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December By-elections: Christmas 'Cheer' or 'Drear' for the Coalition?

There's no doubt that after the fallout in Queensland, all the Prime Minister will want this Christmas is his 'two lost seats'.

The result in the Queensland State Election is being pegged as a comment on the leadership of the Federal Government and in particular, the cold shoulder the Coalition is receiving in rural and regional Australia.

Whether reality or not, the poor showing by the LNP is a headache Prime Minister Turnbull doesn't need facing two Federal by-elections in December as a result of the citizenship debacle.

The seat of New England boasts the most high profile incumbent in Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. However, the most nail bitting contest for the Government will be in Bennelong where a former Australian tennis great takes on a former NSW Premier.

New England '“ 2nd December

There's a large field of 17 candidates standing for the seat of New England. In spite of this and despite the rumour mill regarding the Deputy Prime Minister's 'personal issues', Barnaby Joyce remains immensely popular among his constituents.

Joyce is the quintessential knockabout bloke with a willingness to stand up for local issues notwithstanding his federal ministerial responsibilities. There is also a strong local feeling that Joyce was 'dudded by the system' with regard to the citizenship crisis. All of this has cemented his position as the unbackable favourite on Saturday.

Advoc8's call: Nationals hold.

Bennelong - 16 December

On the evening of 16th December, Malcolm Turnbull will be like a kitten on crazy pills as he awaits the results of the Bennelong by-election. Bennelong's normally safe margin of 9.72% sits right around the historical swing against the incumbent at by-elections. There are 12 parties vying for Bennelong, however the real battle is between former Australian tennis champion John Alexander and former Labor NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally.

Alexander has maintained a relatively positive local profile, reflected in a 1.95% swing toward him during the 2016 election. This has been somewhat tarnished by revelations Alexander recently moved out of his electoral residence and has been living in the up-market suburb of North Bondi.

This adds to the resentment felt by local voters, forced to return to the polls after little more than a year by a constitutional crisis that has all the hallmarks of a Government that has lost control.

In the red corner is 'captain's pick' and former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally. Polling shows Keneally has pulled neck-and- neck with Alexander, however with just over two weeks to go, it's still anyone's game.

The problem for Labor are the ghosts of the 'faceless men' within the ALP, to whom Keneally was accused of being a 'puppet'. Sydney media has aggressively reminded voters of this, along with the fact that Keneally also doesn't live within the electorate.

There is also a question mark over how much of a 'fresh' profile she has outside the political beltway, with her commentary on Sky News her only real public exposure. There can be no doubt, however, Labor has dragged Bennelong to within striking distance.

There is also no doubt that the result in Bennelong will have direct ramifications on both the leadership of the Federal Coalition, and on the entire national political landscape.

Advoc8's call: Too close to call.

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