Federal politicians receive a $288 travel allowance for each day they spend in Canberra, while people living on Newstart receive about $40 a day.
The Coalition is unlikely to raise welfare payments in today's budget despite federal MPs receiving more for each day they spend in Canberra than job seekers on welfare receive each week.
Federal MPs who have to travel to Canberra receive $288 on top of their salary for each day they spend in the capital - that's for accommodation, meals and incidental expenses. On the other hand, people living on the Newstart Allowance (welfare for job seekers) receive about $40 a day.
An MP's allowance will get you a night at a four star hotel close to Parliament House, with about $100 left for food and transport. Newstart will get you a night in a hostel dorm room with about $10 for other expenses.
The Newstart Allowance is $275.35 a week and hasn't risen in real terms in more than two decades - it was increased by $2.20 last September as a result of indexation. While Labor has made an election commitment to "review" Newstart, neither major party has made a commitment to raise the allowance.
Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos broke ranks yesterday and became the first Coalition MP to say the rate "over time should be higher".
"That's probably a slightly radical thing for me to say here," he said on ABC's Q&A program.
But my observation is this does raise an issue that should be considered at some stage. There is a cost to the budget, there's an expense. But budgets are all about choices.
Even economic conservative and former PM John Howard said the Newstart Allowance should be raised.
"I actually think there is an argument about that, I do," he said at the PricewaterhouseCoopers post-budget breakfast in Melbourne last year.
"I was in favour of freezing [welfare payments]when it happened, but I think the freeze has probably gone on too long."
Treasurer JoshFrydenberg and his leader Scott Morrison seem committed to handing down tax breaks for low-to-middle income earners rather than raising welfare payments.
Around 700,000 people are on Newstart while millions of voters stand to benefit from the proposed tax cuts.
This budget is aimed to impress voters and improve the Coalition's chances of getting re-elected.
A report by Deloitte Access Economics said a "catch up increase" of $75 a week - an extra $10 a day - would cost the federal budget $3.3 billion a year.
Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie said this figure should be compared to the cost of proposed tax cuts.
"This is expected to cost the budget $11 billion a year - this is over three times the cost of increasing the income of the poorest of the poor," she told The Feed.