Skip to comments.Having Babies Seen As 'Patriotic Duty'
Posted on 05/12/2004 8:35:03 AM PDT by qam1
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - The Australian government is risking the ire of population-control advocates by urging -- and offering incentives for -- citizens to have more children.
Announcing the conservative government's federal budget, Treasurer Peter Costello, the minister responsible for economic and fiscal policy, unveiled a "family-friendly" $13.3-billion package that for five years starting in June will pay couples $2,000 for each new baby born.
The budget also made provision for maternity payments, family tax credits and an increase in the number of subsidized after-school childcare places.
Costello, widely regarded as a prime ministerial hopeful when John Howard finally retires, told reporters that having two children per family simply wasn't enough "to fix the ageing demographic."
"If you can have children, it is a good thing to do," he said, adding that Australian couples should have at least three children each -- one for dad, one for mom and one for the country, he said.
Couples should go further, and have more than that to make up for others "who are not even replicating themselves," Costello said, ending the press conference by telling journalists: "Go home and do your patriotic duty tonight."
Although it is the world's sixth-largest country, Australia is populated by just 20 million people, most of whom are crowded along the southeast coastal fringes of the vast, arid interior.
Population density is seven people per square mile, compared to 79 in the U.S., 357 in China, and 641 in Britain.
Total fertility rates (the average number of children born to women during their reproductive years) in Australia is around 1.75, well below the 2.1 replacement rate.
The Business Council of Australia, whose members include CEOs of the country's leading corporations, argued in a position paper last month that the country needs a population of 30 million by 2050 to sustain a strong economy. Achieving that would require population growth of 1.25 percent, it said.
"The impact of ageing of the population means the 'dependency' ratio in Australia will double from six people of working age for every retiree in 1990 to just three working age people per retiree by 2028," the council argued.
"The consequences will have an enduring impact on the way we live and work and profound implications for spending on health and social welfare."
But a group called Sustainable Population Australia believes 20 million is enough, arguing that the country's resources cannot sustain more people.
The organization's vice-president, John Coulter, said Wednesday Australia was "already overpopulated" inasmuch as the present population was unable to live "sustainably."
He conceded that from a social welfare point of view there may be some justification in providing help to couples who want to have two children but cannot afford to do so.
"But our view is that it's not in the national interest to increase population."
Coulter said industries that benefited from population growth - such as the real estate and retail sectors - were big political donors, and accused the government of pandering to them by "whipping up hysteria" about a falling population.
An Australian author and broadcaster who is also a patron of Sustainable Population Australia, Dr. Paul Collins, said Wednesday that as a Catholic he has some sympathy for Costello's position, but was nonetheless concerned about Australia's ability to sustain a growing population.
Collins said the ideal would probably be for Australia to have "zero population growth or just above, and that should be maintained through our own fertility," rather than through migration.
Asked what he thought the population should be, he said he had no answer, but it was something that should be "scientifically ascertained" and debated much more widely than it was.
Leading demographer and author Bernard Salt said Wednesday there were simply not enough younger Australians coming through to eventually pay taxes as baby boomers move into retirement.
"We either produce more babies or we import more people," he said. "We need more people in the younger age group, that's the bottom line."
Salt told Australian radio that while couples were unlikely to decide to have a baby on the basis of the new cash incentive, it could make a difference by bringing forward a decision, or the ease the financial worry in a decision about whether to have two children or three.
"It can't hurt -- it might make a difference at the margins."
The real issue was not incentives, he said, but the fact that "having children is simply not as fashionable now as it was 30 years ago."
For the past 33 years the number of children born in Australia each year had dropped.
Until attitudes about having babies changes, Salt said, he doubted the numbers would begin to rise again.
Twenty-somethings felt they had other, more pressing, things to do these days than have children.
Salt also pointed to popular culture.
It was hard to find one television sitcom these days that featured children, he said, citing programs like Friends and Sex in the City compared to 1960s and 1970s programs like "My Three Sons," "Father Knows Best" and "The Brady Bunch."
"Children were at the center of society [back then]. They have moved to the edges in current society. Gay culture has gone from the edge to the center of society -- our values have shifted."
Tuesday night's budget also offered income tax cuts for higher earners and an increase in defense spending.
Costello allocated $1.6 billion to fund Australia's ongoing troop commitment in Iraq until at least the middle of next year, to finance armed marshals on flights, and to protect important national sites against terrorism.
He dismissed accusations that the government was trying to buy voter support ahead of a close-fought election expected as early as August.
All Australians were entitled to benefit from the strong economy, he said. Economic growth is predicted at 3.5 percent for the coming year.
I recommend marriage first ... then "patriotic duties".
I'm already married. You can't have me. Even if you wanted to. Which is highly unlikely. Mrs. Bustard should be a candidate for sainthood, the very moment she shuffles off this mortal coil. Her first miracle is simply that she has managed to put up with me all these years.
But I digress ... ;'}
I mean, a women's uterus isn't like some car engine that you can just fiddle with and not expect to have any lasting affects.
Why don't they just invite some of those large families in England to move down to Australia? Is race/nationality a problem with the population drop?
We've been hearing of the "browning of America" (from the left) meaning that white people are reproducing/immigrating in smaller percentages but it would be considered racist and divisive to encourage white people in America to have more babies out of "patriotism".
If Australia wasn't going socialist I might have opted to move down there myself.
No argument there. The Australians, I read, have had waves of Indonesian "boat people." Certain radical Muslims in Indonesia have sworn to make Northern Australia "a Muslim state." They're probably pretty sick of it by now.