In early 2020, the Liberal Member for Mackellar Jason Falinski did a letterbox drop to constituents containing a list of issues, asking them to tick a box next to the ones that most concerned them.
“There was no climate change action on that list,” said local GP Sophie Scamps, who is announcing herself as an independent candidate for the seat at the next election. “That was in February 2020, so a lot of people were upset. There was still smoke thick in the air from the bushfires.”
Dr Scamps, 50, decided to get active. Using the “kitchen table conversations” model created by former Indi independent Cathy McGowan, Dr Scamps and four like-minded locals created the Voices of Mackellar group and began talking to small groups of locals over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
The group met with about 500 people, culminating in the launch of a MacKellar Matters report.
“What was coming up over and over again was that people wanted an independent MP to genuinely represent their voice,” she said.
Dr Scamps said she stepped aside from Voices of Mackellar to maintain the group’s non-partisan character and in January created Mackellar Rising, which was dedicated to finding an independent candidate.
“People kept turning to me and saying, ‘Why wouldn’t you be doing it?’ Would you consider doing it?’,” she said.
“I have been working as a GP until recently and I love my job, but I feel that I can have a much bigger impact for the whole community if I am able to genuinely represent the views and values of this community.”
Dr Scamps joins a growing tribe of independent candidates taking on sitting Liberal MPs in affluent blue ribbon metropolitan seats where climate action rates high as a voter concern.
She fits the mould - female, highly educated and professionally successful.
Dr Scamps studied at Sydney and Oxford Universities, qualified for the 1992 Olympics as a middle-distance runner, and worked as an Emergency doctor at Mona Vale hospital before becoming a local GP.
She is also the founder of Our Blue Dot, a community-led NGO to help people reduce their impact on the environment.
Her husband is a former Wallaby and she has three children. The family lives in Avalon.
“As a doctor, I have deep, deep concerns about climate change for health reasons,” she says.
“The mental health impact is great. I see a lot of young people who have deep and grave concerns about their future. Youth suicide and mental health issues are big issues for our community. Young people have this sense of insecurity... I just don’t feel they are hopeful about the future.”
Dr Scamps will also campaign on the issues of renewable energy, small and medium business, respect for women and political integrity.
“I think people are broadly appalled with what is happening in Canberra recently,” she said.
“There is no federal integrity commission and the government is resisting it. People want to have confidence and trust in their political leaders.”
Mackellar Rising had already raised $85,000 in campaign funds when they entered into a funding-matching agreement with Climate 200, a non-profit, non-partisan group led by clean energy analyst and investor Simon Holmes a Court.
A couple of months ago, Climate 200 offered to match further donations of up to $50,000, which the group has since raised.
Dr Scamps thinks Mr Falinski, who sits on a large margin of 15.7 per cent, is “probably a nice guy”.
“The problem is he is totally hamstrung by the party structure,” she said.
“That’s where the deep frustration is coming from. We feel we are not being represented in Canberra.
“With climate change, Jason has voted with Barnaby Joyce every time. And it seems like Barnaby is dictating the party line at the moment.”