16 key seats that will decide election

 

There are 151 seats up for grabs in the 2019 election, but some matter more than others.

Scott Morrison has announced we will head to the polls on May 18, and all eyes will be on these key electorates.

Below we have listed the 16 electorates you should watch closely during the campaign. These seats will tell you the most about which side is likely to win.

GILMORE

State: New South Wales

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Ann Sudmalis

Margin: 0.7

Last result: Liberals 50.7, Labor 49.3

Candidates: Warren Mundine (LIB), Fiona Phillips (ALP), Katrina Hodgkinson (NAT), Milton Leslight (UAP), Grant Schultz (IND)

Why you should watch it:

Ann Sudmalis is leaving her ultra-marginal seat at the election - but not before giving her own party one heck of a serve.

Ms Sudmalis has blamed her decision to quit on a campaign of "bullying, betrayal and backstabbing" against her - claims adamantly denied by the Liberal Party.

And the tussle that ensued to fill her seat caused a controversy of its own.

Scott Morrison intervened with a so-called "captain's pick", recruiting former Labor Party president Warren Mundine to run in Gilmore.

Mr Mundine is a big-name candidate, but with a tiny margin to defend, the Liberals are still extremely nervous.

 

 

Warren Mundine. Picture: Phil Harris/The Australian
Warren Mundine. Picture: Phil Harris/The Australian

LINDSAY

State: New South Wales

Held by: Labor

Incumbent: Emma Husar

Margin: 1.1

Last result: Labor 51.1, Liberals 48.9

Candidates: Diane Beamer (ALP), Melissa McMahon (LIB), Christopher Buttel (UAP)

Why you should watch it:

Lindsay has a reputation as a bellwether seat. Until 2016, it had been won by the party that formed government at every election since it was created in 1984.

Incumbent MP Emma Husar bucked that trend, but she is not recontesting the seat - at least, not as a Labor candidate.

Last year Ms Husar announced she would quit at the election, citing the pressure she had faced from both inside and outside the party over allegations of workplace misconduct.

An investigation later cleared her, and she decided she did want to run again after all.

But Labor was already moving on. It chose someone else - former NSW state politician Diane Beamer - as its candidate for Lindsay.

Ms Husar has signalled she will consider running as an independent. Even if she doesn't, the race in this traditionally close electorate is even more interesting than usual.

REID

State: New South Wales

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Craig Laundy

Margin: 4.7

Last result: Liberals 54.7, Labor 45.3

Candidates: Sam Crosby (ALP), Charles Jago (GRN), Mohammed Yasin (UAP)

Why you should watch it:

Craig Laundy, a former minister perhaps best known for his loyalty to Malcolm Turnbull, is quitting at the election.

The Liberals had never won Reid before Mr Laundy swiped the seat from Labor in 2013. They fear his departure will lead the electorate to flip back.

Making matters worse, Scott Morrison struggled to find a high profile replacement for Mr Laundy, as he was knocked back by former NSW Police deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas and journalist Stan Grant.

Without a well-known candidate, the task of clinging to Reid gets even harder.

ROBERTSON

State: New South Wales

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Lucy Wicks

Margin: 1.1

Last result: Liberals 51.1, Labor 48.9

Candidates: Lucy Wicks (LIB), Anne Charlton (ALP), Robert Marks (UAP), David Abrahams (IND)

Why you should watch it:

Robertson is pretty much the definition of a bellwether seat. The voters here have gone with the winning party on every occasion since 1983.

It's as simple as that, really.

The incumbent MP Lucy Wicks won Robertson for the Liberals in 2013 as Tony Abbott led the Coalition to a landslide victory.

She will face much tougher conditions this time.

RELATED: Every seat in the 2019 federal election

Lucy Wicks. Picture: Sue Graham/AAP
Lucy Wicks. Picture: Sue Graham/AAP

WARRINGAH

State: New South Wales

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Tony Abbott

Margin: 11.6

Last result: Liberals 61.6, Greens 38.4

Candidates: Tony Abbott (LIB), Zali Steggall (IND), Dean Harris (ALP), Kristyn Glanville (GRN), Suellen Wrightson (UAP), Susan Moylan-Coombs (IND)

Why you should watch it:

Tension has been building for months between former prime minister Tony Abbott and his main challenger, Olympian and barrister Zali Steggall.

Ms Steggall is the first genuine threat Mr Abbott has faced in Warringah since he easily won a by-election for the seat in 1994. He has never failed to win a majority of the primary vote.

But polls show Ms Steggall, framing herself as an economic conservative but a social liberal, could beat him.

Mr Abbott has been campaigning relentlessly on local issues this time, after so many years spent focusing on the national debate. Ms Steggall is pushing for stronger action on climate change.

The race for Warringah will likely be the highest profile one in the country, as a formidable independent tries to knock off a former prime minister.

 

Tony Abbott and Zali Steggall. Picture: Monique Harmer
Tony Abbott and Zali Steggall. Picture: Monique Harmer

 

WENTWORTH

State: New South Wales

Held by: Independent

Incumbent: Kerryn Phelps

Margin: 1.2

Last result: Independent 51.2, Liberals 48.8

Candidates: Kerryn Phelps (IND), Dave Sharma (LIB), Tim Murray (ALP), Dominic Kanak (GRN), Mike Bloomfield (UAP)

Why you should watch it:

Wentworth had been held by the Liberals for decades before Malcolm Turnbull quit parliament and Kerryn Phelps won the ensuing by-election in October.

At this election, Dr Phelps will again face off against the man she narrowly beat on that occasion, Dave Sharma.

Mr Turnbull's shadow still looms over Wentworth. Some Liberals, including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, publicly blamed him for the party's by-election defeat there, claiming he should have done more to help Mr Sharma's campaign.

Ultimately, Dr Phelps didn't win by much. This might be the Liberals' best chance to dislodge her.

CAPRICORNIA

State: Queensland

Held by: LNP

Incumbent: Michelle Landry

Margin: 0.6

Last result: LNP 50.6, Labor 49.4

Candidates: Michelle Landry (LNP), Russell Robertson (ALP), Wade Rothery (PHON)

Why you should watch it:

Capricornia is a seat that historically leans towards Labor. Its most recent Labor MP, Kirsten Livermore, held the electorate from 1998-2013, a tenure that spanned most of the Howard government.

The LNP needs to resist that history. It hopes growing tensions in Labor over the balance between jobs and the environment will help it cling on.

DICKSON

State: Queensland

Held by: LNP

Incumbent: Peter Dutton

Margin: 1.7

Last result: LNP 51.6, Labor 48.4

Candidates: Peter Dutton (LNP), Ali France (ALP), Benedict Coyne (GRN)

Why you should watch it:

Peter Dutton is at serious risk of losing his own seat, which he has held since 2001.

If Mr Dutton does lose, he will likely be the government's highest profile victim on election night.

As home affairs minister, Mr Dutton is in charge of Australia's security, and has broad influence over immigration policy.

But most Australians probably know him as the man whose attempt to replace Malcolm Turnbull bizarrely resulted in Scott Morrison becoming prime minister instead.

 

Peter Dutton. Picture: Kym Smith
Peter Dutton. Picture: Kym Smith

 

FORDE

State: Queensland

Held by: LNP

Incumbent: Bert van Manen

Margin: 0.6

Last result: LNP 50.6, Labor 49.4

Candidates: Bert van Manen (LNP), Des Hardman (ALP), Kirsty Peterson (GRN)

Why you should watch it:

Here's a fun fact about Forde - according to polls its voters are the least engaged in the country, with only 7 per cent interested in politics.

That's ironic, because politics is definitely interested in them.

Forde is a decent bellwether - aside from a blip in 2010, it has correctly predicted the election result at every election since 1987.

And it is another seat where the government needs to defend a very tight margin.

HERBERT

State: Queensland

Held by: Labor

Incumbent: Cathy O'Toole

Margin: 0.02

Last result: LNP 49.98, Labor 50.02

Candidates: Cathy O'Toole (ALP), Phillip Thompson (LNP), Sam Blackadder (GRN), Clive Palmer (UAP), Nanette Radeck (KAP)

Why you should watch it:

 

For the Coalition to stay in power, it will need to snatch at least a couple of seats off Labor. Herbert is the best candidate.

 

With Labor's Cathy O'Toole defending a margin of two-hundredths of a per cent, the LNP needs only the tiniest of swings.

And this electorate's recent history is encouraging for it. The Liberals, and then the LNP, held Herbert for seven consecutive terms between 1996 and 2016.

 

Cathy O'Toole. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Cathy O'Toole. Picture: Zak Simmonds

 

CHISHOLM

State: Victoria

Held by: Independent

Incumbent: Julia Banks

Margin: 2.9

Last result: Liberals 51.2, Labor 48.8

Candidates: Gladys Liu (LIB), Jennifer Yang (ALP)

Why you should watch it:

Julia Banks was the only MP to win a seat off Labor at the last election.

Of course, she isn't a member of the government anymore.

Last year Ms Banks quit the Liberals to join the crossbench, slamming her party's treatment of Malcolm Turnbull, its approach on issues such as asylum seekers and climate change, and its failure to address its problems with women.

She is not recontesting Chisolm. Instead, she is running against Health Minister Greg Hunt in another Victorian electorate, Flinders, as an independent.

That leaves her seat wide open.

Julia Banks. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Julia Banks. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

 

CORANGAMITE

State: Victoria

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Sarah Henderson

Margin: 0.03

Last result: Liberals 53.1, Labor 46.9

Candidates: Sarah Henderson (LIB), Libby Coker (ALP), Simon Northeast (GRN), Damien Cole (IND)

Why you should watch it:

Sarah Henderson is the victim of a nightmarish redistribution that has cut her margin in this crucial Victorian seat down to the tiniest of slivers - 0.03 per cent.

Ms Henderson says she is preparing for "the biggest fight" of her life. Which is probably wise.

DUNKLEY

State: Victoria

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Chris Crewther

Margin: -1

Last result: Liberals 51.4, Labor 48.6

Candidates: Chris Crewther (LIB), Peta Murphy (ALP)

Why you should watch it:

Confused by that margin of negative one?

Last year's boundary changes didn't just wipe out Mr Crewther's majority in Dunkley, they turned it into a notionally Labor seat, as the electorate lost Mornington in the south to Flinders while gaining Carrum Downs in the north from Isaacs.

So to retain the seat, the Liberals actually need a swing towards them.

And it's crucial that they do retain it, having won the seat at every election since 1996.

FLINDERS

State: Victoria

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Greg Hunt

Margin: 7

Last result: Liberals 57.8, Labor 42.2

Candidates: Greg Hunt (LIB), Julia Banks (IND), Joshua Sinclair (ALP), Louis Fenollar (APP), Simon Mulvany (IND)

Why you should watch it:

We mentioned Julia Banks earlier, and her decision not to recontest Chisolm.

That's because she is gunning for Health Minister Greg Hunt in Flinders, despite his relatively comfortable margin.

The two MPs have some unfinished business after the messy toppling of Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Hunt's open support of Peter Dutton.

And the result here will tell us a lot about the potency of Liberal-leaning independents.

 

Greg Hunt. Picture: Gary Ramage
Greg Hunt. Picture: Gary Ramage

 

GREY

State: South Australia

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Rowan Ramsey

Margin: 1.1

Last result: Liberals 52, NXT 48

Candidates: Rowan Ramsey (LIB), Andrea Broadfoot (CA), Karin Bolton (ALP), Candace Champion (GRN), Richard Carmody (IND)

Why you should watch it:

Nick Xenophon's party, the Centre Alliance, is only a political force in South Australia. But it can do some serious damage there.

One of its members, Rebekha Sharkie, already holds one seat in the state.

Can the party add a second? If so, Grey is the most likely option. Liberal MP Roway Ramsey won a relatively tight contest last time.

PEARCE

State: Western Australia

Held by: Liberals

Incumbent: Christian Porter

Margin: 3.6

Last result: Liberals 53.6, Labor 46.4

Candidates: Christian Porter (LIB), Kim Travers (ALP), Eugene Marshall (GRN), Robert Forrster (UAP), Sandy Old (PHON), Stephen Piper (APP), Steve Blythe (NAT)

Why you should watch it:

There was speculation Attorney-General Christian Porter wanted to switch to Julie Bishop's safe seat of Curtin when she announced she would quit politics. That didn't happen.

Instead, Mr Porter has to defend his moderate margin of 3.6 per cent in Pearce - a margin that dropped sharply from over 8 per cent at the last election.

There will undoubtedly be a sharp focus on Curtin throughout the campaign, and whether the socially conservative Celia Hammond can hold onto Ms Bishop's level of support.

But keep an eye on Pearce, and the fortunes of its high profile member.