Labor candidates Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Daniel Repacholi and Rebecca Fanning (Images: Labor, AAP)

Until the Kristina Keneally debacle, Labor preselections had remained mostly out of the spotlight. For an opposition running a cautiously pragmatic, small-target election strategy, this lack of national attention was probably welcome. But with an election due in the next six months, and Labor holding a solid lead in the polls, it’s worth taking a closer look at who the party hopes could wrestle back the seats that win them government. 

Queensland

Let’s start with Queensland, which delivered Morrison his “miracle” 2019 election victory, and is still the government’s strongest state. Hoping to avoid a repeat of Labor’s wipeout in the Sunshine State, Albanese has visited Queensland several times this year, and announced several candidates early on in a whirlwind post-budget trip in May.

In Longman, the Coalition’s most marginal seat in the state, Labor has put up Rebecca Fanning, a health policy expert who worked on the Palaszczuk government’s COVID response. Elsewhere there’s a whiff of familiarity around the Queensland preselections: Elida Faith is running against Warren Entsch in Leichhardt again, Ali France gets a second shot at unseating Peter Dutton in Dickson, and coalminer Russell Robertson will have another crack at the central Queensland seat of Capricornia. 

New faces include Deloitte director Madonna Jarrett, who will run in Brisbane, and John Ring, a former RAAF serviceman who hopes to regain Herbert, centred around the military-heavy Townsville.

There are also clear signs the party is hoping to avoid the “anti-mining” tag which hurt Labor so badly in the last election. In Dawson, where George Christensen is retiring, local mine worker Shane Hamilton is up. In Petrie, it’s Caltex refinery worker Mick Denton. 

New South Wales

Labor’s preselections in NSW haven’t exactly gone smoothly. First there was Keneally parachuting into Fowler from the northern beaches. Then Daniel Repacholi, its candidate for retiring MP Joel Fitzgibbon’s seat of Hunter, had to tell the media he was “not a misogynistic prick”. Repacholi, a former Olympic shooter and coalminer, has faced scrutiny over old social media posts calling India a “shithole”. But Albanese pushed Repacholi’s preselection through without a rank-and-file vote because he is, in Fitzgibbon’s terms, “a normal larrikin Australian” of the sort the party needs in an area which has been ground zero for existential angst about losing its blue-collar base.

Over the weekend, Labor announced Gordon Reid, a Wiradjuri man and emergency doctor, for the bellwether Central Coast seat of Robertson. Candidates for key Sydney marginals like Reid and Banks are yet to be announced.

Victoria

Labor is polling so strongly in Victoria that it could win the election in Melbourne alone if all goes exceedingly well. But the party hasn’t finalised preselection for many key seats. And while it picked four candidates in July, most have little visible online campaign presence. 

They include surprise pick Carina Garland, a key union official who will run in the ultra-marginal seat of Chisholm; Bill Brindle having another go at Casey, where speaker Tony Smith is retiring; and Matthew Gregg, a schoolteacher running in Deakin. The most high-profile candidate is Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious diseases doctor well known for her outspoken attacks on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Western Australia

The immense popularity of Mark McGowan and his iron curtain could spell trouble for the Coalition in WA. Labor has its eyes on a few seats in Perth. In Pearce, local mayor Tracey Roberts will run against permanently embattled backbencher Christian Porter. Historic sexual assault allegations (which Porter denies), a failed lawsuit against the ABC, and a demotion to the backbench all make the seat winnable. Meanwhile energy consultant Zaneta Mascarenhas won preselection in Swan after a classic factional brawl. Tania Lawrence, a manager at Woodside, is hoping to unseat Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt in Hasluck.

South Australia

With sitting MP Nicolle Flint quitting politics, Labor has a real chance at winning her highly marginal seat of Boothby, which the Coalition has held since the 1940s. South Australian St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Louise Miller-Frost is tipped to run in the seat.

Tasmania

Bass is the Coalition’s most marginal seat in the country. Neighbouring Braddon is its fourth-most. Both could turn red. Ross Hart, who represented Bass for Labor between 2016 and 2019, is running again, while in Braddon, the party has turned to Burnie local councillor Chris Lynch.

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Peter Fray
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