THE fate of the nation will be placed firmly in the hands of regional Queensland on May 18, as the polls open for the federal election.
Marginal seats in North Queensland including Herbert, Dawson and Capricornia will play a pivotal role in deciding who will take government, according to University of Queensland political analyst Chris Salisbury.
Dr Salisbury said the Coalition would be desperate to win those seats if they had any chance of holding on to power.
The electorate of Herbert, which takes in most Townsville suburbs, is the most marginal seat in the country, with Labor's Cathy O'Toole holding it by just 0.02 per cent. She won the seat, which is traditionally a Coalition stronghold, but just 37 votes at the 2016 election.
Capricornia, held by the LNP's Michelle Landry by 0.6 per cent, is another expected to be on a knife edge.
The LNP's George Christensen holds Dawson, which takes in Townsville's southern suburbs and Mackay, by 3.4 per cent but experienced a swing of 4.24 per cent against him in 2016.
Dr Salisbury expects Katter's Australain Party leader Bob Katter, who holds Kennedy by 10.6 per cent, to retain his vast seat, which takes in an area of 567,377 square kilometers and includes the rural populations of west of Townsville to Mount Isa and north from Ingham to Innisfail.
"There is a string of electorates right up the Queensland coast from Flynn through to Capricornia, Herbert and Dawson with some very tight margins and presumably nervous incumbents.
"On a national scale it's crucial for the government to retain those seats if it has any hope of staying in office, and it certainly needs to hold the line here in Queensland against what is expected to be a bit of backlash, particularly in Victoria.
Dr Salisbury said alternative parties like One Nation may act to split the vote, but that conservatives in electorates like Dawson that may have swayed, could be enticed back to the conservative side with smart campaigning.
He said Herbert would be a key fighting ground for the Coalition, who would be desperate to regain the seat.
"Herbert is the most critical for the Coalition, they need to win seats and not just hold the incumbents to win government.
"Herbert more often that not has been in Coalition hands, and it will definitely be a target as a must win to help fill numbers."
Dr Salisbury said he expected the campaign to be unrelenting for such seats on both sides of politics, with plenty of visits from high profile leaders and local senators desperate to boost their profile.
"It is interesting though as it doesn't take in as much hinterland and rural areas, which sets it apart from Dawson and Capricornia where you've got the major centres that might be more Labor leaning balanced out by the rural being more conservative."
Dr Salisbury said electorate issues were likely to be similar across the board, with agricultural interests, water rights, and infrastructure cropping up routinely.
However, he said Adani would be front and centre for much of the campaign as a proxy for issues that divide the country from the city.