Northern Beaches doctor Sophie Scamps has declared her candidacy for the federal seat of Mackellar with a campaign launch at Avalon Beach last weekend.

A GP at Narrabeen and former Mona Vale Hospital emergency department doctor, Dr Scamps is a founder of environmental movement Our Blue Dot that has been working towards waste reduction and carbon neutrality on the Northern Beaches.

Initially Dr Scamps was involved with the Voices of Mackellar movement, but left to co-found another group called Mackellar Rising with other Voices of Mackellar members who wished to repeat the electoral success of Federal Member for Warringah Zali Steggall OAM and replace a Coalition MP with an Independent.

The Oxford-educated Dr Scamps said she was motivated to get involved in politics by the perceived inaction on climate change by Liberal MP for Mackellar, Jason Falinski. According to Dr Scamps, Mr Falinski who has recently completed a Cambridge University course on Climate Change, may have been saying the right things but is not voting accordingly.

 

Sophie Scamps

Sophie Scamps

 

“I’ve spent two decades working in the community in Mackellar – first in emergency at Mona Vale Hospital and more recently as a GP in Narrabeen. As an Independent in Parliament I will fight to safeguard our environment, get real action on climate change and help small business and the local economy thrive.

“When our air was still thick with bushfire smoke, our current representative sent out a survey to ask which issues were most important to us – and climate change didn’t even make the list. That’s when I knew, as a doctor, as a mother and someone who loves our way of life here, I had to step up,” said Dr Scamps.

Although current surveys conducted by Mr Falinski list ‘Climate Change’ as a concern, Dr Scamps is correct that the survey being conducted at the time of the bushfires included the words ‘a sustainable environment’. Asked why those words were inadequate, Dr Scamps said it demonstrated a lack of connection by Mr Falinski with the concerns of his electorate.

“Climate change poses a direct threat to our way of life here in Mackellar through bushfires and coastal erosion and is a specific concern to locals – especially at that time following the Black Summer bushfires. Tackling climate change is not only an environmental issue, but it’s also an economic opportunity, and the right approach to tackling climate change could not only help protect our way of life, but it could also create well-paid jobs across the country, including here in Mackellar.

“Not including climate change specifically in a long list of issues read as an attempt to duck a literal burning issue in the community. The term ‘sustainable environment’ is a non-specific term that means different things to different people – many unrelated to climate change. ‘Sustainable environment’ appeared near bottom of that long list of important issues. It was my personal proof point that Mackellar needs a new, independent voice in Canberra that will make climate change action a priority,” said Dr Scamps.

Avalon Beach resident and mother of three, Dr Scamps also believes Mr Falinski is not fully committed to end the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11) offshore oil and gas exploration licence.

“Jason Falinski also voted against Zali Steggall’s bill to end the live licence for oil and gas drilling off the coast of the Northern Beaches. It is unconscionable that oil and gas companies could drill off the coast of our electorate and I will fight hard to stop it,” said Dr Scamps.

Asked about Mr Falinski’s public opposition to the PEP 11 licence being renewed, including a motion in parliament last year, Dr Scamps said the opportunity was there for Mr Falinski to cross the floor in support of Ms Steggall’s bill to end the licence and he failed to take it.

“The PEP 11 issue is an example of our local representative saying one thing to the community, and then voting another way in Parliament. The fact is he decided to vote with Barnaby Joyce against Zali Steggall’s bill, and the direct result of this is that oil and gas drilling is still a live possibility off the coast of the Northern Beaches. Actions trump words.

“This is another example of why Mackellar needs an Independent who is willing to vote in our community’s best interest, rather than someone who simply votes the way his party, and Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals, dictate,”responded Dr Scamps.

Although Mr Falinski had previously stood with Warringah MP Zali Steggall outside Parliament in opposition to the renewal of the PEP 11 licence, Dr Scamps is correct that he voted against Ms Steggall’s bill being heard.

Mr Falinski has previously stated that Ms Steggall’s bill was unnecessary and could expose taxpayers to a compensation claim from the licence holder. The licence is not formally terminated until a final determination is made by Resources Minister Keith Pitt but given the opposition from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to an extension, there seems little prospect of a renewal.

Surrounded by an estimated 300-500 supporters at her launch at Avalon Beach last Sunday [05 December], Dr Scamps called for an end to the ‘toxic’ culture in Canberra and laid out her policy agenda which includes:

  • Economic policies that support small business and families
  • A 2030 emissions reduction target in line with the Business Council of Australia
  • Extinguishing the PEP 11 exploration licence
  • Establishing a federal anti-corruption watchdog
  • Improving mental health services and aged care
  • Reducing pollution
  • Making Canberra and politics a safe environment for women to work

“Mackellar is a truly special place to live, but in talking to the community over many months it is clear that people are frustrated by the Morrison Government’s lack of action on climate change, the toxic culture in Canberra and the threats to our environment.

“We are at a critical tipping point for our climate and our politics. We need to free ourselves from a government that has its policies dictated by Barnaby Joyce. We need a seat at the negotiating table that comes with being independent, not a spot on the back bench.

“We need to protect our way of life for our children and grandchildren, and to make sure the concerns of locals are not just heard, but acted on. I promise to make Mackellar’s vote count in Canberra,” said Dr Scamps.

Questioned about the recent spate of graffiti on public property calling for Mackellar to have an Independent candidate like neighbouring Warringah, Dr Scamps denied it was the work of her campaign.

“Our campaign was not responsible for the graffiti and I completely condemn the use of graffiti on public property. We ask all our volunteers and supporters to agree to a code of conduct. We will be conducting a positive campaign with integrity, and we encourage everyone else to do the same,” said Dr Scamps.

The announcement of Dr Scamps as the Independent challenger for Mackellar at the next federal election was welcomed by incumbent MP Jason Falinski who said it would not change his priorities.

“Elections are about a contest of ideas. How we improve opportunities for working men and women, how do we get to net zero as efficiently and quickly as possible, and how do we provide affordable housing for younger Australians. Those are the things I’m going to focus on,” said Mr Falinski.

Dr Scamps has been encouraged by the public response to her campaign since the launch on Sunday.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with messages of support from the community and the number of people who have volunteered to help our campaign. It has been humbling, and a true reflection of the community-driven nature of our campaign,” said Dr Scamps.

Dr Scamps is embarking on a series of public meetings to talk about her run for office and issues with the local community. The next meet-up is a ‘walk and talk’ at Long Reef at 9.00am Sunday, 12 December. To participate, register via the campaign website.