On the weekend, Sunday December 2, passed the 46th anniversary of the election of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972.
It got me to thinking about the last 46 years and the number of elections that were held, the predictions that were made, the outcomes that occurred and the explanations that were given at the time.
So here's the list and my view of why results fell the way they did.
1972 - ALP elected. Three reasons: It was time to change after 23 years of Coalition rule, Gough Whitlam was the leader of the ALP and Billy McMahon was the leader of the Liberal Party.
1974 - ALP re-elected. After having just elected a new government the public wanted to give the ALP a chance to perform and was not ready to change back to the Coalition under Billy Snedden.
1975 - Coalition elected. After witnessing the implosion of the Whitlam Government, the public was very ready to elect the Coalition under Malcolm Fraser, despite the public's misgivings over the manner of the Dismissal.
1977- Coalition re-elected. The public was happy with the Coalition government and was not prepared to change back to the ALP so soon after having turfed them out.
1980 - Coalition re-elected. The public had become disappointed in the Coalition and had warmed to the ALP under Bill Hayden, but not quite enough to elect a new government.
1983 - ALP elected. After enduring a recession, the public was deeply disappointed in the Coalition's economic management and was very ready to turn to the alternative, especially when its leader came to be Bob Hawke.
1984 - ALP re-elected. Public was happy with the ALP Government, but pissed off over its dopey decision to call an eight week election campaign and to go so early in its term of office, and so the voters re-elected Labor with a significantly reduced majority.
1987 - ALP re-elected. Public was still happy with the ALP Government and was not going to change to the Coalition under John Howard, especially as it was so divided.
1990 - ALP re-elected. Despite very high interest rates leading the public to be mightily annoyed with the ALP government, they were prepared to re-elect the incumbent not least because the alternative under Andrew Peacock was unacceptable.
1993 - ALP re-elected. The public was very ready to punish the ALP for having been asked to endure a decade of reform only for those efforts to have ended in a recession. However, the alternative proposed by the Coalition, "Fightback", was even more reform and was rejected. The GST proposal was merely a symptom of what the public perceived to be the disease.
1996 - Coalition elected. The public was waiting to boot out the ALP government and when the "comfortable and relaxed" John Howard was elected to the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1995, a change of government was never in doubt.
1998 - Coalition re-elected. The public was deeply disappointed in the Howard Government and was quite prepared to make it the first one term government since the Great Depression. The two party preferred vote attracted by the Coalition was only 49%, but because enough of those votes fell in the right seats, the Coalition managed to hang on.
2001 - Coalition re-elected. The public continued to be disappointed in the Coalition government describing it as "mean and tricky" and was looking to vote them out. However, following the terrorist attack on Sept 11, they were never going to change governments at that time. There's a belief that the Tampa incident was a major factor in the Coalition's re-election, however, this is only partly correct. Tampa showed Howard to be ruthless and after Sept 11, a scared public preferred such a leader than the avuncular Kim Beazley.
2004 - Coalition re-elected. The public was looking to this election to change governments, but one thing stopped them: Mark Latham.
2007 - ALP elected. After 11 years and three failed attempts to vote out the Coalition government, the public was very ready to make a change and, like in 1983 with Bob Hawke, the election of Kevin Rudd to the ALP leadership made that change a certainty.
2010 - ALP re-elected. Despite misgivings about some of the ALP's behaviour, the public was very prepared to re-elect it notwithstanding their bemusement with the leadership change to Julia Gillard. However, ALP infighting during the campaign and more perceived instability led the public to be inclined to toss out the incumbent but baulked at electing Tony Abbott. In the end the public's combined decision was indecision.
2013 - Coalition elected. Tired of ALP infighting and anger over the unpopular "carbon tax" the public decided to elect the Coalition despite deep concerns about Tony Abbott.
2016 - Coalition re-elected. The public was disappointed in the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull (not as disappointed as they were under Tony Abbott) but was not yet ready to elect the ALP so soon after having tossed them out.
In the last 46 years, millions of column inches and thousands of hours of TV and radio reporting have been employed in analysing the minutia of politics. Without question, an important factor in keeping our democracy a healthy one.
Yet, in the end, it all seems so simple. Doesn't it?