The 8 seats that will decide the fate of Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten during the election campaign. Photo: Mick Tsikas/Getty Images

Australia won’t know until at least Tuesday who will govern the country for the next three years, but the Coalition is hoping that postal votes will deliver them power after last night’s count left them at least 3 seats short of a majority.

While prime minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed last night that he would be able to govern outright, he needs to win six of the eight seats currently in doubt. Labor is ahead in six of those seats.

Australia faces the prospect of a hung parliament, and the Coalition will have its fingers crossed that the one million postal votes lodged before the election will flow heavily to their side – postal votes generally do favour the conservative side, who conduct better postal campaigns.

There is a possibility that the ALP could finish with 73 seats to the Coalition’s 72.

The race to form government, as it currently stands, looks like this:

Coalition: 70
Labor: 67
Nick Xenophon Team: 1
Greens: 1
Other independents: 3
In doubt: 8

And the Coalition will also fail on its key reason for calling a double dissolution election: to gain the majority in both houses for a joint sitting to pass its legislation for the union watchdog the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Here are the eight seats in doubt and how tight the contests are:

Six seats have the ALP in front.

Chisholm, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, is the tightest on just 50.02% – literally a handful of votes – where the popular sitting MP and former speaker Anna Burke retired. Liberals candidate Julia Banks has picked up a swing of around 1.6% on the two-party preferred (2PP), with the Greens doing well and preferences roughly evenly split between the two major parties, making it harder for Labor’s Stefanie Perri to hang on.

Forde, in Brisbane’s south, is held by LNP MP Bert Van Manen, who managed to vanquish former premier Peter Beattie at the last election, having held the seat since 2010. But this time Labor’s Des Hardman has managed a 4.5% 2PP swing, and is now on 50.1%.

Hindmarsh, west of Adelaide, was long considered a Labor seat before Liberal Matt Williams snatched it in 2013. Labor’s Steve Georganas is back for another tilt, having held the seat for three elections from 2004. Hindmarsh was the only seat to change hands in South Australia in 2013. Georganas currently has a 2PP swing of 2.1% and sits on 50.2%.

Capricornia in central Queensland, up around Rockhampton, is a mining region, which gives Labor a good chance to take it from the LNP’s Michelle Landry, who won in 2013. A 1.5% 2PP swing to the ALP’s Leisa Neaton has her in front on 50.7%.

Herbert is another northern Queensland electorate, this time around Townsville, held by the LNP since John Howard was first elected in 1996. But sitting MP Ewen Jones, who took over in 2010, has been hammered by the ALP’s Cathy O’Toole with a 6.9% swing to put her on 50.7%.

Cowan in northern Perth has been held by Liberal Luke Simpkins since 2007, but a redistribution halved his margin. His rival is the high-profile counter-terrorism expert Dr Anne Aly, who’s managed an impressive 2PP swing of 5.2% to put her ahead on 50.7%.

The two seats where the Liberals are in front are:

Gilmore on the NSW south coast around towns like Kiama and Nowra. It’s been a conservative seat for 20 years, but state premier Mike Baird’s plans to amalgamate councils did not go down well in the area and may have played a part in a 3.6% swing to Labor. The Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis has been there for one term and is currently around 400 votes in front on 50.2% with 85% of the vote counted.

Dunkley, south of Melbourne, around Frankston, was held by former small business minister Bruce Billson, who retired after 20 years as the local member. His Liberal replacement, Chris Crewther currently has 50.3% of the 2PP, but Labor’s Peta Murphy has managed a 5.2% swing to bring her within striking distance with 74% of the vote counted.

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