Sandy Bolton, Queensland’s first teal independent, on what the new guard can expect

Just before 9pm on election night, the utterly safe and wealthy Liberal seat of Mackellar on Sydney’s northern beaches fell to a well-known local GP named Sophie Scamps running as an independent.

The victories for the so-called “teal independents” would keep coming, and their success in such tightly held Coalition seats has changed a government, shocked the major parties, and may force the Nationals into an ugly leadership fight.

More than 1,000 kilometers away from Dr Scamps’ victory party was Sandy Bolton, watching the coverage from her Noosa home.

She’s no psychic but nevertheless she saw it coming.

Ms Bolton pried the safe LNP seat of Noosa from the LNP in 2017, running as an independent with teal signage and shirts.

She might be described as Australia’s first teal independent — and is still the only independent MP in Queensland parliament.

A composite image made of three separate images of three women in business attire.
The so-called teal independents — Zali Steggall, Kylea Tink and Allegra Spender.(supplied)

“It was like something I knew years ago,” she said.

“We need to see different politics and a different parliament — and here we go, at a federal level I think we’re seeing that.”

‘It won’t be just blue seats next time’

In 2020, she fought off the major parties – particularly the LNP – to not just hold, but increase her support with a 12.5 per cent swing.

She said in her case, the community wanted someone who could fight for their community, without having to grapple with the goals or policies of a larger party.

people lying on a beach
Noosa was a safe LNP seat when it was won by Sandy Bolton in 2017.(ABC News: Jessica Lamb)

Ms Bolton said, with Australians seeing an option beyond the two big party tents, the new independents could change everything for politics and politicians.

“I think you may see more of that, but not necessarily targeted next time to the particular blue [Liberal] seats, there could be some targeting the red [Labor].

“The pathway has been made clear how you can affect change.”

Major party smears during campaign ‘horrendous’

Since her election, Ms Bolton has had to chart her own course working with a Labor government while representing a traditionally conservative electorate.

A woman holds a sign at the Brisbane pro-choice rally in May.
Sandy Bolton backed the Queensland Labor government to legalize abortion.(Supplied: Susan Kotzur-Yang)

She voted to support Labor’s bill on legalizing abortion in 2018 and voluntary assisted dying in 2021 – though both were conscience and received some LNP support.

Ms Bolton says she does not abstain on votes, but instead decides “what it delivers … for Noosa”.

That policy brought her into the crosshairs in 2020 when an LNP candidate ran a campaign attacking her for voting with Labor “over 120 times”.

It failed to mention that she had voted with the LNP 104 times in the same period.

Far from chipping away at her popularity, her support increased.

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