«This has been hi-vis workers’ revolution. They are the most visible Australians in our nation’s airports but they are often ignored by our nation’s political leaders … They don’t talk much but they do vote and, boy, have they voted on the weekend.»
The bullish assessment follows a decimation for Labor that will likely leave them with just six seats in Queensland compared with the Liberal National Party’s 23 and has consolidated the state as the Coalition’s most reliable heartland.
The result highlights a growing north-south divide in federal politics that could have long-term ramifications. In Victoria, Labor is on track to hold 22 seats to the Coalition’s 14.
Labor’s uncertainty on the proposed Adani coal mine, which would create thousands of jobs but is opposed by environmentalists, as well as outgoing Labor leader Bill Shorten’s franking credits, superannuation and tax policies, all contributed to Queenslanders’ anger.
The swing against Labor was extraordinary in its uniformity but it was particularly strong in the north where the mining sector is a major employer.
Coalition MP Michelle Landry, who represents the Rockhampton based seat of Capricornia, enjoyed a swing of more than 10 percent to her, partly on the back of One Nation preferences. More than one in seven voters in the seat deserted Labor on Saturday and most went to One Nation and, to a lesser extent, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
A «put Labor last» campaign by LNP supporters meant the fairly strong showing by One Nation and other minor parties ensured preferences flowed to the LNP.
Senator Canavan said the Coalition could build on its success in Queensland by targeting working class voters elsewhere, saying it was a «fire that can easily spread to other states».
«What we need to do is use Queensland as a platform, not a fortress, and spread this workers’ revolt to the rest of the country.»
He said there were «vast areas» of western Sydney — including seats as Greenway and Parramatta — and parts of Victoria that «would be under threat to the Labor Party if this workers’ revolt spreads».
Paul Williams, a political scientist at Queensland’s Griffith University, said Adani had been a significant «totemic» issue for the state.
«It represented people’s view of themselves as a development state, a mining state, a state for extractive industries that a lot of people work in. If anyone casts doubt on that, you’re seen as not very Queensland,» he said.
Senator Canavan and other LNP members said Queenslanders had reacted badly to perceived southern interference in its industry — a view Dr Williams broadly agreed with. This included the anti-Adani convoy led by former Greens leader Bob Brown.
Bert van Manen, who had a swing of more than 7 per cent to him in his seat of Forde, south of Brisbane, said, «I think the most important thing is Queenslanders have never enjoyed being told by others down south what they should and shouldn’t be doing.»
Keith Pitt who had a 6 percent swing to him in his Bundaberg-based seat of Hinkler said, «Queenslanders hate being told what to do, particularly by a bunch of blow-ins. So I think the Bob Brown convoy telling us that we can’t have jobs really worked against them».
The former Greens leader, Bob Brown, said on Sunday that «greed won» over climate action and that «it just shows that dollars will defeat morality at the ballot box».
Senator Canavan said there was a «worker’s revolution happening across the world».
«It’s just not a worker’s revolution towards the left, it’s towards the conservative viewpoint that puts economic security above radical policies to change the structure of our economy. The extreme demands of climate change activists is pushing what have otherwise been strong Labor-voting areas towards the conservative side of politics.»
David Wroe is defence and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.