Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce wants the dole lifted and a new rate added for people living in regional areas.
“Newstart is a hard life,” the government backbencher told The Australian on Thursday.
He backed the coalition’s usual line that the best form of welfare is a job, but pointed out that to get into work people needed a certain level of infrastructure in their lives.
Mr Joyce also wants the Newstart rate to take into account people’s geographic locations, with a higher cost of living in the regions but higher rents in the cities.
“If someone’s on Newstart in a town like Woolbrook, it’s going to cost you $50 to go to Tamworth to do the groceries or go to a job interview,” he said.
“They live in those places because the rent’s cheap but the rent’s cheap because it’s a long way from the services.”
The peak body for social services organisations, ACOSS, has welcomed Mr Joyce’s support for the long-running push to increase the $282-a-week payment.
Acting chief executive Jacqui Phillips said no matter where someone lives, it was really tough to get by on Newstart.
“Instead of supporting people through tough times to find suitable paid work, Newstart leaves people to choose between a roof over their head and food on the table,” she said.
Labor went to the federal election promising to review the rate of Newstart, although some among its ranks are now saying the party should have pledged outright to boost it.
The Morrison government says it has no plans to increase the unemployment payment other than through biannual indexation.
“Our focus for people on Newstart is to get them into a job. We have created over 1.3 million jobs since we’ve come to government,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters in Toowoomba.
“We are working to create the jobs where people can move from the Newstart payments into full employment.”