A cabinet minister has accused acting Greens leader Adam Bandt of patronising people receiving the Newstart allowance with his pledge to spend a week living on the dole.
Mr Bandt said yesterday he will live off the Newstart allowance for a week when Parliament resumes, to prove how difficult it is.
It comes after Families Minister Jenny Macklin said she could survive on $35 a day - the new rate of the benefit - when asked during a press conference on Tuesday about the government's decision to move single parents on to the lower Newstart allowance when their youngest child turns eight.
Cabinet colleague Housing Minister Brendan O'Connor defended Ms Macklin and the new policy, while slamming Mr Bandt.
"I think it's quite patronising to pretend that you can actually live the experience by living on the unemployment benefit or Newstart for one week," Mr O'Connor said yesterday.
"Our efforts are better deployed in working out ways that we can get people off unemployment benefits and into work."
He said the Gillard government understood it would be difficult to survive on $35 a day, but the policy was designed to get people into jobs in the long-term interest of families.
"It increases the likelihood of people participating in the workforce, acquiring the skills needed, so that they do not find themselves indefinitely unemployed; that of course would be a terrible tragedy.
"You do not want to see a child grow up in a jobless household; that has a long-term adverse impact not only on the parents, but on the children."