Labor's review of the election result has fingered leadership as the key factor in its defeat. So now the party's worked out what went wrong it can simply play change the leader and win next time - right? Well, perhaps, perhaps not. That's politics and the truth is simple answers don't exist, no matter how much we'd like them too.
Those who remember Bill Shorten ruthlessly dispatching first Kevin Rudd, then Julia Gillard, may think this a fair cop. Blaming him appeals to the way we understand political leadership. The reality is that life is more complex.
The detail of the review makes the point that elections are won and lost because of three things: leadership (people), structures (party) and perceptions (policy). Labor fell (just) short but a miss is as good as a mile and a lot of people are very unhappy. Now it's off their chest. The problem was Shorten and next time Labor will win, right?
Perhaps, perhaps not.
The fundamental issue is that the economic and social problems Labor was formed to combat back in 1891 are no longer relevant. The party only grapples with this (bitterly so) when it's out of office. That's because interest groups use this time to try and mould the party's platform in their own image. Politicians use this to fan the flames for their own personal advantage. You can already hear the refrain: "only I understand how important the workers/social issues/education/(insert the cause of choice here) actually are. Make me leader and I'll give you power!"
Gough Whitlam chose to emphasise policy because it served him well. He understood he needed to unite two very different constituencies to win power. The workers alone no longer had the numbers: he needed to appeal to those concerned about other issues. He outmanoeuvred the conservatives by offering voters two things: inspirational leadership and, critically, a newer, better, 'program'.
He knew it was bunkum, of course, but it worked a treat. Labor seized power for the first time in 23 years.
Bob Hawke successfully replicated these twin prongs - leadership and policy - to achieve victory in 1983. So did Kevin Rudd in 2007. He posed as the inspirational leader, but his 'program' had changed and stressed climate change while being socially conservative.
He knew we vote governments out rather than politicians in. The task of the leader is to reassure; the role of policy is simply to help voters rationalise and legitimise their desire for change. The party itself is nothing more than the vessel in which the leader sails, but it's a critical. Without a trim ship no passenger gets anywhere.
For Labor to win Scott Morrison will need to look out of touch or incompetent. This will happen, maybe quickly, just not today. That's why Labor's talking about "issues". It's a sign individuals within the party are jockeying for position. Policy is a surrogate. They're actually yelling, "look at me, I'm leadership material!"
Particular interest groups are also attempting to shape the party's platform in their image. The risk for the party is that neither of these players (necessarily) have winning government as their over-riding objective. Politicians do. That's why they're sceptical about policy.
So how, exactly, does Labor 're-connect' and with whom? Should the party become less 'inner-city progressive' and return to its 'working class roots'?
Ignore this supposed divide - it's an illusion. The unionised welders and boilermakers of the past are today's self-employed tradies. Old-fashioned class warfare disappeared in the '50's. What's needed to inspire voters is a story; a narrative offering everybody a place, a bit of hope and, most importantly, a future.
Remember what Rudd did so well: craft a positive future while embracing challenge. All you need to do is contrast that with Shorten's convoluted pitch and you've got your own election review.
It didn't help having Chris Bowen telling retirees not to vote for him. That was an unfortunate turn of phrase; listening might have been better.
But the key to the future is understanding that the issues that concern us change over time, along with the frame through which we view them. That frame is constructed by the leadership of the party.
Today our biggest angst is the environment. Roy Morgan polls show this transcends economic concerns. But are we troubled about global warming or drought? The way the issue is framed narrows the frame of reference for solutions. The Deputy PM apparently thinks a few buckets of water might solve the problem; others want to pray for rain.
On Sunday Kirsten Lawson wrote an insightful piece on an audit which offered an impartial, exhaustive, catalogue of the government's apparent inability to administer drought relief rather than use the money for apparent boondoggles. Labor might find it more profitable to use techniques like this - focusing on the detail - as a text for critiquing the government. Point out the government's incompetence rather than searching for new, wonderful, and illusory policies on which to build a platform.
Government will change, eventually, but not because of anything the opposition promises to do. It needs good leadership, a solid platform, and a united party, but none of those will individually cause a government to fall.
That will be because voters have lost faith in the PM, think the ministry's unfit, and feel secure and hopeful about the opposition. Everything else is noise.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer