By Katina Curtis
Whichever party wants to form government needs to command a majority of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives after the election.
But not all electorates are in play, with many steadfastly electing a member of one political colour or another poll after poll.
The 20 seats to watch are a mixture of those with super-slim margins, must-win or must-keep electorates for both sides, and a couple that should normally be safe Liberal holdings where the introduction of independents and minor parties has shaken things up.
These are the seats leaders Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese will visit over and over, as will senior frontbenchers and possibly party veterans like John Howard.
Already since parliament ended, Mr Morrison has been in Bass and Lyons in Tasmania and Chisholm in Melbourne. Mr Albanese has visited the key seats of Dobell, on the NSW central coast, Lilley in Brisbane, and Swan in Perth.
The most marginal seat in the country is Macquarie in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains region, held by Labor’s Susan Templeman with 0.2 percentage points. In 2019, the result was so tight in Macquarie that Liberal candidate Sarah Richards attended the first Coalition party room meeting in Canberra, thinking she was ahead in the counting only for the votes to end up against her. She’s running again this time around, hoping to take the seat back for the Liberals.
Next comes Bass in north-western Tasmania, held by Liberal MP Bridget Archer with a 0.4-point margin.
Bass is one of a trio of seats in Tasmania’s north – along with Braddon and Lyons – where voters regularly flip between one party and another. But Ms Archer has made a name for herself on the national stage, airing concerns about the government’s plans for the welfare debit card and crossing the floor in votes on a commonwealth integrity commission and protections for transgender students.
There are tight races all around the country. Others to look out for are Labor-held Lilley, Eden-Monaro, Cowan, Corangamite and Blair, and the Liberals’ Chisholm and Boothby – all have margins of less than 1.5 points.
Then there are those seats with slightly stronger margins but which the major parties must hold on to if they are to win (or keep) government.
The west has been a stronghold for the Coalition in recent memory, but the popularity of Labor premier Mark McGowan coupled with a reshaping of electorate boundaries could change that. These factors make Swan, in inner-city Perth, and Pearce in its northern suburbs important ones to watch.
Both seats also have Liberal incumbents retiring, including Christian Porter in Pearce, whose ambitions to one day lead the country crumbled over the past year after allegations – which he strenuously denies – came to light that he raped a young woman when both were teenagers.
Queensland voters deserted Labor in 2019 but the party has hopes of wooing them back this time. Mr Albanese attended a campaign rally in Brisbane last weekend and has made regular trips to the sunshine state. A seat to watch is Longman, which former whitegoods and golf franchisee Terry Young picked up for the Liberals last election.
Then there are the rich urban seats that usually count as Liberal strongholds – Goldstein in Melbourne and Wentworth in Sydney – but are facing incursions from the so-called teal independents.
Incumbent MPs Tim Wilson and Dave Sharma, respectively, are in the moderate branch of the Liberals and have pushed for action on causes ranging from same-sex marriage to adopting a net zero emissions target.
Their independent opponents say trying to make change or doing it behind the scenes isn’t enough, and are trying to tap into discontent particularly around climate change and integrity to sway voters.
Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.
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