Country set to 'change course': minister spruiks budget
There's no economic future in sentencing people to a permanent state of poverty, Energy Minister Chris Bowen said while defending cost-of-living measures in the federal budget.
"This is a change of course for our country," Mr Bowen told a Business Western Sydney lunch on Friday.
"We make no apologies (that) this is a Labor budget built on Labor values."
The budget includes a $14.6 billion cost of living package, with a $40-a-fortnight boost to Jobseeker payments, energy bill relief and tripling bulk billing rates to incentivise GPs to offer free appointments.
The package has been criticised for failing to raise Jobseeker payments above the poverty line of $87.32 per day. Single recipients of Jobseeker without children are set to receive $52.36 a day.
"There is no economic future in consigning people to live permanently in poverty," Mr Bowen said.
"It's bad for our society, it's bad for our economy.
"We believe that strengthening our economy and strengthening our society are one (and) the same thing."
The opposition has instead proposed those on Jobseeker be able to earn up to $300 every fortnight while keeping their full Jobseeker allowance.
The worst of spiking energy prices in NSW had been seen off by the federal government's intervention in the energy market late last year, Mr Bowen said, after treasury forecasts predicted price rises of 14 per cent.
"We knew that was unacceptable. We knew that we just simply couldn't see that happen," Mr Bowen said.
Prices for coal and gas halved as a result of the intervention, while the recent budget also provides energy rebates of up to $500 for households and $650 for businesses.
Treasury analysis shows NSW households eligible for energy rebates will see the cost of power shift from a 14 per cent increase to a decrease of five per cent, he said.
"I'm not going to say we're proud of it, because it's a difficult environment for people still," Mr Bowen said.
"But we're pleased that we've been able to provide that relief including to businesses."