Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has called on the government to ''show a bit of heart and do more'' to help Australians struggling to get by on the dole.
Mr Rudd's comments reignite the debate over dole payments, fuelled recently by the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, who told reporters that she could live on the Newstart allowance of about $35-a-day.
Ms Macklin made the controversial statement after more than 80,000 single parents were shifted from the parenting payment to the lower Newstart allowance, leaving some up to $110-a-week worse off.
Mr Rudd said on Friday morning that the government's abandonment of its surplus promise gives it an ''opportunity to attend to some pretty basic social needs like this one''.
''I think people need to show a bit more of a heart,'' Mr Rudd said on ABC TV.
Mr Rudd has been relaxing on the beach on the Sunshine Coast and says he has not spoken to any member of caucus for some weeks.
''I'm just saying that we are a Labor Party, a Labor government, we have got responsibility for people who are doing it tough, for people who need a bit of a hand up and therefore I think we could be doing more,'' he said.
''I just think we need to show a bit of a heart and do more''.
The issue of raising the dole has already divided some in the Labor Party. Left-wing faction leader Doug Cameron wants the allowance raised but senior Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon told ABC that an across-the-board increase in the dole would be a ''lazy'' option and that a more ''targeted'' approach was needed.
The Greens announced last week that they would move a bill to raise the weekly Newstart, Abstudy and Youth Allowance rates for singles by $50 a week, arguing the time for talking about the problem was over.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert will introduce the plan to the Senate in Parliament's first sitting week in February. She said: "It's realistic and achievable and, if we're truly a caring society, we care for our most vulnerable."
The Greens say the money needed to fund the plan could be found by toughening the mining tax and increasing the mining tax rate to 40 per cent.
The Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, has written and spoken in support of raising the dole, saying in August that "entrenching people into poverty by expecting them to live on $35 a day is not a pathway back into employment".