Australia has had colour television for 48 years, but it was a different palette on Saturday night: teal and Green as far as the eye could see, with the reds and blues smudged beyond recognition.
It was a supremely tense, exceedingly weird and historic night. Did we mention weird? Weird it was, and with wall-to-wall coverage across the commercial networks, ABC and SBS and Sky News, you could take your pick of where you preferred to celebrate the strangeness off it all.
After the nationally televised shared trauma of the pandemic years – when we saw enough politicians on our screens to last several lifetimes – this was a nationally broadcast shared cleansing; a COVID shot with an election chaser. And the major parties were reeling – particularly the Liberal Party, which it became clear early on was in terrible strife.
It was barely past 8pm when Nine’s political editor Chris Uhlmann made the boldest and earliest call across any of the broadcasts: There is no way Scott Morrison can form any kind of government. That possibility is gone.
And he was right, though it was not officially confirmed until nearly 11pm. By then we had seen almost-but-not-quite concessions from Josh Frydenberg and others. Around 10. 30pm, we were delivered live vision of Morrison leaving Kirribilli House, with a cameraperson on a motorbike in hot pursuit.
Let’s call it ScottCam. It started with vision of the prime minister and his family getting ready in their residence, filmed through the windows, and followed Morrison all the way to the centre of Sydney for the concession.
The question that remained though: if the PM was toast, what was for breakfast?
In summary, it looked like what we might be left with was a dog’s breakfast.
As Annabel Crabb summed it up on the ABC: This looks more like a key party.
A key party, for those delicate souls unfamiliar with the term, harks back to the days of Gough Whitlam and Don’s Party, the era when partygoers would hurl their keys in a bowl and pair off with random partners.
While it appeared certain it would not be Scott Morrison, the question was whether our breakfast partner would be Anthony Albanese, or a group event with Albanese and a collection of assorted others.
For most of the night the Coalition was being put through the shredder, a gimmick missing from the coverage this time around. Indeed, it was mostly a gimmick-free night: Nine had a ukulele playing robot to serenade the losers, a wink to Scott Morrison’s famous musical turn on 60 Minutes. Seven had a Panic Room. Ten, anchored by Sandra Sully, Peter van Onselen and Waleed Aly, won the prize for most dramatic guest casting, with former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller on hand for commentary. Nerding out here with a group of people who are thrilled about talking election results all night! Miller tweeted.
The teal-wave was apparent by 8pm, with Liberal-held seats tumbling one after the other.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg? Gone, it seemed. Tim Wilson in Goldstein? Gone, farewelled by Mark Riley on Seven by 8. 30pm. Dave Sharma in Wentworth? Good night, pending postal votes. That meant that three seats held by former Liberal PMs – Warringah, Wentworth and Kooyong — had all fallen to independents. The teals had run off with the family jewels.
Across the land, we waited for the unofficial-official election declaration from Anthony Green. He was being careful, at one point even saying that hypothetically the Labor Party could refuse to form government. This caused widespread mirth, especially to a beaming Tanya Plibersek, who zinged: That’s not going to happen!
Just before 11pm, the outgoing PM took to the stage at the Liberal wake in central Sydney.
It’s a difficult night, he said.
This was an understatement. He congratulated Anthony Albanese. He attempted to describe what had happened. He didn’t use the word weird, but after all that had gone before on our Saturday night screens he probably didn’t need to.
Weird it all was, but by that late hour it went without saying.
Cut through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley.