Australia will vote for a new Federal government on May 18 as New England decides between Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and a small field of opponents.
The prime minister Scott Morrison made an early-morning trip to governor general Peter Cosgrove's official residence at Yarralumla on Thursday. Parliament was dissolved that morning at 8.30am with an election set for May 18.
The prime minister quickly made a pitch to voters, telling the Australian electorate it has a "clear choice", claiming to have kept the economy strong and echoing John Howard's 2004 slogan "who do you trust".
"Who do you trust to deliver that strong economy which your essential services rely on?" the prime minister asked.
The government holds 73 seats in what will be a 151 seat parliament, with the Labor opposition under Bill Shorten holding 69 and a number of independents and a Green holding the balance.
The government has consistently polled less than the opposition in two-party-preferred terms for over two years, with polling worsening even further after the party replaced prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last year.
That means the government actually has to win seats in order to maintain power, as well as holding all the seats they currently control.
Mr Joyce was first elected as one of Queensland's Senators in 2004. In 2013 he hopped the border, winning election for the lower house seat of New England. (Mr Joyce grew up near Tamworth but later established an accountancy business in St George, western Queensland). He increased his primary vote from 54 per cent to 65 per cent at the 2016 election.
Mr Joyce was a dual citizen at the time of the 2016 election, which forced his resignation from parliament. He won the 2017 by-election handily with 65 per cent of the primary vote in a crowded field.
Shortly after re-election the public learned Barnaby Joyce was having an affair with a staffer, and the couple had a child. They've since announced a second. Mr Joyce resigned from the job of deputy prime minister, lost ministerial appointments and took a seat on the backbench.
At the state level, the electoral district of Northern Tablelands, held by MP Adam Marshall, is the safest seat held by any party in the state.
So far there are three candidates who think they have what it takes to win New England.
Mr Blakester has a background in renewable energy development and is the executive director of the social charity the Starfish Initiative, which funds sustainable development and agriculture programs among an array of other projects. He has already won about half a billion dollars in projects for the New England electorate without being involved in politics, and decided to run in order to see what he could do from inside, he said.
He kept a low profile during the state election, but has been on a listening tour through the electorate in March.
"We have a big campaign ahead of us. In simple terms we need 500 volunteers, 5000 donors and 50,000 votes, that's the challenge," he said.
Labor candidate newcomer Yvonne Langenberg has been campaigning for nearly a year, announced as a candidate last June.
An Armidale-based nurse, Langenberg particularly interested in transport issues like reopening the northern railway line beyond Armidale.
"I have a vision that New England can return to the prosperity it once enjoyed by linking all the small towns and urban centres in a productive way by revitalising transport connections that have been allowed to wither and die," she said.
"We can't continue on the way we are going, we are going down a cliff. So I decided I had to put up my hand and speak on this," she said at the time of her announcement.
"This is a great region to live in but it is slowly dying because of political neglect and indifference. However, I believe we can turn it around with a new deal for regional Australia and a belief that we are all in this together.
"The growing inequality we have in Australia is the greatest threat to our democracy."
Glen Innes based domestic violence advocate Cindy Duncan is running for Clive Palmer's United Australia Party.
Their website says she has spent time in the army and as a business owner, legal secretary and journalist, but also spent decades in an unhappy marriage and is now an "advocate for domestic violence and the status of women".
The UAP appointed her shadow minister for the status of women in April.
"As Australians, it's time we recognized just how much our political leaders have neglected us and our nation's resources," she said at the time.
The Greens candidate is to be announced soon.