IT'S long been one of the northern beaches' favourite watering holes, but on this balmy spring night hundreds gathered for a very different reason.
Even before incumbent independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall walked onto the stage for her campaign launch at Hotel Steyne's rooftop function room, people were singing her praises. Legendary surfer Layne Beachley was among them and she called on the community to vote independent in the federal election on May 21.
At the other end of the northern beaches local government area, hundreds gathered at Avalon cinema this week to hear from rising independent star Dr Sophie Scamps, at her sold-out Ocean Film Festival and rally.
The Avalon resident, and long-time Narrabeen GP, has turned her hand to politics and is running as a candidate in Mackellar. It's a seat that's been in the hands of the Liberals since 1949.
Scamps' election campaign has attracted 1000 volunteers, who for weeks have been letterbox dropping flyers, door knocking homes and waving placards along main roads at passing motorists.
A quick drive around the electorates and you'll see Scamps and Steggall posters outside countless homes and businesses. Yes there's also Liberal ones, but it's been a bit hard to miss the rise of the teal movement in the northern beaches.
Not only are Steggall and Scamps attracting the disenchanted voters, they're also attracting local celebrity backers.
North Balgowlah resident Steggall might have had Beachley at her launch, but Scamps has attracted the support of former pro surfer Tom Carroll, Better Homes and Gardens cook 'Fast' Ed Halmagyi, and groovy northern beaches band Lime Cordiale, who will be playing at her Avalon rally - registrations essential via Scamps' website - this Sunday at 2pm in Dunbar Park. The whole thing has a real rockstar vibe to it.
Barrister and winter Olympian Steggall, who toppled former Liberals Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the seat of Warringah at the 2019 federal election, is campaigning for re-election. If elected, she'll push forward the climate change bill, support the Federal Integrity Commission and push for accountability of government.
If elected, Scamps vows to put the community first, and says her key policy points are centred around climate, integrity, economy, health and equality.
Steggall and Scamps say they are unwaveringly independent and, if elected, they'd only be answerable to the residents in their electorates.
The way the major parties do politics it's very blokey, adversarial, there's no collaboration and there's no desire to come up with good collective outcomes that take us forward.- Incumbent independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall.
In the case of a hung parliament, Steggall would consider "what arrangements are in place" with Coalition and Labor; also what deals the Liberals have with the Nationals and One Nation.
While Scamps said she's looking forward to those negotiations, "I'm looking forward to seeing what either of the parties offer because it's crystal clear what I'm taking to the election. What I'm taking to the election has come from the people of Mackellar".
Major parties have lost support
At the 2019 federal election, voters delivered the major parties their lowest primary vote in years, further evidence, experts say, of the public's declining trust and growing disdain of Australian politics and politicians.
"Support for the two major parties is basically at an all-time low in Australia," Australian National University politics lecturer Jill Sheppard said.
Steggall said the Coalition and Labor are no longer listening to the community.
"The community wants engagement on the big issues, they're tired of the polarised, adversarial politics of the major teams," she said.
"There's no collaboration, there's no desire to come up with good collective outcomes that take us forward.
"As a result, you're not getting any major reform occurring because what the major parties are focused on is 'how do I going to beat the other side?' They're not focused on 'what's my legacy going to be, what are the major challenges that need to be addressed, what is actually right to do?'"
Scamps said Mackellar has been ignored thanks to 73 years of being under Liberals leadership.
"We've even got a vast number of Liberal voters who feel that the Coalition no longer represents them after voting Coalition their entire lives," she said.
"What the independents can do is just bring back that decision making, work across the board, work across the political spectrum and just bring back some common sense sense debate and negotiations so that we're focusing on issue not just ideology."
Driven for change in their electorates
A sense of duty as a mother and a GP is behind Scamps' decision to run.
"I'm a mother, I've got three children," she said. "I'm doing it for them and I'm doing it for everybody else's children."
And climate change is something she is focused on.
"The World Health Organisation has said that climate change is the greatest threat to human health," she said. "When we think that the government argued successfully in the federal court that they should not be held to have a duty of care to the children of Australia, or future children of Australia, then you really know there's something wrong with our leadership."
Putting forward the climate change bill is among Steggall's proudest moments since being elected. So too is helping people with NDIS and aged care issues, assisting locals stuck overseas during the COVID border closures, and helping female athletes from Kabul in Afghanistan escape.
Despite the negatives that can swirl around some politicians and their actions, Steggall said she's had an "incredibly positive" experience since being elected.
"I'm only as strong as the community I'm representing, and I know that sounds cheesy, but it is true," she said.
"As an independent I don't have a party machine behind me so I rely on the community. This is the most important thing I can do to shape the future. We have, I think, incredible challenges ahead, but also great opportunities when it comes to investments, the economy, climate."
Who funds the independents' campaigns?
While Climate 200, helmed by clean energy investor Simon Holmes à Court, is a source of support for Scamps and Steggall, both point out that many donations have come from within their own communities.
So far, Scamps has received almost $570,000 from 640 community donors, with Climate 200 promising to match community funding dollar-for-dollar.
Steggall received 1800 donations, the vast majority from individuals, with total funds coming in at more than $700,000. While Climate 200 did not donate to her 2019 election campaign, she said they will donate this time. She declined to confirm how much this will be.
Steggall recently came under fire for her recording of $100,000 in donations, made by a family trust and recorded under eight separate entries.
"I wasn't aware that the eight pledges and distributions had come in the form of one cheque," she said. "The AEC reviewed and characterised it as one donation and it wasn't amended, and I didn't appeal that decision."
Both Steggall and Scamps say there are no strings attached to Climate 200 donations.
Steggall said while independents are often questioned about their donations, major parties were not. "Major parties amass a lot of donations from lobby groups that I think are questionable, like fossil fuels, like the mineral council, like gambling bodies, like hotel associations and I think that's quite problematic," she said.
Who are you anyway?
When she's not running her campaign to get elected, Scamps said she's just like any other northern beaches resident who loves the outdoors, beach and laidback lifestyle
"I'm just a normal mum in the community who like to learn to surf with my friends. I hang out with my family," she said. Scamps and her husband Adam Magro have three children, all teenagers, aged 13, 15 and 17.
Steggall has a "modern family of five, but only two residing at home" with second husband Tim Irving.
She also admits she gets "pretty angsty" if she doesn't keep fit and counts crossfit, trail running and regular swims with the Bold and Beautiful among her exercise routine.
"I don't really think of myself as a politician, I just think I'm a normal person prepared to be in the spotlight to advance what so many people care about," she said.
Still not sure who to vote for?
The Northern Beaches Review will be running an in-depth federal election special on May 18. It will include information on candidates, what they're standing for and why they want your vote.
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