Just a year ago Scott Morrison was insisting "I've got this". The electorate, however, decided trusting (his) god to keep sending messages was no way to run a country and, in May, sent him packing. The then government lost 17 seats, suffering a decisive first preference swing of 5.74 per cent, and receiving its lowest proportion of seats in the House of Representatives since the creation of the Liberal's in 1946. It was a disaster. And Labor? Well, success came despite the party obtaining its lowest share (32.59) of the first party vote since 1934 and while Anthony Albanese's done a brilliant job of appearing comfortable as Prime Minister, he still holds just a single-seat majority. The ACT Senate result perfectly reflected the will of the country: returning Labor's Katy Gallagher (with a 5.98 swing against her) and dismissing a conservative, right-wing Liberal, to install David Pocock, an independent, generous (perhaps a better word than 'liberal'), environmentalist. As the new year begins it's important to remember this political reality. Albanese's victory was both real and hollow at the same time. Recognising his exceptional success - as the fourth person to lead Labor into government since 1949 - still permits us to investigate the shallow foundations of his accomplishment. Only doing this will allow us to fully understand what's going on in the country at the moment. We need to do this not just to understand the obstacles confronting us, but also to comprehend the sacrifices we will need to make to take on the challenges of the future. The shape of our current political system evolved to cope with prosperity that followed World War II. The need was to find a way of sharing out all the goodies that came with exploiting resources. By comparison with today the task then was simple: reconcile workers and bosses, build infrastructure, and nurture growth. Today the mission has changed and this explains the changing composition of parliament, posing direct challenges for all parties. Labor has to cope with plummeting union membership, the Nationals with new-thinking farmers, and the Liberals with voters who want more than tax breaks. Overlaying these concerns are environmental issues (across the country) and concerns about social cohesion (especially in the suburbs). Our society has changed. For decades Albanese has composed his sentences by inserting stock phrases and we're used to hearing him utter formulaic responses. Perhaps, in some long-ago world, there actually were "Tory bosses" who were busy "exploiting workers" and "infrastructure [could] provide an answer". Today, however, such idioms ring hollow. He can repeat these all he wants but it still won't make them true. They're hollow because they fail to address the real issue: the fracturing of society along new fault lines. The biggest of these, the one that neither major party wants to confront, is immigration. The growing population has resulted in growing differences between the different constituencies that make up Australia. The "middle" that the parties used to fight over, the iconic marginal voter who would decide the swinging seat in the middle of the electoral pendulum, has progressively vanished. Today elections are decided by appealing to particular constituencies. At the last election, for example, Peter Dutton used such strong language against Beijing it became difficult to distinguish whether his sentiment was anti-CCP or anti-Chinese in general. This dog-whistling may have worked in some of the outer suburban seats the party held but it resulted in a pronounced swing against the coalition amongst ethnic Chinese communities closer to the CBD's of the major cities. A strong case can be made that it was this alone that consigned Morrison to oblivion. As long as individual groups of voters remain uninspired by the visions of the major parties, they will be ripe for recruitment by single-issue parties which believe they've identified the only issue that matters. Take the threat to the environment posed by climate change. This is quintessentially a Greens issue, yet addressing it requires slashing immigration. This, however, remains a no-go area for the party. Its members want to protect country, welcome asylum seekers, increase diversity, and (to a lesser extent) continue enjoying economic prosperity. The current foundation of these is our immigration program and that's why the Greens aren't picking up One Nation or Clive Palmer votes. They aren't prepared to accommodate the sorts of compromises that would require hard choices to be made on issues like this. This explains why the Greens face a seemingly permanent ceiling on their vote (totalling 12.66 per cent in May, their most successful lower house election ever). They won Queensland seats from both the Labor and Liberal parties but that was almost exclusively a reflection of the ugliness of both major parties. Voters recognise that single-issue parties and simple solutions, don't represent an answer. Their very existence depends on the inability of the major parties to implement the sort of policies voters want (such as decreased migration), but that's because electors also want continued economic prosperity (which demands increased immigration). READ MORE NICHOLAS STUART OPINION PIECES: Fundamental inconsistencies have resulted in the political paralysis of the last decade. The inability of either major party to articulate a way forward without abandoning the structural paradigms of the past has left both struggling. The huge success of the independents at the last election demonstrates voters do want real solutions and are prepared to engage with issues. In republican Rome, victorious generals could be awarded a triumph, where they rode through the city streets in a four-horse chariot. Loot from their conquests was displayed in increasingly lavish displays of power, as the brash adventurers attempted to buy political support. The leaders ensured that nobody shared their glory as they travelled, although in later centuries a nice story took hold which suggested successful commanders had a slave stationed behind them repeating the words, "sic transit gloria", or all glory is fleeting. The message was intended to re-insert reality into the equation and bring the leaders back to earth before they started to believe their own propaganda. Albanese deserves the same: goodwill, and warnings. His task is as difficult as that faced by any prime minister this century.