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Scott Morrison Has Already Backflipped On A Major Budget Promise After Just 12 Hours

A key plank of the federal Budget has lasted just 12 hours before a major facelift, with the government caving in to extend a one-off energy payment to people on the Newstart welfare payment.

The Budget, handed down on Tuesday night by treasurer Josh Frydenberg, confirmed an earlier announcement that the government would make a one-off “energy assistance payment” of up to $75 to around four million people on various welfare payments.

Included initially was the age pension, carer payment, disability support pension, the parenting payment, the veterans’ service pension, the veterans’ disability payment and the war widows pension -- but conspicuously missing was the Newstart payment. 

Newstart, which currently sits at just $278 per week, falls far below the poverty line, and has not risen in real terms for decades. As we reported Tuesday night, the budget again had no extra money for Newstart.

The government had specifically not included Newstart recipients in the payment, with the office of social services minister Paul Fletcher telling The Guardian the payment “is limited to those who don’t have the opportunity to work or earn additional income.”

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But after being handed down at 7.30pm on Tuesday, that plan lasted just 12 hours. By 7am Wednesday, the government had already shifted position, giving an update that Newstart clients would be offered the one-off $75 payment after all.

“The energy supplement will be extended to people on Newstart,” Frydenberg told ABC radio on Wednesday.

When asked if it was “a last-minute decision”, the Treasurer answered, “That is something that the Government has taken as a decision and there will be other people who will also receive that payment.”

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Host Sabra Lane asked, “But that wasn't announced on the weekend so that is something new?”

Frydenberg replied that it was “something new".

The Labor opposition instantly went on the attack over Newstart when the House of Representatives resumed on Wednesday morning, with shadow social services minister Linda Burney accusing the government of “cruelty” over the measure.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen claimed the budget was “unravelling less than 24 hours after it was delivered”, and condemned the government for “only looking after the top end of town and treating vulnerable Australians as an afterthought.”

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) welcomed the change, but said the payment -- just $75 for a single person -- was a "pittance".