Two Libs join push to lift dole payments

Liberal Senator Dean Smith believes the Newstart allowance should increase.
Liberal Senator Dean Smith believes the Newstart allowance should increase.

A pair of Liberal backbenchers have joined growing calls for the rate of welfare payments for unemployed people to be lifted.

Liberal MP Russell Broadbent has backed Senate colleague Dean Smith's call for Newstart to be raised, putting the pair at odds with the government.

Senator Smith said Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe and former prime minister John Howard provided a "very powerful starting point" in the Newstart debate, which should weigh heavily on the coalition.

The central bank governor has said raising Newstart would help stimulate the economy, while Mr Howard has stated the payment should no longer be frozen.

"I am someone who believes the Newstart allowance amount must be more than reviewed - which was Labor's lame position - it should be increased," Senator Smith told the upper house.

Mr Broadbent said the government could find the money to raise Newstart within existing resources.

"It is hard at that level of income, especially in regional areas, to have enough money to get out and find a job," he told ABC News.

"I have to question the job start agencies as to their effectiveness and would money be better spent directly with those who are unemployed, enabling them to get job opportunities."

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson believes the $40-a-day payment is too low, while Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce agrees the rate needs to be lifted to help regional welfare recipients.

Nationals frontbencher Matt Canavan and Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos have also backed calls to boost Newstart.

The payment is $555.70 a fortnight for a single person without children.

The Greens and the peak body for social services organisations, ACOSS, have been pushing for a $75-a-week boost to Newstart.

Some Labor backbenchers have backed that amount, but the party doesn't have a firm position on how much higher the dole should be.

The government has consistently opposed raising the rate, arguing getting people into work is more important than improving welfare payments.

Australian Associated Press