Government never asked about Newstart hike
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 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 recently asked to provide advice on a dole increase.
All said no.
But the public servants 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 159 weeks, or three years.
Nathan Williamson, from the Department of Social Services, acknowledged that was quite a long time.
"Understandably there are probably some complex barriers involved with those individuals," Mr Williamson told the committee.
Mr Williamson said there was no definition of poverty in Australia and the department had done no research on poverty being a barrier to employment.
"It doesn't mean it doesn't get discussed," he said.
David Richardson, from The Australia Institute, told the hearing it wasn't always the case that Newstart was inadequate.
He said the value of Newstart for an unemployed family of four in the early 1990s would be more than 10 per cent above the Henderson poverty line - a line set by a Commonwealth inquiry in the 1970s - but was now 20 per cent below.
The institute is calling for an increase of around $200 a week to Newstart payments.
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.
Treasury was asked to front Thursday's hearing but dropped out on short notice, according to the committee.
© AAP 2019