Saturday night's election was a triumph for Labor and big wake-up call for the Liberals, who must now realise they can't sit in opposition and hope to one day win majority government.
Labor is right to claim a mandate for its light rail, which will roll out over the coming decades at the very least in a trunk route from Gungahlin to Woden. Gungahlin voiced its clear support, handing Labor its biggest vote of any of the five electorates, at 44 per cent.
Months ago, the most likely outcome looked to be the status quo, albeit with more of each party. And so it has come to pass. Currently, the Assembly has eight Labor members, eight Liberals and one Green. The new Assembly might well be 12 Labor, 12 Liberals and one Green, although it remains possible the Greens will take another seat off each party. Either way, the Greens' Shane Rattenbury is kingmaker, and for all the expectations of a closely fought election, it seems little has changed.
The lessons for the Liberals: They cannot hope to hold majority government in Canberra and relying on that is no strategy. When they supported Labor in its redrawing of electoral boundaries in 2014, they did so as a traditional major party pretending it had an equal chance at government. The Liberals might have been better to think of themselves as closer to the Greens — a party of coalition.
When Labor and the Liberals cemented five electorates of five seats each, they locked in 10 seats apiece. The Liberals would have been better to back the Greens in their attempt to get a more proportional system where independents and minor parties have more fertile ground. Last night's election showed the enormous difficulty that independents and minor parties face in the five-member electorates, with only the Sex Party, which Labor preferenced on its how-to-vote cards in Tuggeranong (a strategy, seemingly, to drag votes from the Liberals) winning anything above about 2 per cent (although Marea Fatseas in the central seat, polled 3.3 per cent).
The Liberals need their version of the Greens — a sympathetic conservative independent grouping, the likes of Paul Osborne, to have a hope in government. And if they haven't heard that message and cultivated that ground in 15 years on the opposition benches, perhaps they do not deserve the prize.
Andrew Barr's Labor Party held its vote last night at the same level was 2012, 39 per cent. That was despite being a government long in the tooth and bedevilled by troubles and missteps, and even in the face of a damaging audit report on its land dealings just a fortnight from the polls and a hefty campaign from the clubs industry, which has a big community reach. It also went to the electorate with its budget in uncomfortable shape and the territory's biggest ever infrastructure project, the controversial tramline, on offer.
If Labor can win in those circumstances, it can win in most any. The Liberals should think on that.