Kerryn Phelps Wentworth byelection
Kerryn Phelps announcing her candidacy for the federal seat of Wentworth. (Image credit: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

Apparently there was no one there a decade or so ago when one of the 12 Apostles rock formations suddenly cracked, broke and collapsed into the sea. Imagine if you had been. You would not have believed your eyes, for a moment or two. Then, when you were convinced it was real, you would have been struck by the enigma of occurrence -- something remains in a steady state for decades, and then there is "the event", and the before and after of it are radically different. There was a rock standing tall, then there was not. Weird.

Thus, to the Wentworth byelection. Some political pundits have so much hope for radical shifts, drama, transformation -- this writer included -- that we have to remind ourselves that continuity is the norm (the mainstream press gallery, by contrast, desperately hope that nothing will change, and ignore it when it patently does). Party-political wise, we are mid-range volatile in the anglosphere. The US system has not changed since 1860, and the UK system has had one serious change -- the Liberal-Labour switch -- in 1924. We have had two completely different histories: pre-WWII, in which there was no stable party system to speak of, and after, in which significant party shift was confine to the Senate. The emergence of lower house Greens and independents with king-making powers looked like a bit of historical throat-clearing.