Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has repeatedly avoided saying whether the Newstart dole payment is enough to live on at a time when there have been widespread calls to increase it.
In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, political editor David Speers asked Senator Ruston whether Newstart was adequate to put food on the table and pay for heating during the winter.
"I have not said that it will be easy to live on Newstart," she replied.
Asked again whether it was adequate, the minister repeated: "As I said, it wouldn't be easy."
"It's a safety net payment, it never was meant to be a replacement for a wage or a salary. It is there as a safety net to assist people while they haven't got a job."
Mr Speers asked the question several more times, to which Senator Ruston made similar responses.
"I have answered the question and I absolutely remain totally committed to helping anybody that is on Newstart who wants a job to get a job," she said.
In a statement, opposition social services spokeswoman Linda Burney quipped: "It shouldn't be this hard to admit Newstart is too low."
Senator Ruston was also asked whether the government is considering an increase in Newstart.
"The prime minister has made it very clear that currently we are not considering an increase in Newstart. What we are doing is focused on getting people into work," she replied.
There have been widespread calls to increase the Newstart payment beyond its twice yearly indexation to inflation from welfare groups, economists, the Reserve Bank, federal Labor and the Greens, as well as former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.
Australian Associated Press