For most of the post-WWII era, it was possible to discern parallel tracks when it came to the electoral fortunes of the Australian and New Zealand Labour parties. Labour governments served both countries in wartime and during the immediate postwar period, and both endured extended periods in opposition during the 50s and 60s only to re-emerge with charismatic leaders Norm Kirk and Gough Whitlam, both storming to victory in 1972.
The next major pro-Labour wave occurred in 1983 with Bob Hawke and, a year later in New Zealand, David Lange. Politicos on both sides came to keep a close eye on electoral trends across the ditch, based on this shared history and the fact the two countries tend to encounter social, technological, cultural and economic changes at around the same time, and in much the same way.
The similarities are more muted these days, and therefore the lessons we can take from Australian elections are probably less clear cut than they once were. And, digging into the numbers from the federal election held on Saturday, it soon becomes obvious that simplistic interpretations will fail to grasp both the depth and complexity of the many intersecting forces at play. Any effort to spin from the results anything instructive to New Zealand's electoral fortunes must grapple with that complexity, or it is just partisan wishcasting.
Take for example the fact that the swing against the Morrison government varied greatly depending on the state and seat in question. Labor got a double-digit swing in Western Australia, but went backwards in Tasmania and basically stood still in NSW. If you can look at that and see an unambiguous public rejection of Covid lockdowns or a straightforward inflation backlash, you have better eyesight than me.
This is the first time Labor has claimed government from the opposition without a landslide victory and it's the first time any party has gained office after seeing a decline in its primary vote.
Looking at those facts in isolation, you could easily contend that Labor has limped to the finish line and starts its new term in office on an unusually weak footing and in the face of a highly sceptical electorate.
But electoral politics are a zero-sum game, and things look a lot rosier for Albanese and Labor when you survey the wreckage left of the Liberal Party in Saturday's wake. What we saw was a historic capitulation across heartland seats in the inner suburbs of Melbourne Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, including the defeat at the hands of so-called Teal (blue-green) independents of outgoing treasurer Josh Frydenberg. former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson and whoever else remained of the Liberal Party's now desiccated moderate wing.
Yes, it's true, Labor did not win those seats - but having the Libs cough them up in this way is a better outcome, anyway. Swings come and go. Realignments are forever.
As hard as I try I cannot imagine a scenario whereby a far-right Peter Dutton-led Liberal Party can hope to wrest those seats back from the opposition, or indeed avoid further losses in demographically similar seats in coming elections. After all, these independents campaigned on a more proactive climate agenda than even that of Labor, the establishment of a federal anti-corruption commission, the full embrace of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, support for small-l liberal causes like gay and trans rights, and a general repudiation of right-wing populism. If the Liberals can't win back those seats, there is no realistic path for them to a parliamentary majority in their own right, and, while a future coalition with this moderate faction may be possible one day, it won't happen at all with Dutton as leader, and seems highly unlikely with or without him in the short- or medium-term.
There are some lessons here if you're willing to look hard enough. The first and most obvious of these: "be careful what you wish for".
Since John Howard's ascendancy in the 1990s, the Liberal Party has pursued a strategy of Magafiction, attempting to peel working-class votes off Labor through culture and climate war provocations. This worked spectacularly at times, notably with the Tampa election of 1998 and tax-hike scaremongering of 2019. But the bill came due in the form of the heartland's desertion, leaving the party with fewer seats than they've held since 1946.
Ever since Trump, we've heard a lot about the upsides of populist politics but, courtesy of Scott Morrison, we're getting a good look at the downsides.
Finally, I was struck by the comments of Senator Jane Hume, a Victorian Liberal, who told Channel Nine during election night coverage on Saturday how shocked she was at all the anger and frustration at the state Labor Government hadn't translated into a backlash in Melbourne.
Hume inadvertently revealed a terminal flaw in political strategy: her understanding of the electorate was hopelessly distorted by her biases. She confused her own circle with the wider electorate.
This should be a reminder about how important it is to be alert to your own biases, and to the shortcomings of your own networks, and to seek diverse feedback and go out of your way to encounter worldviews different to your own.
A final lesson, perhaps the least ambiguous from all the results: nobody cares about all the "wokeness" stuff that keeps the Taxpayer Union up after bedtime.