Early voting for Australia’s 2022 Federal Election has now begun.
With less than two weeks to go before Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces Anthony Albanese in the final vote on 21 May, the incumbent prime minister is hoping for a rare fourth term in a political system plagued by turbulence in recent years.
Here Sky News looks at who Australians are voting for, how the election system works and what are the main issues.
Who are people voting for?
Australia has its own distinctive electoral system.
Voting in elections is compulsory for everyone over the age of 18, with 26 million adults due to take part in the upcoming vote.
The current government is a right-wing coalition between Mr Morrison’s Liberals and the National Party.
The Labor Party is in opposition, with at least two polls currently tipping them to win. The other major parties are the Australian Greens, United Australia and One Nation.
The Australian Parliament is made up of two houses. The lower is the House of Representatives and the upper is the Senate.
The House of Representatives consists of 151 MPs, which each represent an area of roughly 140,000 people.
Like in the UK, people vote for their local representative and if a party reaches the minimum threshold of 76 seats, they can form a majority government.
If one party falls short, they can go into coalition with another, as the Liberals and Nationals did in the 2019 election.
All 151 seats have a maximum term of three years, but the government can call an election sooner to increase their chances of re-election. This means that at every election, all 151 seats are contested.
The Senate operates on a different system, whereby only half of its 76 seats come up for election every three years.
Each of the six states has 12 senators, while the two mainland territories have two. On 21 May, 40 seats in the Senate are up for grabs.
How does voting work?
In Australia, there are three ways to vote – in-person on election day, early by post, or early in-person.
More than 7,000 polling stations will be open between 8am and 6pm on 21 May.
But for those unable to make it due to mobility issues, concerns around coronavirus, work or travel commitments, they can vote early by post, or at 500 ‘early voting’ stations across the country on 9 May.
For the House of Representatives vote, people have to number candidates in order of preference, with one being their favourite.
If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they are automatically elected.
If they get less than 50%, candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated and their other preferences reallocated until one emerges with more than 50%.
In the Senate vote, there are two ways of voting – by party ‘above the line’ or by candidate ‘below the line’.
For the first, voters number parties in order of preference from one to six, and for the second, they do the same, but must rank at least 12 candidates.
A candidate needs to get 14.3% of the vote – or 33% in the mainland territories – to get elected.
If one does not initially pass the threshold, other preferences are relocated until they do.
Who are the ones to watch – and what are the issues?
National polls put Labor’s Antony Albanese comfortably ahead of incumbent Prime Minister Morrison as the likely winner.
But given Mr Morrison was in a similar position when he won three years ago in 2019, Labor cannot afford to be complacent.
Calling the election as late as possible to give maximum time to discredit his opponent, Mr Morrison is the first Australian prime minister to serve a full three-year term in 15 years.
If Labor wins, it would be their first time in power for almost a decade.
They currently have 69 seats in the House of Representatives, so need seven more to form a majority government and five to create a coalition with another party.
The current coalition, made up of 60 Liberal seats and 15 National, cannot afford any net losses and would need to make up for them with new seats in other areas.
Hung parliament would need independent support
Some commentators are predicting a tight race followed by a hung parliament, which would make the growing number of independent candidates very important to any bid to form a coalition.
Former TV correspondent Zoe Daniel is running as an independent candidate in Goldstein against current Liberal MP Tim Wilson, while Allegra Spender, daughter of the late fashion designer Carla Zampatti is running in Wentworth in Sydney’s wealthy eastern suburbs.
The Australian Greens, Centre Alliance, Katter’s Australian Party and United Australian Party all currently have one MP.
But the Greens are currently polling higher at 10% as voters prioritise climate change after suffering devastating forest fires and floods in recent years.
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is polling at 4% and Pauline Hanson’s right-wing populists One Nation at 3%.
A former Australian tourism boss, Scott Morrison took office in 2018 after his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull was forced out of the Liberal Party over infighting.
He has been in politics since 2007 when he became MP for Cook in the south of the country.
The 53-year-old made a name for himself as former prime minister Tony Abbott’s immigration minister who fiercely enforced Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy on asylum seekers – one of the toughest in the world.
In the top job he has continued to take a hard stance on immigration, facing criticism for reports of inhumane and degrading treatment at detention centres.
He is a religious conservative, closely linked to Australia’s Pentecostal movement and has conveyed himself as a typical suburban family man.
His campaign will centre around the economy, as economic activity in Australia is now higher than before the pandemic and predicted to grow another 4.25% by the end of this year. Unemployment has also dropped by 4% and is at its lowest level since 2008.
Mr Morrison is also likely to champion Australia’s low coronavirus death rate as proof he successfully managed the pandemic.
But state leaders have often gone against his decisions, with the federal government criticised for a slow vaccine rollout and lack of tests during the country’s Omicron wave.
Last year he successfully negotiated the Aukus defence pact with the UK and US, which may be rewarded by voters increasingly concerned about China’s growing influence in the region.
But it led to the famous snub of France and a $37bn (£27bn) submarine deal he had earlier promised President Emmanuel Macron, which resulted in Mr Macron calling him a liar.
Another scandal he has struggled to shake off was his ill-timed family holiday to Hawaii during Australia’s 2019 and 2020 bushfires.
He also was accused of being too slow to declare a national emergency during widespread flooding in Queensland and New South Wales in March, which could mean losing climate-minded voters to either Labor or the Greens.
A veteran MP of 25 years, Mr Albanese was elected to Parliament in 1996.
When Kevin Rudd brought Labor to power in 2007 he served as his infrastructure and transport minister – and deputy prime minister when he returned to office in 2013.
He only held the position for 10 weeks, before the party lost the next election.
Having been beaten by his rival Bill Shorten initially, his defeat in two subsequent elections saw the 59-year-old chosen as Labor leader.
Once seen as a prominent member of Labor’s left, he has moved increasingly towards the centre.
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Afraid of losing out on right-of-centre voters, his current campaign is one of “safe change” and “renewal not revolution”.
Promising small but significant changes on the issues of climate change, cost of living and wage growth, Mr Albanese is keen to stress his centrist beliefs – to the extent that he wrote an article entitled ‘I’m not woke’ in one Australian newspaper.
Having rose to prominence for defending free healthcare, the rights of the LGBTQ community and immigrants, he has now endorsed Australia’s controversial policy of turning around boats of asylum seekers, which he previously opposed.
Despite having ammo to fire at Mr Morrison’s failures, his modest goals may still fail to inspire some of Australia’s more impassioned voters.