Dutton 'scratching around' for budget ideas: Chalmers

May 14, 2023 09:38 AM AEST | By AAPNEWS
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The treasurer has accused the coalition of "scratching around" for ideas to get people off JobSeeker, following an opposition proposal for those on welfare to be able to work for longer.

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 told the ABC's Insiders program.

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

The government's plan in the budget was to boost JobSeeker and youth allowance payment by $40 a fortnight, which is 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 having 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."

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 told Sky News on Sunday.

"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.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the coalition had yet to determine whether the party would support the $40 a fortnight rise in JobSeeker in parliament.

However, he said the boost in the payment threshold as part of the opposition plan would get more people into work.

"(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 told Sky News.

"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."

Mr Taylor said the budget would lead to further inflationary pressures and the government was aggravating the situation.

"The truth is, inflation is coming from Canberra now, not from the Kremlin ... and Canberra needs to deal with it and that's what they failed to do in this budget."

"Instead of dealing with the source of the problem, they're now dealing with the symptoms. They're putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound."


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