WA's peak welfare body has blasted Families Minister Jenny Macklin as out of touch for claiming she could live on the dole, saying many dole recipients were getting heavily into debt, harming their health and relying on charity just to survive on $35 a day.
The office of Ms Macklin - who as a Cabinet minister earns $6321 a week or $903 a day - yesterday refused to release their recording of Tuesday's press conference where the minister replied "I could" when asked by a reporter if she could live on the dole.
Although the remark was captured clearly by TV cameras, the official transcript issued by her office described the comment as "inaudible".
Her spokeswoman has blamed the gap in the transcript on noise from a car engine drowning out her boss on the recording.
Shadow families minister Jamie Briggs said while it would be tough to live on the dole, "the question to be answered today is why did Minister Macklin try to hide her answer"?
Welfare groups and the Greens seized on Ms Macklin's claim to challenge her to live on the dole and reignite their push for a $50 a week increase to the Newstart allowance. WA Council of Social Service policy director Chris Twomey said Ms Macklin needed a reality check.
The council found typical Newstart recipients' expenses easily exceeded the payment - which in the case of single person with no dependent children fell $30 a week short.
Mr Twomey said recipients faced tough choices about making ends meet. Some got high interest loans from pay day lenders or relied on help from charities, government emergency relief programs, friends and families. Others would buy cheaper but less nutritious food.
"There are some weeks where you are going: 'What am I going to give up to have my medicine or am I going to give up my medicine to make sure I am feeding my children'," he said.
National Council of Single Mothers chief executive Terese Edwards said Ms Macklin's claim rubbed further salt into the wounds of single parents who this week were shifted from parenting payment to the lower Newstart, costing them up to $110 a week.
Acting Greens leader Adam Bandt said he would live for a week on the dole next month and invited Ms Macklin to join him.
"Living on the dole isn't living, it's surviving," he said.
Ms Macklin's comments are in stark contrast to those of her Labor colleagues, who last year used a Senate report to call for a rise in the dole, while fellow frontbencher Bill Shorten has said it was too low.
A single person with no children receives $246 a week on Newstart - equal to $35 a day.