Individual booth results in Bass made for sobering reading for the Labor Party in the days after the 2019 election.
A whopping 15.2 per cent swing to the Liberals in Rocherlea, 10.4 per cent in Ravenswood, 11.1 per cent in Waverley, 11.5 per cent in the two George Town booths, 8.8 per cent in Mowbray and 9.4 per cent in Newnham struck at the core of the party.
These were meant to be their heartlands, and while still winning the booths comfortably, hemorrhaging votes like this proved to be critical: incumbent Labor MHR Ross Hart lost by under 300 votes two-party preferred.
Click on a booth to see the result (two-party preferred, including swing):
It proved to be a domino. The coalition ended with 77 seats, just enough to govern in majority. Picking up both Bass and Braddon was critical on their path to an unexpected victory.
While reluctant to identify a single issue that could have swung the pendulum in either direction on May 18, 2019, the past 12 months have shown just how easy it is for the government to pull its ample levers of power and lift millions out of poverty by increasing the rebranded JobSeeker.
And just as easily, they can be sent back into poverty - a reality from April 1.
This demonstrated the problem with Labor's pre-election policy on Newstart: yes, the party supported raising the rate, but by not naming a specific level as a starting point it robbed the party of the chance to give voters in these parts of the electorate an easy-to-follow policy that would improve their lives in a tangible way.
The JobSeeker rate was quickly lifted in response to mass job losses due to COVID. There was no need for lengthy reviews into what rate was correct, it was just done. And it can be done again.
Speaking regularly to people in these areas, there is a real fear of seeing the JobSeeker rate drop back down. This was their reality before the election. They are just as engaged on the issue. The tired "dole bludger" rhetoric no longer resonates as much as it used to. There's far greater recognition of poverty in Australia than there once was.
So where are we now?
Last week, the Senate handed down its report into the proposal to drop JobSeeker by $100 per fortnight from the end of March. It'll be put to a vote soon, leaving the rate $4-a-day above the pre-COVID level.
The government, via Tasmanian Liberal senator Wendy Askew, repeated its arguments that the rate was not meant to "function as a wage replacement" and was "consistent with policies that encourage seeking out and maintaining paid employment". This has been their line all along.
Of the almost 400 public submissions on the bill, just one supported it.
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Labor, via Tasmanian senator Helen Polley, acknowledged the proposed rate would limit access to healthcare, housing and education. But the party chose to support the bill, claiming that only government ministers "can increase expenditure" and the opposition was powerless. If the bill was rejected, the JobSeeker rate would drop to the pre-COVID level from April 1.
With an election in 2022, if not sooner, the impacts of reducing the rate of JobSeeker could be clear to see in the community, especially when compared with the higher rate during COVID. It could be an election issue in Northern Tasmania, particularly if groups like the Australian Unemployed Workers Union follow through with plans to campaign in Bass and Braddon.
Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer has recognised the value of engaging with those areas that swung so heavily in her favour in 2019, trying to strike a balance between arguing for the disadvantaged from within government, while not getting in the way of their legislative agenda.
It leaves open the opportunity for clear and bold policy to permanently lift people out of poverty, but is there political will?
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