A proposal to lift the working hours threshold for those on JobSeeker would allow them to earn more while putting less strain on the budget, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says.
The coalition has called for an increase of five to 10 hours in the time people on JobSeeker can work before their payment benefits are removed.
Mr Dutton said the opposition proposal amounted to about half the cost of the government’s plan to boost JobSeeker payments by $40 a fortnight.
Last week’s federal budget put the estimated cost at $4.9b, with the scheme to boost welfare payments for 1.1 million Australians.
“We’ll have a look at the government’s proposal on the $40 a fortnight, but we think that we can give people an extra $150 a fortnight,” Mr Dutton told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
“It’s about half of (the government’s) figure. So it’s not an insignificant amount of money.”
The opposition leader said the coalition had yet to formally consider whether it would support the government’s $40-a-fortnight boost to JobSeeker.
But he was optimistic there would be cross-party support for lifting the working hours threshold.
“We want a discussion with the government to properly consider what we’re putting forward because it’s put forward in a genuine spirit of bipartisanship,” he said.
“We want to see the government properly consider what it is we’re putting forward before we say what the next step is and it’s a lot of money … any policy change within the welfare space is expensive.”
The federal budget contained a $14.6b package for cost-of-living measures including the JobSeeker rises, a tripling of the bulk-billing rate and energy bill relief.
Anglicare executive director Kasy Chambers said even with the budget’s JobSeeker rise, it was not enough to make rental housing affordable for those on welfare.
“There is no region right across Australia that is affordable for people on low incomes and government benefits,” she told the National Press Club on Tuesday.
“Out of … 46,000 listings, four rooms in sharehouses were available across Australia that were affordable for someone on the JobSeeker allowance.
“(And) when we factored in that $40 a fortnight, that did actually raise the number of affordable rentals to five.”
Ms Chambers said someone working full time on a minimum wage could afford less than one per cent of rentals.
Mr Dutton said measures to tackle the cost of living should focus on bringing down inflation.
“Inflation as we know is stubbornly high. It’s quick to go up but very slow to come down, and the best thing that we could do to help families at the moment is to reduce their mortgage payments,” he said.
“There are a lot of people who are heading into mortgage distress and are really starting to worry about where they are and, in this budget, middle Australia was never mentioned.”
Treasurer Jim Chalmers continued his post-budget sales pitch across the country on Tuesday, speaking at events on the NSW Central Coast and in Sydney.
(Australian Associated Press)