?What's at stake for Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten in the by-elections

| 27.07,18. 05:00 PM |

What's at stake for Malcolm Turnbull and Bill

?Shorten in the by-elections

Photo: Bill Shorten will be hoping for a positive result in the seats Labor is
contesting — and a boost of confidence in his leadership. (ABC News: Henry Zwartz)

Five separate by-elections across Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia have been called for the same day, most of which were triggered by a constitutional conundrum.

If you need a quick refresher, the seats in question are:

This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people across Australia will head to the ballot box — but not to decide who should run their federal, state, or even local government.

Longman just north of Brisbane in Queensland

•Braddon in north-west Tasmania

•Mayo nestled into the Adelaide Hills in SA

•Perth, which takes in the WA capital city

•Fremantle also in WA

Labor's Susan Lamb (Longman), Justine Keay (Braddon) and Josh Wilson (Fremantle) as well as Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo) were all forced to resign after it emerged their dual citizenship made them ineligible to sit in the parliament.

The Perth by-election is the only poll not caused by dual citizenship, but was triggered after Labor's Tim Hammond resigned for family reasons.

Four out of five members re-contesting their seats might not seem like a big deal, but this is what's at stake for the Federal Government and its adversaries.

What is the worst that could happen for the Government?

One scenario is that nearly 500,000 people will vote and no seats will change.

Before the by-elections were called, Labor had four seats and Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie had one.

If the ALP hangs on to all four and Ms Sharkie is re-elected, it would be business as usual for the Parliament — with the Coalition holding its one-seat majority.

Failing to win any of the three it has targeted would be a blow for the Coalition which hoped to grab at least one of the two marginal seats of Longman and Braddon back from Labor.

If, as expected, Ms Sharkie holds Mayo, the crossbencher would consolidate her position in the seat that she is the only non-Liberal to ever win.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists the federal election will be next year. A by-election result where the Coalition doesn't win any seats would all but confirm that timing.

What about for Labor?

The ALP could lose both marginal seats — Braddon and Longman.

That might trigger pot-shots at Bill Shorten's leadership.

Voters in Longman and Braddon have switched between parties often in the last decade.

Australian political history would be made if one or both changed tomorrow.

A federal opposition has only lost a seat to a government once: in the Kalgoorlie by-election of 1920.

Mr Shorten's position and Labor's approach would both be scrutinised if Labor loses both seats.

Anthony Albanese has been campaigning prominently in the five by-elections but insists his goal is to be a minister in a Shorten government.

Winning back two seats from Labor would be enough for the Prime Minister to at least think about calling an election for this year.

The ALP will hold the seats of Perth and Fremantle in WA where the Liberals are not standing candidates. Labor won't win Mayo in the Adelaide Hills.

What's the best outcome the Government can hope for?

Winning the three seats it is contesting would be the Coalition's ideal outcome.

It hopes to grab back Braddon in Tasmania and Longman in Queensland, both of which it lost to ALP members in 2016, as well as Mayo in South Australia, which it lost to Ms Sharkie.

That result would boost confidence in the Coalition and drive its parliamentary majority from one seat to four.

What will Labor be hoping for?

Labor's best outcome would be to hold onto its four seats and see Rebekha Sharkie hold Mayo.

That would boost Bill Shorten's leadership and mean the Government still only had a one-seat majority.

What should we look out for in Mayo?

Mayo is a test of the power and popularity of the crossbencher against a high-profile Liberal.

Ms Sharkie is running on a tiny budget against Georgina Downer, who has strong name recognition but until recently lived in Victoria.

Polling is so far showing that despite campaigning alongside the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, Ms Downer will struggle.

The most interesting outcome would be if the Coalition can beat Labor in Braddon and Longman but can't oust Rebekha Sharkie from the seat of Mayo.

Any by-election wildcards to look out for?

A man who calls himself Garbo, is an unlikely X-factor in the Tasmanian seat of Braddon.

Fisherman and independent candidate Craig Garland, who lives in one of the most remote parts of the electorate, could determine the outcome.

He is directing his preferences to Labor's Justine Keay and in a tight finish between Ms Keay and Liberal Brett Whiteley, Mr Garland's preferences could be enough for her to return to parliament.

One Nation's Matthew Stephen could have a similar impact in Longman. His preferences are going to the LNP's Trevor Ruthenberg before the ALP's Susan Lamb.

His influence depends on how many votes he gets, of course, and the strength of his support in Longman will provide a snapshot of where One Nation sits in the political landscape.

One Nation directed its preferences to Ms Lamb ahead of the LNP's Wyatt Roy at the last election and that was considered enough to see Ms Lamb elected in 2016.

The final twist in nearly three months of by-election campaigning could be that one of the seats is too close to call on election night and it drags into next week as postal votes are counted.


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