We still don't know exactly when the 2016 federal election will be (though a July 2 double dissolution is still the smart money) but candidates on all sides of the political divide are already staking their claims and starting the campaign early.
A mix of big names and new faces, young and old, long-shots and serious contenders are coming out of the woodwork, getting in early and starting the groundwork on what will be a long campaign. While more candidates will be announcing their plans as we move closer to an election, we've rounded up a few of the most interesting candidates who have already thrown their hat into the ring.
The controversial Wilson gave up his lucrative position as Human Rights Commissioner earlier this year to launch his candidacy for the seat of Goldstein. A safe Liberal seat held by the retiring Andrew Robb, Wilson is all but assured of winning a spot in federal parliament at the next election. Formerly a policy director at the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs think tank, Wilson's almost inevitable elevation to Canberra will be an interesting race to watch. He's arguably the most high-profile Liberal candidate to declare so far.
The popular NSW deputy opposition leader is Labor's biggest name for election 2016. The Wiradjuri woman was the first Aboriginal person to elected to NSW parliament, holding a range of portfolios when Labor was in power and later ascending to deputy leader of the opposition. In February, she announced her candidacy for the Sydney seat of Barton, which the Liberals won by the slimmest of margins in 2013. Burney and Labor will be hoping her star power and name recognition help her knock off the sitting member.
Arguably the race which will be watched the closest will be deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce versus Tony Windsor, who returns to contest the New England seat he held for 12 years and gave up in 2013. In that election, Joyce -- now the leader of the Nationals -- moved from the Senate to the House of Representatives and took Windsor's long-time seat. Windsor recently announced his short retirement was over, and that he would be taking on Joyce for the northern NSW seat. Joyce comfortably won New England in 2013 with a two-party preferred vote of 64 percent, but Windsor's last election in 2010 saw him take the seat even more easily with 71 percent on a two-party basis. Expect some serious fireworks in this one, as the hugely popular Windsor goes head-to-head with the deputy PM.
Controversial former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella is back to contest the seat she lost at the 2013 election. Mirabella held the Victorian seat of Indi from 2001 to 2013, but was defeated by independent Cathy McGowan at the last election. Mirabella is a polarising figure in Liberal politics, deemed "rude, imperious and arrogant"; she boycotted the Labor apology to the stolen generation, and in her time in parliament, was seen as an abrasive figure. "She is the nastiest," Tony Windsor said in 2013, when asked about the person he would least miss in parliament.
However, McGowan holds the seat by less than one percent, having won in 2013 by around 400 votes. This seat could go anywhere.
Liberal man Ted O'Brien is running for the seat of Fairfax, north of Brisbane. He's running directly against billionaire Clive Palmer. O'Brien will be looking for revenge, after losing the 2013 election to Palmer by less than 100 votes -- as close as an election can get. Palmer secured 50.03 percent of the vote, making Fairfax as marginal as marginal can be. Even with the backing of the Liberal Party, to be in such a neck-and-neck photo-finish race with Palmer -- with massive name recognition and billions of dollars to splash on a campaign -- it meant O'Brien turned in an admirable finish, and he'll be hoping that recent scandals involving Palmer's nickel refinery and other business interests might push him over the line in 2016.
Wyatt Roy may be the youngest MP in parliament, at age 25, but maybe not for long. James Mathias is running for the Victorian safe Labor seat of Holt, currently held by Anthony Byrne. Mathias is 21. Labor won Holt at the 2013 election with 64 percent of the two-party vote, but Mathias has some -- probably long-shot -- hopes of unseating the sitting member and becoming the youngest federal pollie in the country. Mathias is a Young Liberal and has worked with state MPs. Compared to veteran politicians, his age is pretty evident, and people have already noticed.
Yes, there's a candidate called Thor. He's the Greens candidate for Tangney, in Western Australia. His slogan is "Thor for Tangney." According to the Fremantle Herald, he is a Curtin University lecturer, has volunteered and worked as a translator and journalist in Jakarta, and reported on war crimes in the International Court of Justice.
Oh, and his name is Thor.
There's a guy called Zac Beers running as the Labor candidate in the Queensland seat of Flynn. He's up against sitting member Ken O'Dowd, a Nationals MP who won in 2013 with 54 percent of the vote. Beers, 25 years old, has a chance; but really we just like his name and will be watching his campaign closely for any opportunities to make beer related puns.