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North Queensland is just at the sharp end of what’s happening across Australia

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As I write, metropolitan journalists are doubtless making their way to north Queensland, whose voters have been cast as a principal actor in Labor’s defeat.

I’m from Townsville, my family still lives there, and I visit as often as I can. I can easily imagine the articles coming our way. Reporters will certainly find people who are less guarded in expressions of racism than white Australians in metropolitan areas. Others will utterly deny global heating, or perhaps talk in dark or conspiracy-minded terms about opponents to Adani’s Carmichael coalmine.

This kind of quasi-anthropological trekking to conservative rural areas is depressingly familiar fare in Trump-era America. Calling it fetishism won’t stop it happening.

But this prospect has some people offering a pre-emptive defence of Queenslanders. On Twitter, some have insisted that these people are no different to other Australians, sharing similar attitudes and anxieties.

It seems to me that both of these perspectives are wrong but in complex ways.

There clearly is something quite specific going on in north Queensland. It’s obviously partly related to the mine, which local media obsessively highlighted as the only real issue. Just look at the numbers.

Labor easily lost Lindsay and other suburban swing seats in the south. But in Herbert, centred on Townsville, the loss was of an unprecedented scale.

Their incumbent received lowest primary vote in the seat since the first national election 1901, when north Queenslanders sent Labor’s Fred Bamford to Canberra after he campaigned on excluding South Sea Islander workers from the sugar cane fields.

In Herbert only one in four voters gave Labor a first preference. Labor also recorded its lowest primary votes in nearby Capricornia (24.7%) and Dawson (20.6%), where the scandal-plagued incumbent George Christensen got an 11.3% swing in his favour. All three electorates have returned Labor members in recent times, and Capricornia in particular was, until recently, a relatively reliable Labor seat.

In Dawson and Herbert the combined total of the far-right and populist-right parties — One Nation, Clive Palmer’s United Australia party and the Katter Australia party — eclipsed Labor’s tally. In Capricornia Labor only just edged........

© The Guardian