Abbott’s loss, Bishops shoes and too close to call, it was a wild night on the couch


Channel Nine, famed for past tasteful gimmicks that have variously crushed and shredded losing contenders, served up a giant red stiletto and the woman who inspired it, Julie Bishop. Ten brought us retired political pixie Christopher Pyne, who was dared by another panellist to sing an ABBA song within minutes of kick-off.

Seven had Alan Jones and Jeff Kennett, inspiring memories of their star turn on election night in 2016 when they pleaded with a shellshocked Malcolm Turnbull to come out of hiding and face the people.

And the ABC had Antony Green.

Election oracle Antony Green.Credit:Jacky Ghossein

Every election night, a nation turns its lonely eyes to him – anchor Leigh Sales acknowledged from the get-go that essentially they could have Elvis himself on the panel and all attention would still be on Green.

When the first figures dribbled through, Green displayed that familiar frisson that overcomes him in the presence of obscure polling booths in a snowfield. They were early numbers, but he wanted to assure us that we would, indeed, be seeing numbers.

“There’s only 21 votes – they’re just there to show you they are there,” he told us, and he might as well have been describing his essential, eternal self.

Over on Nine, they had debuted the BishBoot and turned to the lady herself for the introduction, and its first deployment: the eviction of Tony Abbott.

“Do you want to stand for this, Julie Bishop?” she was asked.

Bishop invited fellow Nine panellist Tanya Plibersek to join her for the moment – and Abbott was sent flying.

“I’m very sad,” said Bishop, seamlessly if incongruously, as she hailed her former leader’s achievements.

Julie Bishop reflects on Tony Abbott's time as prime minister after losing the seat of Warringah.

Julie Bishop reflects on Tony Abbott’s time as prime minister after losing the seat of Warringah.Credit:ninevms

Meanwhile, brows were widely furrowed as every opinion poll expectation was turned on its head. The swings were on – but they were to the Coalition. Tasmania was looking bad for Labor; Queensland was looking absolutely dreadful. Victoria was middling.

As the ABC’s Barrie Cassidy put it: “If Queensland’s not moving and Victoria is not as good as [Labor] expected … it could be a long night.”

On Sky, Jones sternly warned the nation to disregard his appearance as a gourmet ice cream and take the whip to those who had done Tony Abbott wrong.

“Some people have got a lot to answer for,” he thundered, as much as an acid-fuelled peppermint Splice in human form can credibly thunder.

Bill and Chloe Shorten enjoy an election day sausage.

Bill and Chloe Shorten enjoy an election day sausage.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Over at Aunty, Green was not seeing a Labor romp. Nor was Penny Wong: “I would have preferred to have gotten out of the blocks better than we have.”

There were caveats and cautions galore, those unprecedented millions of pre-poll and postal votes chief among them. And then there was Western Australia, two hours behind and held out as the potential balance to the anti-Labor swing in Queensland.

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What did it all mean?

The best Green could offer in the early hours was that the polls had got it very, very wrong.

And who upended the conventional wisdom apple cart?

Where else but Queensland.

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