Page last updated at 23:38 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 00:38 UK

Australians get stimulus handouts

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Sydney clothing shop, April 2009
Australia's retail sector is hoping to benefit from the handouts

Australians are getting bonus payments worth US$700 (£440) - the largest cash handouts in the country's history.

The payments, aimed at protecting a flagging economy from the worst effects of a recession, will cost the government a total of $33bn.

Recipients are being urged to spend the money to keep their fellow Australians in work.

A previous stimulus package aimed at pensioners and parents at the end of last year has been hailed a success.

The government said a jump in retail sales had shown that the handout policy was working.

About half of the Australian population will receive the new payments.

Ministers hope that giving cash to low- and middle-income workers, as well as families with schoolchildren, will help to revive the economy.

Common good

It is estimated that about a fifth of the cash bonuses so far have been spent on non-essential items, such as clothes and cosmetics.

Margy Osmond from the National Australian Retail Association says the money is offering some help to struggling businesses.

"We've already seen some impact from the stimulus package before Christmas," she said.

Australia has fallen into recession following the collapse of the mining sector.

With unemployment expected to rise significantly, recipients of the government's money have been urged to spend it for the good of the nation.

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