Months out from the election, there is widespread speculation in Canberra that 2022 could see another hung Parliament, with neither Labor nor the Coalition expected to reach the magic 76 seats needed to win government.
Both sides are expecting a desperate, hard fought and potentially ugly campaign – and not just from the major parties.
The Greens are challenging numerous progressive Labor seats, while climate-focused independents and anti-lockdown, right-wing parties look to chip away at Coalition votes.
Twenty five seats across the country are held with a margin of less than 4 per cent.
Eight seats are held by Labor and four by the Coalition on a margin of less than 2 per cent.
In a tight race, every vote (and seat) will count – and the following marginal seats could end up being the difference.
Higgins (inner Melbourne: 3.7 per cent margin)
It’s a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, only ever held by the Liberal Party, but last poll’s 3.7 per cent margin was the closest Labor has ever been to nabbing it.
Current Liberal MP Katie Allen, a paediatrician before entering Parliament, has been a moderating and sensible voice on climate, COVID-19 issues and vaccines since winning the office in 2019.
She’s been a constant figure by Mr Morrison’s side when he’s in Melbourne, introducing the PM even when he’s not in her seat.
The Opposition selected Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious disease specialist, to challenge in Higgins.
She was criticised by the government for making comments critical of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and apologised in October for a tweet that appeared to link the suicide of a Sydney doctor to strain on the health system that she claimed was caused by the Morrison government.
Bass (northern Tasmania: 0.4 per cent margin)
Bass is the Coalition’s most marginal seat and was hard fought at the last election. And next year’s poll will be no different.
Both major parties see Bass, and its Tasmanian neighbour Braddon (3.1 margin) as part of the key to victory, with Mr Albanese and Mr Morrison expected to visit the area regularly.
Rookie Liberal MP Bridget Archer made headlines for crossing the floor to oppose the Coalition and back an integrity commission bill, and stood up against the government’s plans on the cashless debit card.
Those moves were seen as plays to win more support in ultra-marginal Bass.
Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie claims the Coalition is “completely gone” in the state, with Labor to run former MP Ross Hart in a bid to reclaim it.
Macnamara (inner Melbourne: 6.1 per cent margin)
Labor’s rising star Josh Burns holds the seat on a relatively comfortable margin, but this race is generating some interest after the Greens labelled it the top of their target list.
Greens leader Adam Bandt holds the neighbouring seat of Melbourne, and his party plans to pour resources into Macnamara.
They have selected Steph Hodgins-May to run against Burns.
Ms Hodgins-May is a familiar face in the seat, having come third in the primary vote in 2019 and having used her preferences to help Burns get over the line against a Liberal challenger with a significantly higher primary vote.
This time will be different.
The Greens will push harder than usual against Labor in a bid to claim the balance of power in a hung Parliament. So we can expect this seat to host some fireworks.
Macquarie (Blue Mountains NSW: 0.2 per cent margin)
Labor’s Susan Templeman sits on a razor-thin margin on the western edge of Sydney – the most precarious knife-edge in the nation.
Surrounded by Coalition MPs in neighbouring seats, Ms Templeman has her work cut out to hold the seat, as the government is focused on flipping seats in New South Wales to offset expected losses elsewhere.
But Ms Templeman has been a tireless advocate for her bushfire-ravaged community, and Mr Albanese has already visited her area several times in recent months to spruik her campaign.
Both sides will be desperate to grab Macquarie.
Reid (inner-west Sydney: 3.2 per cent margin)
Neighbouring Mr Albanese’s seat of Grayndler, Reid has already been a hive of campaigning activity, with the Labor leader and Mr Morrison making multiple visits in recent weeks.
The PM chose the seat for a photo opportunity when he received his booster shot, with sitting MP Fiona Martin said to be one of his favourite government members.
Dr Martin, a registered psychologist, has regularly hosted Mr Morrison in her seat, and he often rattles off her name when praising politicians during media interviews.
Labor’s unofficial campaign launch/rally in Sydney’s inner west was hosted by their candidate, Sally Sitou, who has been continually boosted by senior ALP figures.
Warringah (northern Sydney: 7.3 per cent margin)
The seat around Manly is relatively comfortable, but will host one of the fiercest battles in Sydney.
Last won by independent Zali Steggall from former PM Tony Abbott in 2019, the Liberals are desperate to claw back the former blue-ribbon seat.
The likes of “modern Liberals” Tim Wilson, Jason Falinski and Dave Sharma – all facing independent ‘Voices of’ candidates in their seats – are taking aim at Ms Steggall online and in interviews, even before the Coalition locks in a candidate.
Senator Andrew Bragg is running a website questioning her voting record and support for Labor.
But the Liberals are still scratching for a candidate, with the media storm around Gladys Berejiklian having died out.
Hughes (southern Sydney: 9.3 per cent margin)
Turncoat Liberal MP Craig Kelly is likely to be turfed out, but it will be fascinating to see what effect the potentially millions of dollars from Clive Palmer could have on voting in Hughes.
His fortune makes this a must-watch seat.
The United Australia Party leader will try to hang on, but he faces a concerted effort from the Liberals and several independent challengers directly criticising Mr Kelly over his anti-lockdown and vaccine-sceptic comments.
Wentworth (eastern Sydney: 1.3 per cent margin)
Moderate Liberal Dave Sharma narrowly beat Kerryn Phelps in 2019.
But next year he faces another cashed-up independent challenger, with Allegra Spender – daughter of fashion designer Carla Zampatti and former Liberal MP John Spender – vying to unseat him.
Wentworth could be the epicentre of the ‘Voices Of’ movement’s push at the 2022 poll, with Sharma battling to push his environmental credentials in the face of the pro-climate rally against him.
Others to watch
A swathe of retirements of sitting members have thrown open many rusted-on seats.
Queensland’s Flynn will see popular local mayor Matt Burnett run for Labor; the resignation of Christian Porter makes Western Australia’s Pearce an interesting one; while veteran Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has made way for champion pistol shooter Daniel ‘Big Dan’ Repacholi to run in Hunter.
Victoria’s Chisholm and Corangamite, and Queensland’s Lilley, have also been popular campaign stops for both parties, and will remain so with all three seats held with a margin of less than 1 per cent.
And then there are the Liberal strongholds of Mackellar, Goldstein, Kooyong and North Sydney, where the ‘Voices Of’ movement will show whether it is a true threat – or just another flash in the pan.