CANBERRA, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Prime Minister has had to publicly defend handing a homeless beggar 5 Australian dollars (4 U.S dollars), as goes against the directive of the local mayor.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull handed a beggar the money while on his way to give a speech at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Melbourne, and after the gesture was shot by an eagle-eyed photographer, news spread on social media.
Some criticized the premier for being "stingy," some applauded the generosity, while others highlighted that giving money to beggars goes against the wishes of Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
After it came to the attention of Australian media on Friday, Turnbull felt the need to defend the gesture in comments published in Saturday's newspapers, saying that it was a "human reaction" and was not meant to be a symbol of encouraging homelessness in Australia.
"I know people have got different views on that, but every time I see someone in that situation I always think, 'There for the grace of God go I'," Fairfax Media's Saturday papers quoted Turnbull as saying.
"It was a human reaction and I'm sorry if that has disappointed some people. Maybe they think you shouldn't give money to people who are sitting on the street."
The city's Lord Mayor has previously voiced his hard-line over Melbourne's - and indeed Australia's - homelessness. In an opinion piece published earlier in the year, he said giving money to beggars only encourages further begging and it "entrenches" homelessness within the city.
"(We) are a generous lot, but please don't give money to beggars - give it to the service providers like The Salvation Army and City Mission," Doyle said.
"If you give money, food, clothing, blankets and other goods to the homeless, you are entrenching homelessness and making it easier for them to stay on the street."