Scott Morrison has dodged increasing calls to raise the Newstart payment, telling parliament that his government will not engage in “unfunded empathy” – coming just after former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce reaffirmed that the dole should be higher.

Life must be tough for ScoMo, given his extremely conservative election pitch has left him with little mandate to actually do anything in government, but he’s pinching pennies and refusing to touch the abjectly cruel Newstart rate despite calls from within his own ranks to boost it.

Speaking in Question Time, Morrison admitted that Newstart and other welfare payments are “certainly modest” but would not commit to a rise:

I will not engage in the unfunded empathy of the Labor Party. I will not go out as the Labor Party did at the last election, pretending they’re going to do something about Newstart but they won’t tell Australians how much they are going to increase it by.

Instead, the PM is sticking to his guns that the best way to help welfare recipients is to get them into jobs. The fact that there are significantly more unemployed people than there are jobs available in Australia does not seem to figure into ScoMo’s math.

His steadfast refusal to do something about the problem comes right as the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study revealed that poverty is on the increase in Australia. The study, conducted by the University of Melbourne and released today, finds that the proportion of people living below the relative poverty line has increased to 10.4% after several years displaying a decline.

Meanwhile, Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert got rinsed on the ABC trying to defend the monstrous Centrelink robodebt system:

All in all, a solid day for the government talking about welfare. Raise the rate, Scott! Ya dog!

Image: AAP