The Greens have challenged Families Minister Jenny Macklin to live off the Newstart allowance after she said she could survive on the $35-a-day payment.

Greens acting leader Adam Bandt said on Wednesday he will live off the Newstart allowance for a week when parliament resumes, to prove how difficult it is.

It comes after Ms Macklin was asked during a press conference about the federal government's changes to the Newstart allowance on Tuesday if she could survive on $35 a day - the new rate of the benefit.

Ms Macklin responded, "I could" but the question and answer were described as "inaudible" when her office released a transcript of the press conference.

Mr Bandt said for the minister to say it is possible to live on that amount was "an outrageous statement".

"Once you take into account your rent your bills, your food, there's not much change left over from $35 a day," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"There has been inquiry after inquiry, report after report saying this is an income that's below the poverty line, it's not really an income at all.

"I think perhaps the minister needs some first hand experience of it and maybe that will change her mind."

The Greens say the allowance should be increased by $50 a week to help people on the allowance meet some of the most pressing expenses.

Opposition Families spokesman Jamie Briggs said the government should focus on balancing its own books rather than lecturing single mothers.

"After five years of delivering record debt and deficits, the last thing the Gillard Labor Government should be doing is lecturing single mums on how to live within their means," Mr Briggs said in a statement.

"The Gillard Labor government is incompetent and untrustworthy - it can't even be trusted to get a ministerial transcript right.

"Plainly, it would be tough to live on the dole but the question to be answered today is why did Minister Macklin try to hide her answer?"

West Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert spent a week living off the allowance last year and said she found it impossible.

"It gave me a really good feel for what it's like to have to try and exist on that, to try and pay your rent, pay your necessary bills, eat and try and find a job," she told ABC Radio in Melbourne.

Under the Newstart changes, single parents will move onto the Newstart allowance when their youngest child turns eight.

It will save the budget $728 million over four years but welfare groups say it will lead to more people falling into poverty.

Ms Macklin defended the changes on Tuesday saying they would encourage people to work.

"We understand what is important for people who are unemployed is that we do everything possible to help people get work," she told reporters in Melbourne.


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