Political parties that have been in government for a long time and then find themselves in opposition having lost a general election face the difficult task of trying to reorganise themselves for the next electoral battle.

Most leaders of the major political party that suddenly finds itself in opposition usually put on a brave face and tell the citizens that the party is ready to be swept back into office at the next election.

The historical reality, of course, is that few Australian governments have been one-term administrations.

This applies to federal and state politics. To find the last administration that lasted only one term, one has to go back to 1931 when Jim Scullin’s factionalised Federal Labor Government was defeated amidst the onset of the Great Depression.

History, and the opinion polls, indicate that Malcolm Turnbull won’t be the prime minister after the next election. He probably won’t be the opposition leader much longer after that, either.

This means that one of the tasks the Liberal party will have to undertake over the next three years will be the re-building of its parliamentary wing. As part of this process, the party’s various state divisions will have to decide what they intend to do about the type of candidate they will put up in the very safest Liberal seats.

Interestingly, the Victorian Liberal party has already led the way in this process thanks to the decision of some senior MPs to retire and make way for the next generation of Liberal parliamentarians.

By the same token, the Western Australian division appears to be totally resistant to the idea, and appear to intend to recycle such long-serving MPs as Wilson Tuckey.

In the defence of her state division, Western Australian Liberal Julie Bishop makes the reasonable point that a case can be made for keeping a critical mass of senior MPs who can provide advice and insights based on experience, and act to mentor younger parliamentarians.

The problem here is that it would appear that the electorate seems to rather like the idea of their major political parties undertaking a rejuvenation not only of the party room as a whole, but also the leadership.

This is the lesson that emanates from the way electors have responded to the major parties in state politics.

In light of this, news that long-serving Liberal front-bencher Tony Abbott may be contemplating a run for the leadership in the event of Mr Turnbull failing at the next election is very interesting.

The elevation of Abbott to the leadership would be a retrograde step for two reasons.

First, Abbott is too closely identified with the John Howard leadership, and while there are plenty of Liberal partisans still romanticising the Howard years, the 2007 federal election result indicated that the majority of Australian voters had had enough of Howard and his politics.

Second, Abbott’s social conservatism is not only out of step with the community, it is out of step with his own party.

All through the Howard years Abbott made one failed attempt after another to impose the social conservative agenda on the Australian people.

This included failed attempts at stopping Medicare funding for abortions, banning stem-cell research, and banning the reproductive control medication RU 486.

In each of these instances Abbott seriously alienated moderates within his own party room. Abbott is not the answer for the Liberal party.

Indeed, if Abbott were really interested in doing something for the Liberal party he would take the lead of Peter Costello and Petro Georgiou and retire from national politics.

That way, the Liberal party in New South Wales could join the Victorian division in undertaking the important ask of rejuvenating the Liberal party in order to make it a more viable adversary to the Rudd-led Labor party in three or four years time.

Dr Economou is a senior lecturer in Politics at Monash University.