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Federal Labor might not do any better on JobSeeker

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Anthony Albanese has toned down a commitment to increase the dole after Labor voted to raise the JobSeeker rate above the poverty line.

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The opposition leader refused to confirm Labor would take the policy to the next federal election.

“We’ll make our election announcements when we make them,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Labor voted in favour of a Greens motion on Wednesday to urgently increase the JobSeeker payment above the poverty line.

The Senate motion also said the government was making a deliberate choice to keep unemployed people in poverty.

The government has introduced legislation to increase the JobSeeker payment by about $3.60 a day.

Some Labor MPs have publicly argued the increase is insufficient, but the party has never nominated a figure on how much the dole should be.

Labor is unlikely to stand in the way of the modest boost but is closely scrutinising stricter mutual obligation requirements tied to the rise.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said the increase, worth $9 billion over four years, was the largest increase to unemployment payments in more than 35 years.

Introducing the bill to parliament, Robert argued the increase was weighed against the need to encourage people into the workforce, and ensuring the welfare system remained affordable.

“The bill will further strengthen our income support system in a fair and sustainable way,” he said.

The increase will go to 1.95 million people on JobSeeker, youth allowance, study and parenting payments from April 1.

The bill also permanently increases the income-free area to $150 a fortnight, allowing people to earn that much money without having their payments docked.

-AAP

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