What did we learn on Saturday? On the face of it, that voters were paying attention — and acted accordingly. The messages to politicians should be plain.

The primary impression is that divisive politics has been punished. Tony Abbott’s fate is emblematic, but we know that a number of those in the Coalition who wantonly tore at the processes of government had much to worry about. (Let’s simply note that Angus Taylor, Greg Hunt and Peter Dutton don’t seem to have had the time to participate in the national campaign.) Labor, remarkably, decided to take up the opportunity created by the Coalition’s own goals by kicking one of its own. Its campaign theme was fairness, but its tax message was intergenerational: one against the other.

Overall, it is fair to say that both major parties need to shed the idea of a “base.” In Australia, it’s irrelevant and in any case a euphemism. Voters have been loosening their loyalty for years in reaction to party identities that have more to do with narrow interests than the concerns of the broad middle. Since the election the prime minister and a number of Labor figures have claimed they embrace that message. They had better.

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