Ahead of next year’s federal election, female independents have been announcing their candidacies in electorates across the country, primarily in blue-ribbon seats in Sydney and Melbourne.
These candidates are launching campaigns in some of Australia’s wealthiest electorates, often where moderate members of the Liberal party have held power for years. They are campaigning on issues like greater action on climate change, a federal integrity commission, and bettering the treatment of women.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen independent candidates like Allegra Spender in Wentworth, Kylea Tink in North Sydney, Dr Sophie Scamps in Mackellar, Zoe Daniel in Goldstein, Professor Monique Ryan in Kooyong, Georgia Steele and Linda Seymour in Hughes.
Often high-profile, these candidates are all highly educated with decades of successful professional careers behind them. They are gathering support from disaffected Liberal voters in their electorates, who have issues like climate change and a federal integrity comission high on their list of concerns.
Allegra Spender, the daughter of late fashion designer Carla Zampatti, has a background in economics and business. She’s challenging Liberal MP Dave Sharma in Wentworth, who currently holds the seat on a slim 1.3 per cent margin. Spender is the daughter and granddaughter of two Liberal politicians, and counts Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull as old family friends.
Kylea Tink, who has extensive experience in business as the CEO of various charities including the McGrath Foundation, is challenging Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney, while former ABC journalist and foreign correspondent Zoe Daniel has come forward to challenge Liberal MP Tim Wilson in Melbourne’s Goldstein.
Many of these candidates have been offered financial support from Simon Holmes á Court’s Climate 200 organisation and have risen from a groundswell of community support and local movements like the ‘Voices of’ groups, previously seen in electorates like Indi and Warringah.
Speaking on ABC Breakfast on Monday morning Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who is facing a challenge from Professor Monique Ryan in the Melbourne electorate of Kooyong, dismissed the rise of independent candidates as a “rinse-and-repeat”, labelling them a front for the Labor party and the Greens.
Dr Sophie Scamps, a GP from Avalon who will run against Liberal MP Jason Falinski in the seat of Mackellar on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, said Frydenberg’s dismissal reflects how the government has failed to heed the warning of many moderate Liberal voters who have been disappointed after years of inaction on climate and an integrity commission.
“They have no answers to the issues being raised, like climate and integrity, so they employ these scare tactics,” Scamps told Women’s Agenda. “They’re just throwing out these slurs, without engaging with what the problem is. So many of these electorates have been taken for granted.”
“People are so frustrated with what’s going on. The most wonderful thing that came out of my launch is people writing to me and saying they are feeling hopeful for the first time.”
Scamps is running on a platform of stronger climate action, a federal integrity commission, health issues including mental health and pollution, and a strong economy. She said she had been disheartened to see her local MP Jason Falinski, vote with Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on issues relating to climate change.
Scamps said she had been excited to see female independents step forward in other electorates and said there’s an appetite in the community for more centrist female voices in parliament.
“Men and women have been telling me constantly that it’s time to see more women enter parliament,” she said. “Everyone has seen the toxic culture in parliament this year, and it’s no longer acceptable.”
“If you look at current independents like Helen Haines and Zali Steggall, they’ve been the voices of reason during this term of parliament. They’re in there, just trying to get the job done.”