Finance Welfare Labor backs calls for Newstart boost, but won’t pinpoint a figure

Labor backs calls for Newstart boost, but won’t pinpoint a figure

labor newstart increase
The second Newspoll since the federal election reveals a boost in popularity for Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP
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Labor has formally announced it will back calls for an increase to the $40-a-day dole payments amid rising Coalition tensions at the plight of the unemployed.

But the Labor Party has refused to nominate how much the increase should be, instead calling for an immediate inquiry into Newstart.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also urged his own troops on Tuesday to stop speaking out on issues, including Newstart and superannuation reform, and run their ideas through the formal party processes.

It’s a warning that could be aimed at Barnaby Joyce, who has been increasingly outspoken on the barriers that regional Australians living on Newstart face because they must travel long distances to find a job.

Anthony Albanese confirmed the policy shift on Newstart during the ALP caucus on Tuesday.

The Greens are backing a $75 a week increase that would cost $12 billion. One Labor MP asked during Tuesday’s caucus meeting why the ALP didn’t just vote for this legislation.

The position endorsed by the ALP caucus is one the most significant policy shifts its MPs have agreed to since backing the Morrison government’s tax package.

During the federal election campaign, the Labor Party backed a review of Newstart and implied an increase was likely. But it stopped short of formally endorsed an lifting the welfare payments.

Mr Albanese also quoted opposition treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers’ comments that it was the Morrison government’s job to explain its policies, not Labor’s.

“As much as I would like things to be different, we are not the government. We are, at best, three years away from government,” he said.

That endorsement raises the prospect that Labor could be out of office for two terms not one with the suggestion that “at best” it is three years away from government.