An increase to the rate of JobSeeker is expected to be waved through parliament despite the Coalition turning up the heat and vowing to scrap the $40-a-fortnight boost.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton committed to scrapping the increase in favour of doubling the income-free threshold for welfare recipients on Monday.
The government announced the $40-a-fortnight increase in the May budget. It’s warned that the legislation must pass this week in order for payments to be in place by the September 20 deadline.
But despite affirming to fight the increase tooth and nail, Mr Dutton said the opposition would be pragmatic when push came to shove.
“We’ve been very clear. We’ll move that by way of amendment. The amendment won’t get up because we don’t have the numbers,” he told reporters at Parliament House.
“Ultimately, if that goes down as we suspect it will … then we’ll support the government’s increase of $40.”
Asked if he would repeal the increase should the opposition win the next election, Mr Dutton responded: “No.”
The Coalition’s proposal would allow JobSeeker recipients to earn $300 a fortnight from a job while still receiving the full payment.
Opposition social services spokesman Michael Sukkar said the policy would save the budget bottom line $2.9bn over the forward estimates.
“Australian businesses are crying out for workers and Labor’s solution to getting people back into paid employment is to increase payments for not working,” he said.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth warned that the proposal would “do nothing” for 77 per cent of recipients who don’t access the income-free threshold.
Ms Rishworth said the proposal would encourage a longer term reliance on JobSeeker rather than transitioning to the workforce.
“If the Coalition thought this was such a good idea, they could have done this in April 2021 when they set the income-free area to $150 per fortnight, reducing it from $300, where it sat during the pandemic,” she said.