Macquarie, Australia’s most marginal seat, set for a tight federal election battle in 2022

Australia’s most marginal seat has been smashed by devastating bushfires, floods and a pandemic since it last went to the polls in 2019.

The Macquarie electorate stretches from the turf farms and historic suburbs around the Hawkesbury River, to the eucalypt forests and tourism towns of the Blue Mountains at the furthest reaches of the Sydney basin.

In 2019, Labor incumbent Susan Templeman beat her Liberal opponent Sarah Richards by 371 votes — a close result that took more than two weeks to determine.

At 0.2 percent, Macquarie boasts the slimmest margin in the country.

A streetscape with a mountain in the background.
Macquarie covers the floodplains of the Hawkesbury through to the Blue Mountains.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

differing opinions

Des Lloyd has voted Liberal for 45 years and planned to do so again on May 21, but said he had a “sickening feeling” Ms Templeman would be returned for a third stint.

The North Richmond local believed the Coalition had been “a good government”.

An elderly man and woman seated at a metal table smile at the camera.
Macquarie residents Barbara and Des Lloyd trust the Coalition’s governance.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

But only a couple of kilometers away near the Hawkesbury River on the Richmond Lowlands, Samantha Magnusson disagreed.

Her property has been flooded three times this year and she is yet to bring her horses back after the most recent flood in March.

“This area really can’t afford another Liberal government,” she said.

A woman with long dark brown hair stands in front of a wooden fence.
Samantha Magnusson says the Richmond Lowlands are suffering from climate change.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

“Climate change is real [and it is] here.

“We see that with the flooding, we’ve seen it with the bushfires, we’re seeing it with the urban heat, and I think those are issues that are now starting to resonate with people.”

A divided seat

Macquarie is an electorate marked by contrast.

Much of the 4,300 square kilometers of the electorate is national park, including parts of the famous Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

The seat encompasses the entirety of the Blue Mountains City and Hawkesbury City councils, and is bounded at the south by the Warragamba Dam.

At a state level, the Blue Mountains are held by a Labor MP while Hawkesbury is considered a very safe Liberal electorate.

At the 2019 federal election, almost all of the booths in the Blue Mountains voted Labor while in Hawkesbury almost all went to the Liberals.

A map with large groupings of red and blue dots clustered together.
Macquarie election results in 2019 show clear voter differences.(Supplied: ABC/OpenMapTiles/OpenMap contributors)

Environment a priority

Later in 2019, thousands of hectares of the Blue Mountains were scorched by the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

It has left the environment front of mind for Alex Grilanc when he casts his vote.

He said fire was a feature of life around Katoomba.

“It’s close and it’s something I grew up with,” Mr Grilanc said.

“I’ve had to evacuate a number of times from my house growing up, living in the Blue Mountains.”

A woman and a child sit on green grass with cars passing in the background.
Kathleen Linehan says the needs of herself and her daughter Grace will guide her vote.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

A few kilometers down the road is the popular tourist town of Leura.

Local resident Kathleen Linehan said she would make a list of pros and cons before deciding who to cast her vote for.

“I’m thinking about continuing to create a happy life for my daughter and I,” she said.

A street dips downhill with a large red brick building to the left and escarpments and mountains in the far distance.
The federal electorate of Macquarie includes towns like Katoomba and Richmond.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

All eyes on Macquarie

But the 2022 election is not quite an exact rematch of 2019.

The Greens have a new candidate in Tony Hickey, while Greg Keightley is standing again for the Animal Justice Party.

There are also other names, including Nicole Evans for the United Australia Party, Michelle Palmer for the Informed Medical Options Party and James Jackson for the Liberal Democrats.

A closeup of a smiling woman in a white collared shirt with navy polka dots and black glasses.
Labor MP for Macquarie Susan Templeman holds the seat by just 371 votes.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

Labor incumbent Susan Templeman acknowledged the seat was “really tight” following a 2 per cent swing against her in 2019.

Ms Templeman said Labor had committed cash for the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service and community batteries to back rooftop solar.

She said her election as an opposition MP had put the region on the map and forced the Coalition to invest in big ticket infrastructure to “catch up” after years of “neglect”.

Yet despite what she said was her record of delivering for the electorate, Ms Templeman said it was hard to predict the result this time around.

“I don’t know what will happen, but I certainly hope the work I’ve done with the community will be endorsed on election night,” she said.

A closeup of a smiling blonde woman in a white jacket and black blouse.
Liberal Party candidate Sarah Richards believes she can win.(ABC News: Mollie Gorman)

Liberal nominee Sarah Richards said constituents were being offered “a clear choice, of two different candidates offering different things”.

She pointed to the Coalition’s policy of lower taxes, investment in a third crossing of the Hawkesbury River and the multi-billion-dollar upgrade of the Great Western Highway from Katoomba.

“I hope voters can see that I do take my commitments seriously,” she said.

“It certainly is something the [Coalition] needs to win to make sure they can stay in government.”

Both major parties have committed to establishing a veterans wellbeing center in the region and improve mobile phone coverage.

“There should always be eyes on Macquarie on election night,” Ms Templeman said.

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