questions about how he can live up to his promises of low interest rates on existing home loans and tax breaks for people living in regional areas.
He stiffens when a reporter asks about his senior staffer, Frank Zumbo, who is on the payroll while facing indecent assault charges.
"We have the presumption of innocence in this country," Mr Kelly says.
"If we throw that principle on the head, we're going back to the days of the Salem witch trials."
Distillery owner, Steve Timmis, who ran as an Independent in the 2018 state election, watches on as his bar turns into a political theatre.
Mr Timmis believes successive governments have made life harder in the bush by privatising essential services.
Though his vote may not go to the UAP, he supports some of their policies.
"All of regional Australia is angry and disenfranchised and looking for a direction and it's not being given by the Nats," Mr Timmis tells AAP.
"(The UAP) is an alternative. Is it perfect? No. Are they going to get in? No. But I think the message they've got is worth looking at and listening to."
Back on the plane, Mr Kelly makes a show of swallowing an ivermectin tablet after a berry tart for morning tea.
At a park in Melton, in the new electorate of Hawke, he sits alone on playground equipment while waiting for candidate Andrew Cuthbertson and supporters to arrive.
The party believes it has a "red hot chance" in the suburban Melbourne seat, considered safe Labor territory.
One member, who has brought his rescue cattle dog to the meet-up, says he has not felt represented since John Howard was prime minister.
Another supporter, Jose Iglesias, says his children and grandchildren have either been forced by their employers to be vaccinated, or they've left their jobs after choosing to be vaccine-free.
"It's about freedom, freedom of choice, and democracy," he says.
As Mr Kelly is driven away from the park, a small group of protesters approach the dark chauffeured van.
He tells the driver to stop and winds down his window.
"You'd better get your sixth booster," Mr Kelly cackles at them.
A young woman screams: "Vaccines are saving lives. I can't believe you're spreading lies."
"You're a disgrace, Kelly," shouts a young man.
The protesters are left in the rear-view vision, coming face-to-face with UAP members.
The jet heads to Sydney as the sun sinks in the afternoon, and Mr Kelly goes over plans for the final week of campaigning.
He talks to Mr Palmer on the phone, describing the press conferences, the supporter meetings and the protesters.
Mr Kelly puts his phone on speaker and Mr Palmer says: "We've had a bit of fun, haven't we?"
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.