Dutton 'scratching around' for ideas with welfare plan

·3-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

The treasurer has accused the coalition of "scratching around" for ideas to get people off JobSeeker after an opposition pitch for those on welfare to be able to do more work without penalty.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton used his budget reply speech to propose an increase to the maximum number of hours those on welfare could work before they would lose any financial benefits.

While Treasurer Jim Chalmers did not say whether the government would back the idea, he said the issues brought up by the opposition were already being considered.

"Getting more people into work was already a central feature of our economic plan before Peter Dutton started scratching around for something to say in budget week," he said.

"These sorts of issues are the sorts of issues that ... we would ordinarily contemplate in the usual business."

The budget includes a $40 boost to JobSeeker and youth allowance payments each fortnight as part of a $14.6 billion cost-of-living relief package.

Dr Chalmers denied opposition suggestions the budget had neglected middle Australia and would lead to more working poor.

"This is just the predictable combination of division and dishonesty that Peter Dutton learned at the feet of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. This was a budget for middle Australia," he said.

"There are people doing it tough and they are the motivation behind all of our efforts to get wages moving again."

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the coalition was yet to determine whether the party would support the $40-a-fortnight JobSeeker lift, warning the budget would lead to further inflationary pressures.

But he said the opposition's plan to boost the work threshold before payments were cut would get more people into jobs.

"(The government) have got to put away their ideological prejudices and recognise that getting people into work and working is the best way to improve somebody's life," he said.

"You can't walk into a small business or any business around Australia right now without them telling you about the challenges of finding workers."

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the coalition's proposal to lift the JobSeeker threshold would be unlikely to get more people off the payment.

"This is a thought bubble by Peter Dutton and what we don't know is how this will actually encourage workforce participation," she said.

"There are a lot of questions and potential unintended consequences of the leader of the opposition's proposal."

Ms Rishworth said the rise in the payments, as well as rises in the minimum wage, would be unlikely to add to inflation.

"The advice across the board was that our budget measures, our cost-of-living package, would not add to inflation, indeed attacking some of those really acute price pressures," she said.

Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said the government needed to raise the JobSeeker payment further.

"The government did that during the pandemic. We know it's possible, that changed hundreds of thousands of people's lives for the better," he said.

"Our point to the Labor Party and to the Liberal Party is the best way that you can tackle the cost-of-living crisis and lift people out of poverty ... is raise the JobSeeker rate above the poverty line."