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Labor's bitter campaign lesson

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Who knew? If an election does not feel like a change-of-government election, it probably isn't one. This was long the most puzzling aspect of this contest: routine polling predictions of Labor victory while nobody, it seemed, had personally come across a mood for change.

It was oft-remarked, but seemed easily explained. Nobody was thrilled by Bill Shorten, but voters were tired enough of a divided Coalition to give Labor a go.

Strong feelings, it seemed, didn't have to come into it. Turns out they did.

Bill Shorten concedes defeat on stage with his wife Chloe on election day. Picture: AAP

Australians have, for a very long time, been cautious with their votes. Change is hard to come by.

For example, first-term federal governments always win.

On the rare occasions change does come, it arrives either via disgust - as in Keating's broken tax promises in 1996, or Labor's long-lived leadership chaos in 2013 - or excitement, as with Whitlam, Hawke and Rudd.

So Shorten didn't bring the thrill. Shouldn't this government have inspired the requisite disgust?

The short answer is yes. On any fair measure, it has been hopeless: ramshackle, mean, often laughable, possessing neither ambition nor philosophy. If it had lost this election it might have gone down as the worst that we have had.

But it didn't, and now gets its chance at redemption - because the disgust wasn't there. The question Labor will ask itself is: why not?........

© Canberra Times