More than 4 million Australians are living in communities identified as highly distressed in socioeconomic terms, according to a new report co-authored by Griffith University academic Professor Scott Baum.

Released by Griffith’s Policy Innovation Hub and the University of Newcastle’s Centre of Full Employment and Equity, the ‘Prosperity and Distress in Australia’s Cities and Regions’ report examines indicators of socioeconomic prosperity and distress, and tracks these across Australian urban and regional communities and federal electorate boundaries.

“The issue of socioeconomic distress in Australian cities, towns and local communities is not new,” Professor Baum said. “We can’t just stand by while so many Australians are living on the margins and being largely excluded by the country’s economic and social prosperity.

“It is up to our nation’s leaders to start addressing these issues in new ways and really focusing on those that are being left behind.”

Professor Scott Baum

Compiled by Professor Baum and Newcastle colleagues Professor Bill Mitchell and Mr Michael Flanagan, the report highlights the underlying political lines along which the wealth gap falls in this country.

Among the report’s findings is the fact that Australia’s most prosperous communities are located in Federal seats overwhelmingly located in urban areas and held by the Liberal Party.

Conversely, distressed communities tend to be located in non-urban seats held by the National Party and urban seats held by the Labor Party.

Taken together, the Liberal/National coalition represent a larger share of marginal seats that are characterised as being highly distressed, with more than 40 per cent of the distressed seats held by the Liberal/National coalition being marginal in nature.

“As we come into the 2019 federal election, all major parties should be concerned about the level of socioeconomic distress evident in the electorate, especially in those marginal seats that could make or break election outcomes,” Professor Baum said.

“It seems that the major parties are attempting to convince voters that broad policies will have some trickle-down effect to the most disadvantaged individuals, families and communities.

“I think this is a dangerous approach, especially in highly distressed marginal seats where people are feeling increasingly disengaged and disenfranchised. We have seen elsewhere the impact on political outcomes of failing to address the needs of those living at the margins.”

For more information about Queensland electorates and key issues for voters, see Griffith’s federal election analysis portal, Below the Line.