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Rudd urges Australians to go on subsidized shopping spree
Associated Press
Page 16
2008-12-09 12:55 AM
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has urged Australians to go on a taxpayer-subsidized Christmas spending spree as multibillion dollar bonuses in welfare payments begin to flow yesterday.

The 8.7 billion Australian dollars (US$5.6 billion) will be paid to 8 million pensioners and low-income families - more than a third of Australia's 21 million population _ over 10 days starting yesterday in a bid to stave off an Australian recession.

While many are expected to use the money to pay off household debt at a time when jobs are at risk, Rudd has urged spending.

"Go out and spend the money," Rudd told a public gathering in the southern city of Geelong yesterday.

Rudd's stance is a marked change from his position when he came to power a year ago warning that inflation was a major economic threat and that burgeoning household debt was feeding the problem.

Australian Retailers Association yesterday backed Rudd's call for a Christmas spending splurge, warning that Australians who saved the money were putting their own jobs at risk.

"If people are saving for a rainy day, I can tell them that it's pouring outside," association Executive Director Richard Evans told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

He said sales had been stagnant in recent months and a Christmas surge was needed to keep the retail sector afloat.

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