Just a little more than 13,000 Australians have the potential to decide the next election.
With the nation due to head to the polls in less than four months, the major political parties are very aware that only a handful of seats could determine who is victorious.
Labor will have to pick up just seven seats for Anthony Albanese to become the next Prime Minister.
And it’s a real possibility after the latest Newspoll, released this week, found that popular support for the Coalition has fallen to its lowest levels since the 2018 leadership spill.
The Coalition also hasn’t been helped by an electoral boundary redistribution – due to population changes – that’s created a new electorate in Melbourne expected to be a safe Labor seat, while abolishing a Liberal-held one in Western Australia.
It means the Coalition has 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to form majority government – and will have to hold onto that number or replace any losses.
When calculating how many votes Labor would need to pick up in order to gain seven of the most marginal Coalition-held seats on its radar, it amounts to as a little as 13,022 Aussies who could get them over the line.
Which seats will Labor target?
A major part of Labor’s strategy is focused on Queensland following a disastrous result in 2019 when it secured only six out of the state’s 30 seats.
“There’s four seats in Queensland that are definitely in play,” a source said.
They named Leichhardt, located in the state’s far north, which is currently held by long-time MP Warren Entsch, 71, on a margin of 4.1 per cent, as one of them.
“The general theory has been that you can’t beat Entsch,” the source said.
“But the fact that the last election wasn’t a good one in Queensland, we still held the line there.”
They said their candidate, Elida Faith, was more experienced now running for the second time.
Another seat Labor hopes it can turn is Flynn, located in central Queensland and spanning an area twice the size of Tasmania.
Liberal MP Ken O’Dowd, who holds the seat on an 8.7 per cent margin, is retiring and Labor’s candidate is popular Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett.
“On paper you’d look at it and go Labor can’t win, the margin is too big, but those seats always become vulnerable when there’s a retirement,” the source said.
“It takes in a lot of territory, it’s a really hard seat in terms of it’s a 10-hour drive from one end to the other and Matt is really getting out and about in the area.”
The source also named Longman, which has a large retiree population – a demographic unimpressed with Labor’s franking credits policy at the last election – as another shot.
“We held it from 2016 to 2019, it was a classic seat we lost on the scare campaign against us,” the source said.
They said Liberal MP Terry Young hadn’t been “overly active” and their candidate, health policy expert Rebecca Fanning, was “turning up at everything she can”.
“We’ve picked a really good candidate who’s working hard, she lives locally and grew up over that side of town and has a really good policy brain,” they said.
The source also named the seat of Brisbane as a target due to the small ‘l’ liberal population.
“You think about the issues running at the moment, climate change, the integrity issues and also some of the issues around the treatment of women as well,” they said.
“All of those play out in a negative way for the government for a seat like Brisbane.”
Labor will also be targeting Chisholm in Melbourne – with Mr Albanese visiting the electorate on Monday, after being there nine days earlier.
“It was one we were hoping or expecting to win last time, we were disappointed, that’s probably the main chance down there,” the source said.
Meanwhile, in South Australia, Boothby is on their radar and in Tasmania they are looking at Bass and Braddon, which are both held by the Liberal MPs on slim margins.
In Western Australia Labor is hoping for Pearce – where former Attorney-General Christian Porter is retiring – and Swan where Steve Irons is also stepping down.
What seats are the Coalition going after?
The Coalition’s sights had been on NSW.
But they are facing a big problem – infighting is holding up the preselection of candidates in crucial areas.
“NSW is going to be the key state for us retaining government,” one source said.
“The sooner we have candidates the better, we need candidates in the field as soon as possible.”
They listed Eden-Monaro, Gilmore, Macquarie, Paterson, Dobell, Shortland and Parramatta as ones on their radar.
But three of those don’t have candidates yet.
Dobell is held by Labor on a margin of just 1.5 per cent – but without a Liberal alternative locked in hopes are fading it can be wrested back.
Macquarie – the most marginal seat in Australia – is one of their biggest hopes.
In the past two weeks, the Prime Minister and four cabinet ministers have all paid visits to candidate and local councillor Sarah Richards.
Another source named Dunkley and Corangamite as the two seats they’d be going on the offensive for in Victoria.
“Corangamite has a lower margin, but it’s probably demographically Dunkley which is more favourable, it’s a bit more aspirational,” the source said.
“It has a lot more up-and-coming tradies who really care about economic growth and job security.
“In Corangamite there are a lot of tree changers and sea changers who are more well off financially, so a lot of them have come from Labor seats and are inner-city professionals who are retiring or semi-retiring.”
But the source said that their candidate Stephanie Asher, who is the mayor of Geelong, had them feeling confident.
“She has a good high profile, she’s a very engaging person,” they said.
Meanwhile, they said Lyons was the seat they hoped to pick up in Tasmania, after losing last time when their candidate got caught out in a social media controversy.
SEATS LABOR IS TARGETING
Margin: 4.2 per cent
Labor believes this seat, held by 71-year-old Warren Entsch, is in play. Their candidate, former Centrelink staffer and union president, Elida Faith, is running for a second time.
Margin: 3.3 per cent
The LNP’s Terry Young ousted Labor’s sitting MP Susan Lamb from the seat at the last election. Now the ALP are looking to win it back with candidate Rebecca Fanning, a health policy expert who worked on the Queensland Covid response.
Margin: 8.7 per cent
Despite the big margin, Labor believes this seat is a chance because the LNP’s Ken O’Dowd is retiring. Their candidate is Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett, who’s been in local government for more than 20 years.
Margin: 4.9 per cent
One of two seats in Queensland which had a swing against the Coalition in 2019, the Brisbane electorate is on Labor’s radar. The LNP’s Trevor Evans holds the seat and is up against businesswoman Madonna Jarrett.
Margin: 0.4 per cent
Labor is hoping to win back this marginal seat with local lawyer Ross Hart, who was elected in 2016 before losing to the Liberal’s Bridget Archer at the last election.
Margin: 3.1 per cent
Deemed less likely than Bass, the seat is held by Liberal Gavin Pearce. The Labor candidate is local councillor Chris Lynch, who works with people with disabilities.
Margin: 1.4 per cent
Liberal MP Nicolle Flint is retiring and a friend of the woman who accused former Attorney-General Christian Porter of rape, Jo Dyer is running as an independent. Labor’s candidate is Louise Miller-Frost.
Margin: 0.5 per cent
Sitting member Gladys Liu only just scraped in at the last election. She’s up against Labor candidate and Victorian Trades Hall Council assistant secretary Carina Garland.
Margin: 3.2 per cent
Labor is putting up engineer Zaneta Mascarenhas in the must win seat. She’s up against Sky News commentator Kristy McSweeney who was endorsed unopposed as the Liberal candidate after incumbent Steve Irons decided to retire.
Margin: 5.2 per cent
Sitting MP and former Attorney-General Christian Porter is retiring and local mayor Tracey Roberts will run as the Labor candidate against the Liberal’s Linda Aitken.
Margin: 3.2 per cent
Labor says it will be campaigning hard for this electorate to try and get candidate Sally Sitou elected. She’s up against sitting MP Fiona Martin.
SOME SEATS THE COALITION HAS IN ITS SIGHTS
Margin: 2.6 per cent
High-profile former NSW Transport Minister and state Bega MP Andrew Constance will stand against Labor’s Fiona Phillips.
Margin: 0.2 per cent
Liberal candidate Sarah Richards ran in 2019 and lost to Labor’s Susan Templeman by less than 400 votes. The Prime Minister has visited her multiple times. And so have several senior ministers.
Margin: 5 per cent
Brooke Vitnell, a solicitor who specialises in family law, wills and estates, is the Liberal candidate. The seat is held by Labor’s Meryl Swanson.
Margin: 4.4 per cent
Nell McGill, a lawyer and founder of a charity which mentors young women, is the Liberal candidate. She’ll try to beat Labor MP Pat Conroy.
Margin: 3.5 per cent
This seat is held by Labor’s Julie Owens. It’s a key seat but there was still no candidate for the Liberal Party on Friday.
Margin: 1.5 per cent
Labor’s Emma McBridge holds this seat on the Central Coast by a slim margin. A Liberal candidate has not been chosen.
Margin: 0.8 per cent
Labor’s Kristy McBain claimed victory in the by-election in 2020. A Liberal candidate has not been chosen.
Margin: 1 per cent
Stephanie Asher, who is the mayor of Geelong and a best-selling author, is deemed to be a very strong candidate for the Liberal Party. The seat is held by Labor’s Libby Coker.
Margin: 2.7 per cent
Former Crown Prosecutor Sharn Coombes is the Liberal candidate who is said to be running a “very energetic campaign”.
Margin: 5.2 per cent
A source says the Liberal Party is “optimistic” about picking up Lyons from Labor. Local councillor Susie Bower is the candidate.