Why MPs were booted out of parliament

·4-min read
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended his government’s second budget. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Anthony Albanese has dodged a question about whether a $2.80 a day increase to Jobseeker payments amounts to a “fair go” for unemployed Australians.

The Prime Minister was pressed on the decision to increase a range of unemployment benefits by a $40 fortnight in question time the day after his government’s second federal budget was handed down.

Two MPs were hurled out of the chamber at separate points during the at-times rowdy session on Wednesday, which was dominated by debate over the budget.

The Coalition hounded Labor over its fiscal plans, using allocated questions to press the government on what it was doing for small businesses and whether the budget would fuel inflation.

Victorian Liberal MP Michael Sukkar and Queensland Liberal National Party MP Luke Howarth were both kicked out after House Speaker Milton Dick determined their behaviour to be too unruly.

At one point, independent MP Kate Chaney asked Mr Albanese how the small Jobseeker boost could be “enough” given the government’s own economic advisory committee recommended a $19 a day increase.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during question time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Mr Albanese may have gone into autopilot as he began his response, saying: “I thank the member for his question” — despite Ms Chaney being a woman.

Murmurs of “her” were heard in the chamber as several MPs moved to correct him.

But Mr Albanese continued undeterred, saying he was proud to have delivered a budget that would take pressure off families and provide targeted relief to the most vulnerable without adding to inflation.

“One of the things I said during the election campaign, when I was asked about Jobseeker, is Labor is the party that will also look after the disadvantage,” he said.

“We didn’t just do Jobseeker,” Mr Albanese continued before rattling off the government’s other cost of living measures such as energy bill rebates, cheaper childcare and increased bulk billing incentives for GPs.

He said the government’s plan to provide 480,000 Australians with free TAFE training was “about getting people into employment, offering them the skills so that they get a job so they get off Jobseeker”.

Aside from very modest increases caused by routine indexation, welfare payments were last raised by the Coalition in April 2021.

The Morrison government raised the rate of Jobseeker, youth allowance and other payments by $50 a fortnight after ditching the Covid-19 welfare subsidy, which had temporarily doubled income support.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers defended the budget. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Certain critics of Tuesday’s budget have said the government should have done more to lift people who rely on unemployment benefits out of poverty.

Others will argue the budget leaves middle Australia behind given many cost of living measures such as energy bill rebates will only be available to concession card holders or welfare recipients.

Speaking at the National Press Club earlier on Wednesday, Jim Chalmers said the government hadn’t had to choose between “budget responsibility and compassion for the most vulnerable people”.

The Treasurer was asked: “Why do people on the dole get more money from the government out of this budget, but not a household on more than $160,000 a year (who) don’t get the electricity bill relief?”

Dr Chalmers said: “There’s a lot we’re doing for middle Australia in this budget. But when it comes to social security, I think there are good reasons why we prioritised the most vulnerable.”

“I think the broader Australian community — they want a bit of help, they’re getting help from us in the budget,” he said.

“I think there’s a generosity inherent in the Australian character that says if you are doing it the toughest, you need the most help.”

The Coalition has signalled it will support key parts of Labor’s cost-of-living budget package, such as the energy bill rebates and bulk billing incentives for GPs.

But the opposition is yet to confirm if it will support the government’s $40 a fortnight increase to unemployment benefits.