Premier Gladys Berejiklian would be thrown into a minority government if polling is repeated across New South Wales in the March 23 election.
The latest Newspoll results, published in The Australian, have the Coalition and Labor at 50-50 as pre-polling opened for early voters.
The predicted 4.3 per cent swing against the Coalition would set Ms Berejiklian back six seats and into a minority government if the trend were repeated uniformly this election.
Opposition Leader Michael Daley would need to take 13 seats to form a majority. He has ruled out brokering a deal to form a minority government, but would be far less likely than the Coalition to be in a position to do so, in any case.
The controversial stadiums rebuild has so far dominated the campaign rhetoric, while polling found voters are most concerned about the state’s finances and environmental protection.
The seats the Coalition is defending
Long-serving Nationals MP Thomas George is retiring after holding on to the north coast seat by just 0.2 per cent (two-party preferred) in 2015.
The contest will be tight between the Nationals and Labor, with the Greens in with a shot after taking the neighbouring seat of Ballina in 2015. However, the coal seam gas debate is unlikely to remain a vote swinger this election.
Retiring Liberal MP Glenn Brookes holds East Hills in former Labor heartland in Sydney’s south west by a razor-thin 0.4 per cent. Defending Liberal candidate Wendy Lindsay will go up against Labor’s Cameron Murphy, who also contested the last election.
The Nationals are entering the race in Upper Hunter with a 2.2 per cent margin. Labor was forced to replace its candidate in January, while the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is contesting with Lee Watts, who earned a primary vote of 19 per cent as an independent in 2015.
Nationals leader John Barilaro held onto Monaro by 2.5 per cent in 2015 and will face Labor candidate Bryce Wilson on March 23. He has removed National Party branding from his website. On Tuesday, he issued a warning to the federal party to “just shut up” and stop talking about themselves in the middle of the NSW election campaign.
Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith is defending a 2.9 per cent margin. The seat covers Randwick and the eastern side of Centennial Park, where the controversial light-rail project was supposed to be finished by the election.
This seat is held by the Nationals by 3.2 per cent. MP Geoff Provest will go up against Labor’s Craig Elliot, the husband of federal Labor MP for Richmond Justine Elliot.
Austin Evans, of the Nationals, has a 3.3 per cent margin after the October 2017 Murray by-election. He will again face Helen Dalton, an independent turned Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate.
The Coalition will also be defending Penrith, Goulburn, Oatley, Holsworthy, Heathcote, Myall Lakes, Seven Hills, Clarence, Riverstone, Barwon, Coffs Harbour, Wollondilly, Dubbo, and the North Shore.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers took Orange from the Nationals by 0.1 per cent in a November 2017 by-election and will expect another fight this election.
Greens MP Tamara Smith grabbed Ballina on the north coast in 2015 by 3.1 per cent, and will be defending the seat from Nationals candidate Ben Franklin and Labor’s Asren Pugh.
Jamie Parker, of the Greens, took Balmain from Labor in 2011, and will be fighting to maintain his 4.7 per cent margin from the 2015 election.
Independent Joe McGirr won Wagga Wagga in a hard-fought by-election in September that shook the government. He smashed the Liberals by 9.6 per cent, after former MP Daryl Maguire was taken down by a corruption scandal. The Liberals were also hampered in Wagga Wagga when the federal party sacked Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister partway through the by-election campaign. The Nationals are now contesting the seat with Mackenna Powell.
Where Labor is at risk
Labor will be confident of extending its margins this election, but is defending tight leads in The Entrance, Strathfield, Granville, Prospect and Port Stephens.
Labor has harnessed the controversial Sydney Football Stadium rebuild, which has been a toxic issue for the government.
Mr Daley has accused the Coalition of prioritising the $730 million demolition above health and education, while Ms Berejiklian says NSW can “have it all”.
A court challenge to the rebuild was thrown out last week, but an appeal is expected to be heard this week.
Polling for the Sydney Morning Herald found 57.5 per cent of voters were concerned about climate change and the environment.
Financial management was the top priority for the 1019 respondents, followed by the environment, health, transport, schools and cost of living.
Both parties targeted education in their election campaign launches in Sydney’s west.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Labor leader Bill Shorten were both at the state campaign launches, but Mr Morrison did not address his party faithful.