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Grassroots campaign prepares to challenge Liberal MP Nicolle Flint in SA seat of Boothby

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP</span>
Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP

The movement to find independent challengers to Coalition MPs has spread beyond New South Wales and Victoria into South Australia, with Voices of Boothby emerging in the marginal Adelaide seat held by Nicolle Flint.

The group formed a few months ago and has begun holding kitchen-table discussions in an attempt to get more voters in the suburban Adelaide seat to engage in politics. The electorate runs from the Adelaide Hills to Glenelg on the coast.

Guardian Australia has reported on how the independent movement is gaining traction, inspired by the success of Warringah’s Zali Steggall and Indi’s Helen Haines in 2019.

Up to a dozen safe Coalition seats face serious, well-organised challenges.

Related: Independents' day: why safe Coalition seats are facing grassroots challenges

The Voices of Boothby chair, John Denlay, said: “Like many people we have visions of a better world but get frustrated when politicians make decisions that serve their party or donors rather than the people they are supposed to represent.

“Instead of just complaining, we want to show our politicians what our community wants. We want to create the change we want to see.”

The group has been in touch with Voices 4 Indi, which helped elect the independent and local farmer, Cathy McGowan, twice, then Haines.

The Boothby group is holding its first webinar this Wednesday to explain to people its purpose and to hear from Voices for Indi’s Denis Ginnivan and the former mayor of City of Marion Felicity Ann Lewis on citizens’ democracy.

Denlay said the first step for the group would be listening, before researching the issues that matter to the people of Boothby.

After that, he said, the group would engage with local candidates before looking at the option of supporting an independent.

Asked about the issues emerging as important in the seat, Delay said the group was holding fire until it heard from more people. “Integrity in politics comes up a lot, as well as better listening and better democracy,” he said.

The Liberal MP, Nicolle Flint, part of the party’s right faction, was targeted by GetUp in the last federal election, which branded her one of the most conservative MPs in the country.

Flint supported marriage equality but has been critical of environmental movements and South Australia’s move to renewable energy.

In her maiden speech in 2016, she spoke of the “modern-day scourge of environmental and animal activism”.

In the past, as a columnist on the Advertiser, she supported shark culls, seal culls, the rights of hunters and reducing marine park zones to help the interests of the fishing industry.

In 2014, before entering parliament, she accused the ABC of bias and wrote: “A lack of balance is often evident in ABC broadcasts on contentious policy issues such as climate change, live exports and refugees.

“The views of climate change ‘believers’ are favoured over sceptics’, animal activists over livestock producers, and refugee advocates over those who know a tough border protection policy is the only way to stop people drowning at sea.”

The Liberal MPs whose seats have spawned “voices of” groups rejected the phenomenon as nothing but a Labor ploy.

“Didn’t bother asking the question of why these so-called independents only target Coalition seats,” Wentworth’s Dave Sharma said of the Guardian article. “Is it because they are really ‘Voices of Labor’?”

The Hughes MP, Craig Kelly, has labelled the grassroots groups Hughes Deserves Better and We Are Hughes as Green voter fronts.

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