Labor holds a two-seat majority in Queensland and recent polls suggest a close contest on 31 October, with little swing in either direction since the 2017 election.
But experts say the statewide polls are of little value in understanding how the larger election night story will play out on Saturday.
Queensland is a deeply complex state – where messages in regional areas often run contrary to those used to woo city voters. Rather than a statewide pitch, Labor and the Liberal National party have been engaged in a game of electoral chess, attempting to plot a path to 47 seats.
There are 93 electorates in Queensland. The LNP needs to win nine to gain a majority.
The state has a large crossbench: three Katter’s Australia party MPs, one Green, one One Nation MP and an independent. The influence of minor parties will shape marginal contests, as well as the makeup of the next parliament.
There are more than 20 seats that could flip on Saturday. Here are the ones to watch, and what they mean in the context of a tight election.
All roads lead to Townsville
Thuringowa (Labor 4.1% v One Nation)
Townsville has three marginal seats and both campaigns have spent considerable time in the northern city, where crime and employment have dominated discussion.
On face value, the seats of Townsville (Labor’s most marginal seat) and Mundingburra (where MP Coralee O’Rourke is retiring) are closer contests than the western suburbs electorate of Thuringowa.
But both parties believe that if Townsville does swing to the LNP, Thuringowa would be the first of the three to fall. One Nation has previously polled well in Thuringowa and the contest has also been targeted by Katter’s Australia Party as a potential gain.
Others to watch: Townsville (Labor 0.4%), Mundingburra (Labor 1.1%)
LNP attempts to thread the needle
Aspley (Labor 1.2%)
The seat of Aspley, a suburban electorate in northern Brisbane, fell to Labor in 2017. LNP sources say if they cannot win it back, the party does not have a realistic path to a majority.
Aspley has changed hands regularly in the past 20 years and is strategically important to both parties. The area is an LNP stronghold at local government level and the party has chosen a long-term councillor, Amanda Cooper, to run.
Similar to Aspley, Gaven on the Gold Coast, won narrowly by Labor last election, is considered a key test of whether the LNP can win back its increasingly dwindling urban support in state politics.
Maiwar, the Brisbane western suburbs seat held by the Greens, was identified by the LNP as part of its path to victory, however it is understood the party now considers a gain there unlikely.
Others to watch: Gaven (Labor 0.7%), Mansfield (Labor 1.6%), Maiwar (Greens 1.6% v LNP)
Will One Nation continue to be a factor?
Maryborough (Labor 2.5% v One Nation)
To win the LNP needs to shift the electoral dynamic in three ways: it needs to win Townsville; it needs to regain a footing in the south-east; it needs to win back low primary support in the regions, particularly those voters who abandoned it for more conservative options.
Similarly, Labor cannot maintain a majority if it holds firm in the city but loses too much support in regional areas.
In 2017 the expected “One Nation effect” didn’t quite eventuate. The party won only one seat (Mirani) though it did have some impact on the outcome of the election, particularly in central Queensland where the LNP’s primary vote tanked.
In Maryborough (a seat the LNP won in the Campbell Newman 2012 landslide), the LNP primary vote was 18% at the last election. Word from the major party camps is the One Nation vote has tempered statewide, but it has always maintained a fervent following in pockets like Maryborough.
Similarly in Keppel, in 2017 there was a 15% swing away from the LNP, which was beaten into third by One Nation.
Others to watch: Keppel (Labor 3.1% v One Nation), Maryborough (Labor 2.5% v One Nation), Mirani (One Nation 4.8% v Labor)
Labor could offset regional losses on the city fringe
Pumicestone (LNP 0.8%)
The former Labor MP John Mikel – now an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland – says that in lieu of reliable public polling on specific seats, one way of taking the temperature of the electorate was to “follow the leaders”.
Having spent time in the regions, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pivoted her campaign to areas of LNP heartland on the Gold and Sunshine coasts where Labor hopes to win seats.
Pumicestone – which covers Caboolture and Bribie Island – is the LNP’s most marginal seat and its one-term MP, Simone Wilson, is not recontesting this election. It is the most likely Labor gain, but there are a handful of others on small margins.
If the LNP threads the needle elsewhere, it still needs to hold these vulnerable seats. If Labor loses ground in the regions, the city fringe could offset losses and keep the Palaszczuk government in power. Or a mixed bag might deliver a hung parliament.
Others to watch: Caloundra (LNP 3.4%), Glass House (LNP 3.4%), Currumbin (LNP 3.3%), Bonney (LNP 1.7%), Theodore (LNP 3.7%)
The nightmare scenario for LNP
Oodgeroo (LNP 7.2%)
The seat of Oodgeroo, based in the city of Redlands south-east of Brisbane, would be a surprise loss for the LNP’s Mark Robinson, a Pentecostal pastor who employs the former Australian Christian Lobby head, Lyle Shelton, in his electorate office.
But this week LNP leader Deb Frecklington made the surprise decision to include a whistle-stop in the electorate, rather than visit seats like Mansfield and Aspley the LNP needs to win from Labor.
Robinson is being challenged by a high-profile local independent, Claire Richardson, who opposes the controversial Toondah harbour development plan.
There are a handful of other seats the LNP need to be foregone conclusions to prevent Labor forming government. If Burdekin and Whitsunday (both on very tight margins) in the north fall to Labor, the LNP could be wiped out above the Tropic of Capricorn.
Similarly, Clayfield and Chatsworth in Brisbane, and Burleigh on the Gold Coast, are on relatively small margins. Losing those seats would trigger a Labor landslide.
Others to watch: Burdekin (LNP 0.8%), Whitsunday (Ind 0.7%), Burleigh (LNP 4.9%), Chatsworth (LNP 2.9%), Clayfield (LNP 2.4%)
Minor parties will shape the next parliament
South Brisbane (Labor 3.6% v Greens)
And finally, the most keenly anticipated contest of all is in South Brisbane, the most progressive electorate in Queensland and possibly the country. Labor’s former deputy premier Jackie Trad has been written off in this seat, where the Greens vote has surged consistently in recent years.
Last time around, Trad benefited from LNP preferences. The LNP’s “Labor last strategy” will make her task of holding the seat more difficult.
Increasingly in Brisbane electorates will be three-cornered contests between the LNP, Labor and the Greens. Preference arrangements have made the Greens serious contenders in at least four seats – possibly more – if they can run second on primary votes. These include the CBD seat of McConnell and the inner-north seat of Cooper, vacated by popular minister Kate Jones.
The same situation will occur in the north, where Katter’s Australia Party holds three seats. Some of the regional contests involving One Nation, KAP and the majors could be even more complex. In 2017, Nick Dametto won Hinchinbrook with 20.9% of the primary vote.
Others to watch: McConnell (Labor 7.9%), Cooper (Labor 10.6%), Hinchinbrook (KAP 7.6% v LNP)