Australia's most marginal seat is accustomed to battles, and they are not just political.
Residents in the seat of Macquarie, spanning the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, west of Sydney's centre, have endured devastating fires and destructive floods since they last went to the polls in 2019.
The government's response to the twin disasters is expected to weigh on voters this election that must be held by late May.
"I don't think people are going to forget that while we had months of smoke and flames - literally months - the prime minister was willing to have a holiday and dismissed it saying he doesn't hold a hose," said Labor MP Susan Templeman, referring to Scott Morrison's Hawaii trip during the deadly 2019-20 fires.
Ms Templeman is the incumbent for Macquarie, where Labor holds the seat with a margin of just 0.2 per cent. She faces local councillor and Liberal candidate Sarah Richards.
Last month, the rivals put down their political differences to pick up shovels and help each other fill sandbags to help the community protect homes and businesses from flood waters.
While Sydney's west and its surrounds, a heavily populated area that is always significant to the outcome of elections, is not homogenous, the federal government knows some issues cut across boundaries, especially in traditional working class areas.
The government's election focus has been heavily weighted towards jobs creation and relieving cost of living pressures.
"Our budget addresses the issues that our nation faces right now. It's addressing the cost of living, it's helping people who need assistance now," said Liberal MP Fiona Martin, representing the marginal NSW seat of Reid.
Issues around affordability are expected to feature deeply when official campaigning starts, especially targeting those living in parts of the country that have experienced rapid house and rental price increases like NSW.
Median house prices in Bankstown rose by almost 30 per cent in a year, while those in Penrith and parts of Cabramatta increased by 20 per cent, pushing the value of many homes past the $1 million marker.
Labor's spokesperson for housing and homelessness Jason Clare, whose NSW electorate of Blaxland covers Bankstown, said the government needed to look for ways to make it easier to buy, rent and put a roof over your head.
With large multicultural families living in the area, there are concerns that extended families can no longer afford to live near one another. Local issues spanning a lack of phone receptions to poor roads to long medical wait times are also significant.
While most of these policy areas fall within the remit of the Liberal state or local governments, anger could easily seep into the federal ballot box.
"No one is mentioning China. No one is mentioning religious discrimination. No one is even mentioning crime. It's all quality of life," said Labor MP Michelle Rowland, representing the marginal western suburbs seat of Greenway.
"People are starting to think about how their quality of life fits in with what governments are doing."
Sydney's west was also subject to some of the harshest COVID-19 lockdowns in the country last year, with residents blamed for disobeying restrictions and spreading the virus.
The restrictions compared to the apparent freedoms people in coastal suburbs enjoyed who, months earlier, flocked to the beaches amid an outbreak.
Come May, it'll be revealed whether voters in marginal NSW electorates are angry enough to leave their government behind.
WESTERN SYDNEY MARGINAL ELECTORATES
* SUBURBS: Drummoyne, Lidcombe, Burwood, Strathfield
* LIBERAL CANDIDATE: Fiona Martin
* LABOR CANDIDATE: Sally Sitou
* 2019 MARGIN: 3.2 per cent (Liberal)
* SUBURBS: Parramatta, Rydalmere, Granville
* LIBERAL CANDIDATE: Maria Kovacic
* LABOR CANDIDATE: Andrew Charlton
* 2019 MARGIN: 3.5 per cent
* SUBURBS: Blacktown, Seven Hills
* LIBERAL CANDIDATE: Pradeep Pathi
* LABOR CANDIDATE: Michelle Rowland
* 2019 MARGIN: 2.8 per cent
* SUBURBS: Penrith, Emu Plains, Castlereagh
* LIBERAL CANDIDATE: Melissa McIntosh
* LABOR CANDIDATE: Trevor Ross
* 2019 MARGIN: 5 per cent
* SUBURBS: Windsor, Katoomba, Kurrajong, Colo Heights
* LIBERAL CANDIDATE: Sarah Richards
* LABOR CANDIDATE: Susan Templeman
* 2019 MARGIN: 0.2 per cent
(Source: Australian Electoral Commission)
Australian Associated Press
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