Budget 2018

'You can't do everything': Anthony Albanese defends Newstart silence

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Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese says Labor is focused on TAFE and infrastructure, rather than increasing the Newstart rate, to get people into jobs.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese has defended his party's silence on unemployment benefits in its budget reply, arguing "you can't do everything".

The opposition has promised to hold a "root and branch" review of Newstart payments if it wins the next election, but will not commit to raising the rate.

Mr Albanese pointed instead to Labor's promised infrastructure spending and proposal to abolish fees for 100,000 TAFE students to help people into jobs.

"You can't do everything; what you have to do is outline your priorities," Mr Albanese told the Nine Network on Friday, when asked about Newstart.

"Our priority is getting Australians into jobs, investing in education and health and taking pressure off living standards for those 10 million Australians."

The Turnbull government resisted calls from industry, business and advocacy groups to increase Newstart payments in Tuesday's federal budget.

Anthony Albanese speaks to the media.
Anthony Albanese speaks to the media.
AAP

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also refused to commit to lifting the jobless payments, which even former prime minister John Howard this week said should be raised.

"We need to review the payment system to work out what is adequate," Mr Shorten said on Thursday night.

The single rate of Newstart is $278 per week and there have been no legislated lifts to real rates since 1994.

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