12 key things to watch as the election results roll in tonight.

By Paul Donoghue, Colin Gourlay, and Ben Spraggon. 

1. The overall election winner

It’s the main question of the night: Labor or the Coalition?

Let’s not forget, though, that six years ago Australians just couldn’t pick a clear winner at the polls and no-one could govern in their own right. It was then up to the independents to decide who they’d back to form government, and (after a long speech by independent Rob Oakeshott) they eventually installed the Labor Gillard government.

2. Barnaby versus Tony

Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is not certain of retaining his seat of New England, which he first won in 2013. His opponent: a resurgent Tony Windsor, who served in the seat for 12 years before retiring at the 2013 election.

There’s no known margin here: technically it’s a safe-as-houses Nationals seat, but that data is from a period before Windsor announced his return to the fold, so anything looks possible.

3. The X factor

South Australian independent Nick Xenophon has caused all kinds of jitters this election among the two major parties.

Polling indicates the senator’s new Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) is on track to win Upper House seats in addition to Xenophon’s own, and ABC election analyst Antony Green thinks it’s breaking down the two-party duopoly, which is pretty significant.

4. Team X takes on Pyne

Xenophon’s party is also running candidates in the Lower House, and the senator’s home turf of South Australia is its dominant target.

“That [state] may see the biggest diversion from traditional voting trends in Australia,” Antony Green told the ABC’s Party Room podcast.

Matthew Wright, an emergency room physician in Adelaide, is running against Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne for NXT in the east Adelaide electorate of Sturt.

5. The Greens challenge Albo

Labor favourite Anthony Albanese, who narrowly lost out on the party leadership after the last election, is facing a potentially strong Green vote in his seat of Grayndler.

Albanese, who has held the inner-Sydney seat since 1996, also lost some of his support in a redistribution after the 2013 election.

Even Sydney’s Daily Telegraph devoted its front page to the Labor MP’s plight during the campaign — but could Albo really lose this seat off an 18.8 per cent margin?

6. What about David Feeney in Batman?

The Labor MP for the seat of Batman, in Melbourne’s inner north, had an unfortunate start to the campaign: it was revealed he failed to declare a $2.3 million house as a pecuniary interest and he later struggled to articulate key party policy during an interview on Sky News.

The Greens are hoping to win the hearts of disaffected Labor voters across inner-city Melbourne, and claiming Batman from Feeney is a key part of their strategy.

7. The fate of the former PUPs

Glenn Lazarus and Jacqui Lambie were founding members of Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party (PUP), but things went very pear-shaped and both ended up leaving — Lazarus last year and Lambie in 2014.

Lazarus, from Queensland, who quit PUP after the party sacked his wife, is contesting on behalf of the Glenn Lazarus Team. Jacqui Lambie is running as leader of the Jacqui Lambie Network.


8. The question of Ricky Muir

Another senator elected in 2013 with a very low primary vote, Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, is attempting to retain his Victorian senate seat.

Changes to Senate voting laws earlier this year will make it harder for micro parties to reach Parliament, but can Muir rev up enough support?

9. Pauline Hanson has another go

The right-wing Queenslander and leader of the Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party served as the independent Member for Oxley between 1996 and 1998. She has unsuccessfully contested various state and federal elections since then.

But the woman who bills herself as “one of Australia’s most well known politicians” is this year running for the Senate in Queensland, and a range of factors, including the renaming of her party, could benefit her.

10. The TV personality versus the former PM

Remember James Mathison? He was on The $20 Challenge, and later Channel Ten’s Australian Idol made him a bit of a household name and now — 15 years after he started appearing on our television screens — he’s running for Parliament against former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Mathison’s announcement he was challenging for the seat of Warringah created a bit of media splash, but Abbott has easily won the seat in every election since 1994.

11. Will everyone’s favourite bellwether remain?

Bellwethers are the seats that generally fall to whomever ends up winning the election. Many are in New South Wales: it’s the largest state, so trends there tend to more closely follow what happens nationally, according to ABC election analyst Antony Green.

Their significance is debatable — “that seats are bellwethers at all is often entirely due to coincidence”, Green writes — but in any case they retain their fascination among election watchers.

Eden-Monaro is the country’s most famous bellwether: it’s been won by the party forming government at every election since 1972.

This election, Labor’s Mike Kelly is challenging to win the seat back from the Liberals’ sitting member, Peter Hendy.

12. Oakeshott’s quest for another 17 minutes of fame

Rob Oakeshott, former independent member for Lyne and one of the holy trinity who helped Julia Gillard to power in 2010, announced a late bid this month for the seat of Cowper, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

The seat is held by Nationals member Luke Hartsuyker, a former frontbencher, and Oakeshott’s arrival on the scene has caused a few headaches for the Coalition.

A Malcolm Turnbull strategist contacted the local ABC station in the area, offering the PM up for an interview. The Nationals said that kind of unprompted move, at the pointy end of a federal campaign, was not unusual.


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This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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