But it is clear these same voters have turned on them brutally in Queensland at least in part because they didn’t trust Bill Shorten to back the kind of big developments such as the Adani coal mine they see as vital to their future employment and that of their children.
As Griffith University political scientist Paul Williams puts it, Adani was «totemic».
Comparisons with Brexit or Donald Trump will fairly be viewed with scepticism.
But Resources Minister and powerful Queensland National Matt Canavan isn’t far off when he points to a «worker’s revolution happening across the world» that is pushing people on regular incomes towards conservative rather than left-leaning parties.
The Queensland seat of Capricornia is a perfect illustration. It has many coal-mining workers and was held almost steadily by Labor from the 1960s until 2013, yet as of today it is a much safer Coalition seat than Josh Frydenberg’s well-heeled Kooyong, which was Robert Menzies’ old electorate.
It may not be a new phenomenon. John Howard drew on it over successive elections with his «battlers». But this election has expanded and entrenched it.
Both parties must now figure out how to bridge a north-south divide. The Liberals have lost Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah partly over climate change, while taking Queensland on pretty much the opposite sentiment, giving the northerners the clearly stronger hand.
Labor’s even more complicated challenge is summed up by the fact the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, to which many of its natural supporters in northern Queensland belong, supported the Adani project while outgoing Labor leader Bill Shorten hedged uncomfortably because of Labor’s environmental credentials.
Mr Shorten’s successor has at least three years in opposition to figure that out.
Scott Morrison’s challenge, given he has pledged to govern from the centre, will be to pull off a stellar bit of political leadership by encouraging the kind of innovation that renewable energy represents without causing riots in the north where extractive industries reign supreme.
David Wroe is defence and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.