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The Australian Federal Election has been called, meaning we'll go to the polls on May 18.

Australian Federal Election: what you need to know

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has now confirmed Australians will go to the polls on May 18.

But what does it all mean? Here is a look at some of the key questions you might be asking as a busy 5 weeks of official campaigning gets underway.

What kind of swing is needed to change government?

Very little. A swing of even 1 per cent away from the Government would see Bill Shorten become Australia’s 31st Prime Minister – and polling has been hovering at 53/47 to Labor for a couple of months, although you can expect that to tighten as we get closer to election day.

On the flip side, if the swing goes the other way, Scott Morrison’s position would be shored up and the Coalition wouldn’t have to rely on the cross-bench promising supply over major bills.

What are both parties likely to campaign on?

Coalition – We can expect to see the Coalition emphasise its economic management credentials, personal income and small business tax cuts, and big spending on infrastructure.

Immigration has been seen by Mr Morrison and his colleagues as a vote-winner, however in the wake of the events of Christchurch and criticisms of Islamophobia within the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister’s appetite may be diminished.

Labor – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is likely to focus on Labor’s $2.3 billion package to support those battling cancer, tax relief for workers, better schools and action on climate change.  With its more controversial policies on negative gearing and dividend imputation changes already well known, Labor will be looking to run a positive campaign encouraging voters to embrace change.

What are the key WA seats for the election?

Hasluck (Currently LIB – 2.1 per cent) – Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt holds this seat but had a swing of nearly 4 per cent against him in the last election. Labor newcomer James Martin is a Shire of Mundaring Councillor.

Swan (Currently LIB – 3.6 per cent) – Swan returned to marginal seat status during the 2016 poll, in which sitting MP Steve Irons had a 3.75 per cent swing against him in favour of Tammy Solonec. This time his challenger is Hannah Beazley, daughter of former Labor leader and current WA Governor Kim.

Pearce (Currently LIB – 3.6 per cent) – Attorney-General and former WA Treasurer Christian Porter holds what was once a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, but which has now become far more marginal. The Labor candidate is former police officer Kim Travers.

Stirling (Currently LIB – 6.1 per cent) – Identified as one of five crucial seats Labor will target, in the wake of Michael Keenan’s decision to retire from federal politics. Historically a moderate-safe Liberal seat but Labor picked up a 2.85 per cent swing in 2016.

What happens during the current “caretaker” period?

“Caretaker mode” is in effect until the election result clearly indicates that either the incumbent party has retained power, or in the case where there is to be a change of government, until the new government is appointed by the Governor-General.

In most instances, the caretaker government will cease taking major policy decisions except on urgent matters and then only after formal consultation with the Opposition. Similar conventions are followed when it comes to major appointments of public officials, awarding of major contracts and entering major international negotiations.

But this period can still provide strong opportunities for engagement with all sides of politics.

I’ve briefed an MP on my project/issue, what happens now?

If your project/issue is being considered at a departmental level, it might well still be progressing in the background. The lead-up to an election is a very hectic time to be engaging with politicians – in an ideal world, you will have established relationships with key players of all political persuasions before campaigning starts. But if you haven’t already done so, get in touch – we can help.

Michael Cairnduff is a Director in Cannings Purple’s market-leading, bipartisan Government Relations team and an expert in helping clients navigate channels of government at all levels. Contact Michael.

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