It's 46 years since as a first-year university student in Canberra I joined the Australian Labor Party.
As it happens that span of years is right now book-ended by elections in the NSW seat of Eden-Monaro.
By May 1974 things were already starting to go pear-shaped for Gough Whitlam's Labor government.
The big man bravely went to a double-dissolution election which worked out alright for him.
The ALP lost some ground in the lower house, but with a margin large enough to continue governing comfortably.
The gains came in the Senate where despite sending all incumbents to the polls and with a smaller quota required to get back, all Democratic Labor Party senators were wiped out.
There was no Senate majority even then for the ALP.
But it was a much more workable situation with the five DLP senators who had been a thorn in Labor's side now gone.
But back to the House and Eden-Monaro where Bob Whan retained the seat he had won for the ALP two years earlier at the time of Whitlam's famous victory.
What's interesting now is that despite the storm clouds gathering over Canberra, Whan actually increased his vote - most pertinently with 48 per cent of the first preferences.
That's in sharp contrast with what happened last weekend.
Whilst Labor's Kristy McBain looks the likely victor her share of the first preference vote will only be around 36 per cent.
Not in any sort of contrast is the two candidate preferred result.
Whan prevailed by 50.1/49.9 which won't be far-off McBain's margin.
For the three elections from 1975, the Labor vote plummeted.
But when Eden-Monaro's status as a bell-weather seat was maintained with Bob Hawke's 1983 success, Jim Snow's first preference count for the ALP was back up at 49 per cent.
But in general it has been decline ever since.
This is a massive problem for Labor - and one which the party seems to be struggling to address in any meaningful way.
Because this is not just a problem in the south east corner of NSW - it's everywhere.
Of course in the early 1970s there was a much clearer social divide in Australia.
With manufacturing playing a huge role in the economy, union membership was proportionately higher.
The shop floor provided a platform on a daily basis for Labor to spread its message to the permanently rusted-on.
Social media was a long way off.
But newspapers, radio and television were more prevalent vehicles for political commentary - albeit with their traditional biases one way or the other.
Locally produced content on television was abundant meaning the issues affecting each electorate got a run and provided the opportunity for candidates to present themselves and their stories.
And there was not the abundance of third parties as now - certainly not those able to campaign in the cashed-up manner that a Palmer United or One Nation does.
When Whan won Eden-Monaro, Labor's likelihood of success right round the country depended on its first preference vote being high.
Preferences didn't go in that direction as a general rule.
By contrast McBain's victory will have been off the back of a massive preference flow - and not as per usual solely the result of a big transfer from the Greens whose vote was also down.
This time it came courtesy of the right flank of politics - openly from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and anecdotally at least from a significant leakage from the Nationals.
Labor may have been fortunate that there was no Palmer or One Nation presence and that some of the right side were of the view they wanted to message the Morrison government.
All of this emphasises the very shaky ground on which the ALP finds itself.
In two years' time when we all head to the polls the quirks that got McBain across the line might have re-set.
What she must do - and her party allow her to do - is to make her presence felt unfettered by the need to toe the line regardless of the circumstances.
The Liberals often rightly criticise Labor for the narrow basis from which it selects candidates in safe seats and those with winnable margins.
As with the previous local member army veteran Mike Kelly, Labor had the good sense to look outside its inner sanctum.
McBain was not a party insider but a successful local mayor who had grown in prominence during the bushfire crisis.
She drew her own vote in the smaller centres whilst Labor's vote dropped in the biggest population base in Queanbeyan.
The ALP no longer inherently appeals to anything like 48 per cent of the community in most of the seats that it can win.
Whilst addressing that factor across the board, Labor must also shed its factional carve-up of potential spoils and find many more community-based options like McBain.
- Brian Roe, sports administrator and former Labor candidate.