«I always believe you have to keep working right until 6pm [on election day], and if you’re fortunate to win the support of the electorate, you start again the next morning,» he said on Saturday afternoon.
Flinders, which takes in almost all of the Mornington Peninsula, has long been considered prized Liberal territory. But Labor, the unions and left-wing lobby group GetUp have invested heavily to topple Mr Hunt, buoyed by Labor’s unprecedented win in the November state election.
Although internal opposition polling has put Labor slightly ahead of Mr Hunt, the result has remained unpredictable, particularly because of Ms Banks’ candidacy. Party strategists have said polling for high-profile independents is difficult.
With two hours left until the close of polling, Mr Sinclair said he was feeling positive and described the mood at booths as «very positive».
About 60,000 Flinders voters had already cast their vote before Saturday. Although early-voting tends to favour the Coalition, Mr Sinclair said they were still in with a chance.
«It’s going to be very close, and potentially we won’t know the result until later,» Mr Sinclair said.
«It’s hard to tell — obviously, traditionally, early voting goes more their [the Liberal Party’s] way than not, but we’ve also had some really good early voting results.»
Labor challenger Shireen Morris started the day with news her posters had been defaced overnight in the key seat of Deakin. Black spray paint had been used to depict her as wearing a burqa.
«It’s extremely disappointing, it’s pathetic, it’s desperate,» she said. «Islamophobia of that kind should never be condoned. I think it’s very sad.»
A first time candidate, Ms Morris said she is «exhausted and excited» after eight months of campaigning. She’s fought an uphill battle, with incumbent Michael Sukkar holding the seat by a margin of 6.4 per cent.
She said the experience has been mostly positive but «you do get attacked», referring to an assault by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who raised doubts around her eligibility, pointing to a potential Section 44 breach.
«The Prime Minister of Australia felt the need to make up a smear against me. That kind of stuff is challenging.»
Deakin has been won by the Liberal Party on all but three elections since it was created. But Ms Morris says people in the community are fed up with the «egos and infighting» of the government.
«I don’t know how it’s going to go. It’s so close. It’s super hard to predict. It feels like it could go either way.»
Meanwhile, incumbent Michael Sukkar was hard to locate. Volunteers at the polling booth which he had planned to spend the day at said they hadn’t seen him since he briefly dropped by in the morning.
Meanwhile signs of a different colour caused problems in the seat of Chisholm, which was vacated by Julia Banks after the last election.
Labor’s Jennifer Yang slammed the purple and white Liberal posters that used similar colours to Australian Electoral Commission branding as «unethical».
The posters are the latest incident in a dirty fight for the seat of Chisholm between Ms Yang and Liberal candidate Gladys Liu in a campaign beset with reports of fake news and grubby tactics.
Ms Yang said voters could easily be misled by the colour scheme of the Liberal Party posters and said, «It’s just not right».
When asked about the posters, Ms Liu initially denied they belonged to her, or Chinese media outlet Melbourne Today, but then said they were authorised by the Liberal Party and allowed by the AEC.
No matter who wins tonight, it will be a historic victory — either Ms Liu or Ms Yang will be the first Chinese woman elected to Federal Parliament.
More to come.
Sumeyya is a reporter for The Age.
Charlotte is a reporter for The Age.
Yan is a reporter for The Age.