More than a quarter of Australia’s federal electoral divisions show signs of extreme or high exposure to the negative effects from the withdrawal of COVID-19 stimulus measures according to new Griffith University research.

Professor Scott Baum

Professor Scott Baum from Cities Research Instituteand Professor William Mitchell from University of Newcastle have mapped the economic vulnerability of all 151 Australian House of Representative seats due to the withdrawal of Jobkeeper and cuts to the Jobseeker payment drawn from Department of Social Services and The Treasury data.

The Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland are the top three states with the most seats in the extreme exposure category. Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales are next, topping the high exposure category.

Professor Baum says the withdrawal of the Australian government’s dual COVID-19 economic support measures will have a range of potential impacts on people and their communities.

“For those on Jobseeker payments, they will now contend with $150 per fortnight less, pushing them to live on income well below the poverty line. For businesses this could potentially push many to the brink resulting in closures and more layoffs.”

The index uses three key indicators to analyse the risk these seats face by accounting for the number of people on Jobseeker, the number of businesses on Jobkeeper and the change in the number of businesses from 2019 to 2020.

Pre-existing economic prosperity and pandemic responses

Professor Baum said pre-COVID levels of economic prosperity and the impact of different state level pandemic responses were important factors affecting electorates.

“The disruption to international travel and the decline in domestic travellers is one example where seats with a strong tourism sector have higher concentrations of workers and businesses on COVID-19 stimulus payments. These places now have greater exposure to the wind down of support.”

He warns the combined impact of these changes on local communities and the economy will likely lead to more disadvantage and less economic activity which could ripple out beyond those initially affected.

“Based on these findings the Australian Government should immediately reverse its premature withdrawal of COVID-19 economic support. Our economy is fragile and now is not the time for austerity.”

He said there is also an element of bipartisan risk for politicians because voters left behind in the pandemic could become disgruntled and usher in fringe parties.

“For the sake of our social and economic stability and resilience, economic policy decisions should be made with the lives of the entire Australian community in mind.”

The COVID-19 Economic Support and Withdrawal Exposure is available online.

1: No Poverty
UN Sustainable Development Goals 1: No Poverty