Three prime ministers - Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott - in less than three months. Australia has never seen anything like it.
It was the first election announced via Twitter. Just five weeks after Labor's Mr Rudd seized the prime ministership from Julia Gillard, who had taken it from him three years previously, he tweeted ''It's on.''
There seemed an excitement in it, as if he could barely wait to harness his famed ''people power''.
His enthusiasm turned out to be premature.
It signalled the beginning of a five-week campaign during which Mr Rudd and his party's hopes steadily sank and Tony Abbott and his Coalition just as steadily rose.
Rudd's Labor was met by a highly effective Coalition advertising campaign that portrayed the government as a lemon and riven by internal discord.
It took little more than a week to become apparent that Rudd's supporters had overestimated his ability to attract and hold the ardour of voters in his home state of Queensland - the key to a buffer that early theory imagined might have saved the party from losses elsewhere.
It took a little longer, with western Sydney, Tasmania and parts of Victoria emerging as disaster zones, for many in Labor to recognise they had underestimated Tony Abbott. His much-dismissed ''three-word slogans'' had laid the ground for a campaign that simply built upon the slogans' themes.
Abbott refused to be diverted, sticking stubbornly to the script that a Coalition government would abolish the carbon tax, stop the asylum seeker boats and ''stop the waste''. By mid-campaign, even when he stuck his foot in his mouth by lauding the sex appeal of a couple of female Liberal candidates and later approving the idea of ''body contact'' with young netballers, voters appeared content to forgive him - and internal Liberal research showed it may have even worked in his blokey favour.
Rudd, having promised he had changed his ways since his former incarnation as prime minister and was now listening to colleagues and embracing a collegiate manner, infuriated his campaign team bunkered in Melbourne by adopting a Presidential ''it's all about Kevin'' style of campaigning.
He was regularly filmed clicking ''selfie'' pictures on mobile phones, and he took off on morning walks surrounded by battalions of young enthusiasts outfitted in red Rudd T-shirts, despite the campaign team - feeling sidelined by Rudd and his travelling strategist, former lobbyist Bruce Hawker - learning early through their own polling that such self-indulgence was annoying voters in the suburbs.
Worse, as Mr Rudd pursued an increasingly frenetic schedule of flights from one part of Australia to the next, he appeared to be making big announcements on the run: a low-tax economic zone in the north; a plan for a Very Fast Train up the east coast that was widely dismissed as pie-in-the-sky; moving the navy from Sydney to Queensland. The improbability of such ideas eventuating took the edge off Labor's attack on Mr Abbott's own crackpot notion of buying Indonesian fishing boats to foil people smugglers.
Mr Rudd's constant and strongest theme was that voters could not trust an Abbott Coalition with the economy because Mr Abbott and his Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey were hiding the Coalition's policy costings until the last minute. Abbott countered that Labor had never managed to get an estimate of its own economic predictions right.
Rudd and his treasurer, Chris Bowen, lost all momentum on the argument when the country's senior finance and Treasury bureaucrats disowned what Rudd had offered as proof of a $10 billion ''black hole'' in the Coalition's plans.
It was a disaster that robbed much of the zest from last Sunday's Labor campaign launch in Brisbane - an event that was designed to propel Rudd and his party into the final week.
The Labor-Coalition contest was dismissed by cynics as the Seinfeld Election Campaign - a show about nothing.
Often, watching Mr Abbott and Mr Rudd dancing from one electorate to another, donning fluoro jackets and sitting upon the floor of primary schools, it seemed to be so.
The result, however, is about much.
The Australian Labor Party, the oldest existing political organisation in the nation, has been consigned to a long night of the soul, a bloodletting ahead.
Meanwhile, Australians have taken a leap of faith with Mr Abbott's Coalition that indeed left it to the last minute - Thursday, two days before voting day - to explain in anything approaching detail how it might pay for its plans to run the 12th-largest economy in the world.
A motif much remarked upon during the long five weeks was that foreign observers could not fathom why Australian voters were so disenchanted.
Australia, almost alone among developed economies, had not plunged into recession either during or after the global financial crisis, employment had stayed relatively strong, the nation had continued to experience growth, debt and deficit were nowhere near the dreadful levels of most nations and inflation was so controlled it hardly gained a mention anywhere.
It was exasperating to the Labor government and confusing from afar that Australians were lining up to toss out the government that had overseen such deliverance.
Indeed, Labor hearts received a rare and sorely-needed lift during the middle of the campaign when The Economist - the venerable British-based publication with an international readership - endorsed Rudd's government for another term, albeit with no great enthusiasm.
In an editorial that included a sub-headline that read ''Daggy Abbott and rude Rudd'', the magazine declared: ''The choice between a man with a defective manifesto [Abbott] and one with a defective personality [Rudd] is not appealing - but Mr Rudd gets our vote, largely because of Labor's decent record.''
The distant judgment, however, did not take into account what many Australians felt they had observed up close for too long: a Labor government at war with itself, shaken by the relentless assault upon it by a disciplined and merciless Abbott opposition.
The ALP home front, to a broad swathe of the electorate, offered a raggedness that invited little but confusion and derision as it swapped leaders.
Editorial writers across much of the Australian media offered scant solace for a government in acute need of friends.
Rupert Murdoch's Australian newspapers took a set against Labor from the start, with News Corp's major Sydney tabloid, The Daily Telegraph, firing its opening salvo on the first day of the campaign with a headline screaming from the front page: ''Kick this mob out''.
News Corp never changed its mind. Its newspapers' assault on Labor appeared to most long-time observers to be the most sustained political offensive since the 1970s, when the Murdoch empire supported Gough Whitlam in 1972 and then turned against him with a vengeance in 1975.
At one point during the recent campaign, Mr Rudd all but accused Mr Murdoch of using his newspapers to destroy Labor because the ALP's national broadband network was a threat to Murdoch's commercial interest in the Foxtel pay TV network.
The Fairfax Media (publisher of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald) waited until last weekend to offer judgment in its Sunday newspapers. Both The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald (Sydney) editorialised in favour of Australia changing to a Coalition government.
Fairfax's The Australian Financial Review backed Abbott with an editorial on the first day of the campaign.
The Age on Friday was the only major newspaper in the land to back Labor, arguing it had a better suite of policies. The Sydney Morning Herald, which circulates across a state where the Labor brand smells as high as a fish market in the wake of a sensational corruption inquiry, threw its support behind Abbott and his Coalition.
Whatever the news media thought, a picture of former treasurer Wayne Swan attending Labor's campaign launch summed up the essential malignance eating away at Labor as it approached the election. Swan was seated a couple of rows back from the front, a forlorn, almost anonymous figure listening to Rudd hailing Paul Keating as ''Australia's greatest treasurer''.
Swan, until a little over two months ago, had been treasurer during the entire recession-free six years since Kevin Rudd became prime minister for the first time in 2007. Until two months ago, he was deputy prime minister.
But he didn't get a mention from Rudd at his party's campaign launch. He was mute testament to the almost surreal nature of Rudd's slogan, ''A New Way''.
The recent tumultuous past had to be buried, not least the fact that Swan was among six senior ministers - a third of cabinet - who had resigned rather than serve with Mr Rudd when he resumed the prime ministership.
Julia Gillard, the prime minister for three years who chose not to join Rudd's campaign launch lest she prove a ''distraction'', was getting out of Parliament altogether.
Tony Abbott, of course, was only too happy to remind voters of the messy history. During his National Press Club speech last week, he told the audience that in the past three years, Labor had ''two changes of prime minister, six small business ministers, five assistant treasurers and four immigration ministers''. He could have added four tertiary education ministers just this year, plus in the past three months two treasurers, two climate change ministers, two trade ministers, two agriculture ministers and two schools ministers.
Labor, in short, was burdened before the campaign began by an entanglement of crossed signals dating back to mid-2010, when Labor dumped Rudd.
For three years Julia Gillard, staggering beneath a perception fed daily by Abbott that she was captive to extreme policies of the Greens in order to retain power in the hung Parliament, had been required to look nervously over her shoulder at the spurned Rudd. Five weeks before the campaign began, Rudd, his supporters and a swag of Labor MPs terrified about the fate of their own seats finally brought her down.
Labor today is facing a grim question: was it all worth it?
And Tony Abbott, the third prime minister in less than three months, is grinning.
- By Tony Wright, of The Age