Government sought no advice on Newstart

A parliamentary inquiry is due to hear submissions about the unemployment benefit Newstart.
A parliamentary inquiry is due to hear submissions about the unemployment benefit Newstart.

The government hasn't asked for advice on an increase in the Newstart payments from the departments overseeing Australia's welfare, social security and employment.

Senior government bureaucrats fronted a parliamentary inquiry into the unemployment welfare payment on Thursday.

There has been widespread pressure for a $75-a-week raise to the $40-a-day dole, which has barely budged in real terms for a quarter of a century.

Heads of the social services, human services and employment departments were each asked whether they had been asked to provide advice on a dole increase recently.

All said no.

The mandarins also said they would need to clarify whether they had been asked for advice in the past 25 years.

The committee also heard the average length of time people received the payment was about three years or 159 weeks.

The Morrison government has rejected calls to raise Newstart, with a multi-agency submission to the hearing saying the government's focus was on strengthening the national budget.

The Senate's community affairs committee is looking into the adequacy of Newstart and related payments, and alternative mechanisms set income support payments.

Treasury was asked to front Thursday's hearing but dropped out on short notice, according to the committee.

Left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute will appear, after noting in its submission an increase of around $200 a week could be appropriate.

"It is urgent that Newstart is made much more adequate than now," it said.

Mental Health Australia is another group agitating for a rise in Newstart set to appear before the inquiry.

"The pressures for Australians of surviving on a budget far below the recognised poverty rate exacerbates experiences of mental illness and is counter-active to recovery and independence," its submission said.

Wages umpire the Fair Work Commission will also appear amid calls for a similar independent body to set the rate of unemployment payments.

Australian Associated Press