ANALYSIS by Malcolm Farr

The Australian Labor Party's grand procession to government has broken down in humiliating fashion as the Coalition swept back into power.

There is a lot of counting to come — the massive pre-poll will be significant to the result — but the punter who put $1 million on a Labor win in Australia will be tearing up the ticket.

Bill Shorten's attempt to parlay six years of Labor unity and preparation into a victory formula has failed, with Queensland bringing it undone.

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The result was also the undoing of Shorten's leadership with the Labor leader stepping down when he conceded defeat.

Scott Morrison has established himself as a fierce political street brawler who surprised Labor with his energy, his aggression, and his read of the electorate.

He will be returned as prime minister with a substantial cross bench to contend with and their contrary views to accommodate.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo / AP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo / AP

But Australians hoping for stability might now have to endure a minority government - or one otherwise held to ransom by a sizeable cross bench with conflicting priorities.

"I will be a climate leader for you," said the new member for Warringah, independent Zali Stegggall, effectively putting the incoming government on notice.

There is a longer-term issue involved in this national outcome.

The rebuff to Labor amounts to a warning for all parties and politicians not to enter an election with a detailed policy package announced well in advance.

The political atmosphere here and in other democracies favours simplistic certainties, not bold change and vision.

As Liberal John Hewson found in 1993, Labor's Bill Shorten has learned in 2019: Being a reformer exposes you to misrepresentation by an opponent unencumbered by fresh direction.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Labor leader Bill Shorten shake hands at the start
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Labor leader Bill Shorten shake hands at the start "The Leaders' Debate". Photo / AP

Further, the assurances from nine months of opinion polls that Shorten would be elevated to the prime ministership now look less gold plated than we were told week after week.

The Liberals lost seats and the most emotional failure was Tony Abbott in Warringah, a seat where he defied the wishes of voters for much of his 25 years as MP.

He opposed a republic when a majority of his constituents wanted one, fought same-sex marriage when Warringah folk supported it strongly, sneered at climate change fears when many of those who might have voted for him wanted stronger action on the issue.

But he has devoted his adult life to public duty and as a former prime minister should be respected for his service.

It should also be acknowledged his departure makes life easier for Morrison, who will not have to keep looking over his shoulder at creeping Abbott ambitions.

"It is clear that what might be described as 'working seats', we are doing so much better," Abbott said in his concession speech.

"It's also clear that in at least some of what might be described as 'wealthy seats', we are doing it tough, and the Green left is doing better."

This Abbott analysis — apart from excusing himself and blaming voters for his loss and spreading the myth of a "green left" enemy — pointed to the power of the simplistic certainties.

Then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrives at Auckland Airport on his first official visit to New Zealand, in 2015. File photo / Dean Purcell
Then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrives at Auckland Airport on his first official visit to New Zealand, in 2015. File photo / Dean Purcell

They are being sought by the more insecure sections of our communities.

And Abbott's hugely successful strategy as Liberal leader of favouring jobs over climate change "morality" appealed to those insecurities.

And few political operative were able to pander to the desires for simplistic certainties, like Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer.

One Nation and the United Australia Party were crucial in regional Queensland results.

But uncertainties are gathering.

In the past week or so official calculations have seen the fore economic growth cut, unemployment increased, wage growth maintain sluggish growth, and a doubling of government debt over the past six years.

Labor must now decide whether to keep its economic and fiscal package of modify it to match the political times.

And crucially, it must decide who will lead it.