9 Dec 2008

Australians get cash as part of stimulus package

9:30 am on 9 December 2008

The Australian government says its cash payments to pensioners and families will boost the country's gross domestic product by between 0.5% and 1%.

The first of $A8.7 billion worth of one-off government payments aimed at stimulating the economy started rolling into the accounts of pensioners, carers and low-income families on Monday.

The money is part of the $A10.4 billion stimulus package announced by the Australian government in October to help stave off recession.

The payments represent a huge boost to the economy ahead of Christmas, though economists say it is unlikely to keep the economy going, particularly as surveys indicate most people will save the money, or pay down debt.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has urged recipients to spend the cash handouts in the run-up to Christmas to give the flagging economy a much needed boost in the face of a global economic downturn.

"I know the government will inevitably face some criticism about how some of this money will be spent," Mr Rudd said in a speech in Canberra.

But he believes the cash payments are the best way to stimulate the economy.

"If the government doesn't empower consumers at a time like this in the midst of a global financial crisis, then in fact, it will have even greater challenges ahead," Mr Rudd said.

A key pointer for future employment - job advertising - suggests the outlook is grim.

The latest ANZ Jobs Advertisement Series showed newspaper ads fell by 12% in November to be 42.7% down on a year earlier, and at their weakest level since 1991 when Australia was last gripped by recession.

Economists expect the jobless rate to jump to 4.5% from 4.3 % in Thursday's official labour force data for November.