Australia

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull pays price for A$5 handout

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gives $5 to a beggar Image copyright AAP
Image caption Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gives $5 to a beggar in Melbourne

They say no good deed goes unpunished.

And so it was when Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull gave A$5 (£3) to a beggar on Melbourne's streets.

On his way to give a major economic speech on Thursday, Mr Turnbull stopped to shake the man's hand and slip some money into his coffee cup.

But this minor act of generosity quickly turned into a major talking point on social media, where people were keen to criticise the PM from multiple angles.

Some saw Mr Turnbull as stingy. He is a wealthy man and the five-dollar note was plucked from a substantial wad of cash. Australia's version of the Daily Mail described him as "Miserly Mal".

But on the other hand, he was also criticised for giving money at all. Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said giving to beggars helped feed drug habits and entrench poverty, and suggested Mr Turnbull give to a charity instead.

Image copyright Twitter / @strat_pavlis

Still more people suggested that the PM was cynically playing up his generosity for the cameras.

But he found some support, too. "You see a man who can give more. I see a man who gave," wrote one Twitter user.

Mr Turnbull, a wealthy former investment banker, has faced a series of debacles since he retained power in Australia's tightly fought July election.

He responded to the beggar backlash on Friday.

"I felt sorry for the guy," he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

"It was a human reaction and I'm sorry if that has disappointed some people."

He is not the first politician to pay a price for an what might ordinarily pass as a simple act of generosity.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was spotted in 2014 giving a homeless woman 2p and two years later was filmed awkwardly looking for an ATM to give a homeless man £10.

More on this story