Federal opposition calls for boost in welfare threshold

·2-min read
Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS

The federal opposition has opened up debate on how those on welfare payments should be able to earn more money as they face a rising cost of living.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton used Thursday night's budget reply speech to propose an increase to the threshold that those on welfare would be able to work without losing any of their payments.

It followed the government using the federal budget to announce a $40 a fortnight increase in JobSeeker and youth allowance payments, which formed part of a $14.6 billion cost of living relief package.

Mr Dutton said the coalition's proposal would allow for more money to be made available to those on the payments.

"The better approach is to allow people on a JobSeeker payment to work, say, five or 10 hours a fortnight. It would give them a lot of extra money in their pocket compared to the $40 that the government is offering," he said.

"It allows people an introduction to work because we know in our country we've got 438,000 job vacancies and over 800,000 people on unemployment benefits."

The opposition leader said the Liberals would not immediately commit to supporting the government's $40 JobSeeker rise, but wanted to see the legislation.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said the junior coalition partner may look at backing the measure.

"We've made it very clear, we want to be constructive with this government around this proposal and we will look at supporting the $40," he said.

"But we need to have the conversation about what are the options that are available to try and get people back in the workforce to build productivity, not just hand money out, but to actually create wealth and grow the pie in this nation."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hit out at Mr Dutton, saying the opposition refused to back a rise in payments for JobSeeker.

"Peter Dutton was a cabinet minister who did not do anything to lift JobSeeker or make any of the changes that he has now proposed," he said.

"We want to relieve pressure on inflation, which is why we put forward a very responsible budget."

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government would release an employment white paper later in the year, which would focus on how to get more people into work.

He said the government would look to make it easier for people to find work.

"We've got wages moving again in our economy after a decade of deliberate wage suppression and wage stagnation," Dr Chalmers said.

The welfare sector says while the $20 a week lift is better than no increase, it is still well below the $181 a week rise required.