When Peter Costello famously encouraged Australian families to have a child for Mum, one for Dad and one for the country, he was focused on a significant national challenge, the ageing of the population.

That Baby Bonus sure worked. Picture: Supplied

Population ageing is the product of two demographic trends, longevity and a declining birthrate. It is a challenge for many western nations, including Australia.

Australians are living longer, on average, than at any time in the past. While this will increase costs, especially for aged and health care, it is not an insurmountable problem. It is the combination of longer living and declining fertility that threatens the economic growth of the nation.

According to the OECD, the ratio of older people to those in the workforce in 1990 was 19 per cent. By the year 2030, this dependency ratio will double to 38 per cent across OECD countries.

In a study of global fertility rates, the Australian demographer Peter McDonald concluded that if the current levels of fertility were maintained in many western nations, they are so low that they would threaten the future existence of the nations concerned: “In an era in which we have come to understand the momentum of population increase, it is remarkable that we are yet to appreciate that the same momentum applies to population decrease.”

The concentration in media headlines on the total size of the global population continues to mask the depopulation momentum in many nations.

“Perhaps people used to living for the here and now may have difficulty appreciating the long-term consequences beyond their immediate horizon,” noted the Australian demographers, John Caldwell and Thomas Schindlmayr, in their study of 28 countries where the fertility rate has fallen to less than 1.4.

As the experience of Singapore illustrates, once the birthrate falls below about 1.4 children per woman, it is extremely difficult to grow it again.

One of the most rapidly ageing societies in the world, Japan, provides a glimpse of the demographic decline underway. While the Japanese are living longer, the number of young people never marrying has also increased significantly. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research forecasts that the population will decline from 127.7 million to 86.7 million by 2060, and fall again to 42.9 million by 2110 “if conditions remain unchanged.”

The economic impact will be significant. Using data from two countries that have experienced population contraction – Russia and North Korea – economist Sanghan Yea states that population decline will have a more damaging impact than we expect presently: “Depopulation not only stops economic growth completely, but also reverses it.”

Not only is there less demand for goods and services, the reduction in new entrants to the labor force may decrease flexibility and productivity. The world’s working age population grew by 1.3 billion, or 40 per cent, between 1990 and 2010, but is expected to increase by only about 900 million between 2010 and 2030.

Future growth in the workforce requires a prior investment in children. In the US, it has been estimated that the investment in human capital has amounted to two-thirds of the nation’s economic growth historically.

Demographic patterns are not easily reversed. Even if nations introduced policies today to address these trends, it would likely take two generations for an impact to be observed. It is also easy for nations in the early stages of fertility decline to be seduced by the phenomenon known as the “demographic dividend.”

This occurs when birth rates first fall, allowing more people, especially women, to enter the paid workforce. Individuals are able to spend and invest more, including in the education of fewer children. The phenomena occurred in Japan and other Asian countries from the 1960s, and are occurring in China currently.

But the dividend must be repaid. As the population ages, there are fewer workers and the numbers of dependent aged grows, there is a drain on resources. Japan is already experiencing the impact, and China will in the coming two decades, as it enters long-term depopulation.

Australia ignores these trends at its peril.

That is why Wayne Swan’s attack on the baby bonus is misguided. Not only does it undermine many families that are already struggling with cost of living pressures, it diminishes a measure that helped to maintain a higher birthrate. Over the decade from 2001, the birthrate grew from 1.72 to about 1.9.

NATSEM research published this week indicates that single-income families suffer the highest rates of poverty when their youngest child turns three because of the ending of benefits like the baby bonus. It is hardly the time for Labor to be hitting them again.

Kevin Andrews MP is the Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services and the author of Maybe ‘I do’ – Modern marriage and the pursuit of happiness.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEDT.

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    • acotrel says:

      05:06am | 13/11/12

      ‘Australia ignores these trends at its peril.

      That is why Wayne Swan’s attack on the baby bonus is misguided. Not only does it undermine many families that are already struggling with cost of living pressures, it diminishes a measure that helped to maintain a higher birthrate. Over the decade from 2001, the birthrate grew from 1.72 to about 1.9.’

      This is the punch line.  The article is not about population growth, it is about Wayne Swan.  A minute ago we were all phobic about a big Australia. Don’t asylum seekers have children?

    • Rosie says:

      07:11am | 13/11/12


      You have to be kidding? So you detest it when you think the article is meant to be about population growth when really it is an attack on Wayne Swan. Hypocrite! We get it all the time from the media, those that are pro Labor about Tony Abbott. They are forever linking Tony Abbott to all their articles. Remember Abbott, Abbott, Abbott!

      You must be getting extremely desperate for you to use it, because you know and I know that every issue can be used as a political tool for one’s agenda.

      I am glad you mentioned asylum seekers and children and let us not limit it to just asylum seekers but migrants from all Asian Pacific countries. If Australia takes good care of them, that is make sure they have jobs and their children are well educated for future jobs, they will naturally take care of their parents when the time comes. It is in their upbringing to look after their parents. The parents will remain with a chosen family member in most cases in the family home until a nursing home is required. That is when the Govt steps in.

      To keep people fully mobile, Govts should have super gyms with swimming pools, free to the public over the age of 50. Exercise is the key to being fully mobile as you age. This will keep the people independent and in their homes a lot longer.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      07:48am | 13/11/12

      There should be no baby bonus- only subsidies in baby products and expenses so households pay LESS for what they DO spend on babies.

      PAYING people to have children is the most grossly irresponsible policy ever conceived. People should NEVER have any other motive to have children other than they actually WANT these children- not because they’re going to get a handout, or some misguided patriotism.
      Instead, the government should SUBSIDIZE baby products and simple support maternity leave (for both partners to an extent)- thus taking out most of the external expenses and removing artificial barriers to having children- rather than creating artificial motives.
      We should simply accept that first-world countries need to rethink their employment practices, research automation, and of course, abandon their ridiculous stereotypes about people over 60 in the workforce- as the longer-living people tend to succumb to the effects of age slower too.

    • Kika says:

      08:58am | 13/11/12

      Acotrel - there has been no evidence that the baby bonus encouraged people to have children. Hello? Who is going to be enticed by $5K or so to have a baby? Most people know that babies cost a heck of a lot more than that.

    • acotrel says:

      05:08am | 13/11/12

      Perhaps priests should be allowed to marry and have kids, the church might turn a better profit ?

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:00am | 13/11/12

      Wrong topic- but yes they should be allowed- simply because it should be their right (having to marry off others every week must be maddening).

    • Steve says:

      05:19am | 13/11/12

      How can you defend the indefensible? The Baby Bonus is a joke, a waste of money. Given that the Baby Bonus came in before these maternity leave policies, isn’t it now redundant?

      How many government handouts will a new mother get under a Coalition Government?
      - Increased Baby Bonus
      - 6 months maternity leave
      - Nanny bonus

      Hmmmm, sure sounds like good fiscal small governance to me….

      Solving the ageing population issue (without once mentioning immigration btw), can not be done by bribing women/couples to have more children.

      The Liberal party communication/PR person should be having a fit at this opinion piece, and if they are not then that is a big problem for you.

    • GROBP says:

      07:12am | 13/11/12


      ................“Solving the ageing population issue (without once mentioning immigration btw)”................

      I didn’t even notice. Yes, 300k a year, projected to 36 million by 2035. This is the biggest mistake we can let our politicians make on behalf of our kids. It is a scam that promotes the interests of LNP and Labor mates, both parties benefit from a growing population, we as citizens certainly don’t and NEVER will. After all our manufacturing’s gone, farm land sold, iron ore and coal sourced from far, far, far cheaper countries, why, oh why would we want more people to share the remnants of what’s left?

      Hey imagine if we all saved for our own retirement. That would reduce people’s ability to pay obscene house prices and they would come down also.

      Mr Andrews, could you suggest how, after 2035 when there are 40 million how we’ll pay for the elderly then? It’s not far away, will we again double to 80 million? Politicians have zero plan, in fact they have a destructive plan dressed up as a positive plan. All politicians are in it for right now. The sole exception I’ve ever heard speak sense about Australia’s future is Barnaby Joyce.

      If, as politicians lie to us by saying infinite growth is achievable by infinite population growth, then I’m saying the growth model is broken because eventually (now) growth is killing our way of life. Maybe if that’s the cost of going forwards, then maybe it’s time to go backwards.

    • Big Jay says:

      07:49am | 13/11/12

      @Steve - “The Liberal party communication/PR person should be having a fit at this opinion piece, and if they are not then that is a big problem for you.”

      Totally agree!

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      07:59am | 13/11/12

      The problem with the so-called “Aging population” is that so long as people live longer, this “problem” will always be there, and will only expand, no matter how many people we try to replace them with.

      Yet strangely, low population countries with a strong skew toward older people like Norway and Switzerland typically rank among the top 10 in a considerable number of financial and economic reports- with a higher wealth per-person than most high-population countries (wealthy and not).

      Perhaps taking a more intuitive stance with a population that lives longer (which is what the issue actually is) regarding employment practices and increasing automation of systems is the more logical answer?

    • Tubesteak says:

      08:19am | 13/11/12

      Yes, wasting money on middle-class welfare is one of the stupidest things all governments have done.

      Middle-class welfare should be scrapped immediately.

      We can fix the population issue by importing skilled migrants as and when needed. That way we don’t have to pay for non-productive young people who may not prove useful.

    • James1 says:

      09:19am | 13/11/12

      “We can fix the population issue by importing skilled migrants as and when needed. That way we don’t have to pay for non-productive young people who may not prove useful.”

      Indeed.  Especially given the fact that most middle class families simply won’t have lots of children, we can’t be certain that subsiding people’s children will have a positive demographic outcome.  We need to think harder on how to grow our population than simply throwing money at the problem.

    • PJ says:

      05:58pm | 13/11/12

      Mass Immigration wont boost the economy or pay the pensions of an ageing population. These myths have all been disproven.

      The problem is immigrants themselves become costs, requiring all the services received by the native population. So these services and infrastructure have to be increased. They also need pensions and they’re late into that game, which requires the State to interview upon retirement.

      I refer to a Report submitted to the UK ‘House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs’ on “The Economic Impact of Immigration.”

      Questions addressed and Answered in the Report:
      (a) What is the impact of immigration on our population and quality of life?
      (b) Why do we need a higher population?

      The Report concluded that the economic benefits of mass immigration are small, while the social costs are high.

      - Mass Immigration migrants added roughly the same to the GDP as they add to population, so in other words there is no increase in GDP per head.
      - The annual benefit of Mass Migration to the native population was about £14 per year or 28 pence a week.

      - Migrants from the Mass immigration programme took 32 percent on new housing.
      - due to Mass Migration, Housing stock failed to keep pace with the new families being formed;
      *resulting in dramatic increases in house prices and rents
      *the disappearance of green fields.
      * condensed urbanisation and poorer standards of living
      * dramatic rise in traffic congestion and crime issues
      * extended waiting periods for GP and other Health services.

      This Report was in line with studies in the USA, Canada and The Netherlands. Each found that the impact of immigration on GDP per head was small. For instance, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, part of the Ministry for Economic Affairs, carried out a study which concluded that: ‘the overall net gain in income of residents is likely to be small and may even be negative’.

      Mass immigration in the UK was achieve through the typical residency process, Student Visas, Temporary Work Visas (like our 457) and Asylum seekers. some 5.5 million people arrived during the 13 years of Labour rule.

      Australia’s immigration is out stripping the UK one so far. The Age referred to 341,000 new arrivals, 222,000 of which were sitting dormant, neither employed or unemployed.

      I’m against mass immigration for the Big Australia because it creates an employers market, leading to abuse of workers, long term unemployment for some and depletes the quality of life of all the peoples living here.

    • GROBP says:

      05:35am | 13/11/12

      Population increase is a scam by socialist Labor and big business LNP. Where’s the money from mining gone? Where’s the tax raised by the elderly gone? What do we do to solve these problems when the population’s 50 million. See the problem with the future is it eventually arrives and then all the damage needs to be dealt with. Econonomies of scale are another croc, a lie, a scam. What, we can’t get scale from 22 million? Rubbish.

      Population growth = increased HOUSING COST

      Population growth = increased power bills

      Population growth = increased food bills

      Population growth = increased water bills

      Population growth = increased congestion

      Population growth = increased travel costs

      Population growth = increased pollution

      Population growth = increased carbon output

      Population growth = increased environment destruction

      Population growth = lower wages

      The biggest issue we don’t talk about, it’s ridiculous

    • acotrel says:

      07:31am | 13/11/12

      A market of 50 million justifies business over heads better than one of 22 million.  You could tre ble the size of every rural cuty in Australia.  All you w ould notice is that rates would become comparable with elsewhere, subsidies would be less, and Quality of life would be bettere.  Population growth is only a problem in Australia because we refuse to decentralise because of the disincentives of lack of jobs and education in the bush. We need affirmative action to decentralise. It was done with Albury/Wondonga , a really lovely place to live.

    • GROBP says:

      07:52am | 13/11/12


      What about the environment, water, animals, fish, salinity, acid sulfate soils, erosion from clearing, turbidity? 50 million is a ridiculous joke. The best ecologists, Flannery, Suzuki say we are already at least DOUBLE what is sustainable. Labor or LNP should never ever again say anything about the environment until they both address population.

      Economies of scale is a lie.

      You know I watched a local Landcare group rehabilitating an area of bush. Removing weeds. Across the road came a development site for housing, they destroyed the whole lot. These people toiled without giving it a second to think how futile their efforts are. If we don’t stop populating Australia, there’ll by no natural wonders left. What are we thinking? Remember at school, decades ago, we used to talk about saving the koala’s and fish, whales?..............We don’t hear that stuff anymore, we’re beyond it, we know they have no hope with what we’re doing, somehow we’ve (some of us) blocked it out.

      Now they talk about recycling BS. A completely futile exercise while populating.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:08am | 13/11/12

      Acotrel has the right idea; the only way this policy is workable would be if it were ONLY enforced in towns with a population lower than 1 million;

      Then again, we also dearly need to encourage people who already live in the major cities to move to smaller towns inland too; the problem is that even for people who may live as far from Sydney as the Central Coast or Blue Mountains, are still dependent on actually going to Sydney for work and other needs.

      The problem is, nobody wants to transfer any infrastructure to inland cities because they don’t want to risk people elsewhere still spurning these places and remaining on the coast (perhaps we should implement low-tax conditions on these areas?).

      To be honest I never understood why people need the coast so much- most Australians don’t even like the ocean.

      Overall, we should try to obtain these outcomes before expanding the population and “hope” people do the right thing.

    • GROBP says:

      08:54am | 13/11/12

      @A Concerned Citizen

      What are you concerned about? Why would we want an expanding population? If workers from an early age put 10% of their wage in super along with the 12% employer contribution, why would we need or want more people?

      Perhaps your concern should be what would happen after we have 50 million people. What new economic model would we invent and use then to “grow” our economy?

    • acotrel says:

      08:56am | 13/11/12

      There are a few major disincentives to decentralisation to the country.  The council rates are typically double those in big cities,  to get a job you need friends, to get an education beyond service and hospitality industries requirements, you must drive for thousands of kilometers per annum.  A good approach might be to restrict asylum seekers’ Centrelink payments to be made in specified and nominated growth areas, and require an application if a change is wanted.

    • Kika says:

      09:24am | 13/11/12

      Increased birth rate = 25 years of increased numbers of people requiring baby bonuses, childcare rebates, family tax benefits, school bonuses, public schooling, healthcare, university fees etc.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:16pm | 13/11/12

      @acotrel- economies of scale only work to certain point. After that the organization / system degrades in effectiveness. Otherwise natural monopolies would occur. There is no reason to believe that an Australian market of 50 million people would compete more effectively against a protectionist Asia than a United States of 250 million people.

    • Bertrand says:

      05:57am | 13/11/12

      So we need infinite population growth to push infinite economic growth?

      That should work fine on a finite planet.

    • GROBP says:

      07:17am | 13/11/12

      It’s not about reality Bertrand.

      It’s how they can dress the lies to sell it us idiot voters so their mates make lots of money and continue to fund their elections.

      It’s the biggest western scam, that a whole nation’s falling for, that there’s ever been.

      Here’s Gillards bigger lie than the carbon tax.


    • acotrel says:

      07:24am | 13/11/12

      Australia is not Bangladesh.  The problem of population growth is global but mainly elsewhere. It is not helped by the fact that while sane people grapple with the problems of sustainable development, and prosperity without growth, a bunch of powerful old cloistered idiots with an old book handle the problems based on their beliefs. Education and contraception are a rational solution to overcrowding and global warming. ‘Right to life’ is lunacy.

    • marley says:

      07:32am | 13/11/12

      @acotrel - the birth rate is far lower in Italy than it is in most Muslim countries.  You’re blaming the wrong men and the wrong book.

    • GROBP says:

      07:40am | 13/11/12


      We cannot control global population (even with the BS UN seat).

      The only thing we can do is stop immigration. We actually have a negative birth rate from memory.

      Has it occurred to these “green” politicians, we actually make the global population problem worse by taking people in to Australia?

    • acotrel says:

      07:48am | 13/11/12

      The same men have inordinate influence in Latin America, South America, and the Phillipines, and Kevin Andrews is one of their Australian supporters. The Italians are smart enough to know when they are being led up the garden path, the others are usually too uneducated to recognise the bullshit. Have a look at the kids on the rubbish dumps in the Phillipines, then visit the Vatican - bit of a contrast ? Yet they still preach that population growth is good, that sex is for procreation - crap ! !

    • marley says:

      01:19pm | 13/11/12

      @acotrel - the fertility rate in Brazil is lower than it is in Australia. Argentina and Chile are slightly higher.  The rest of South America is in the same ballpark. The Philippines has a high birth rate - but it’s still only half of that in Afghanistan or Somalia.  The issue is just a little more complicated than you seem to grasp.

    • Bertrand says:

      06:03am | 13/11/12

      Children under the age of 16 are also a net economic burden… they cost us a heap through things like education, but don’t contribute to tax revenue.

      If we want to grow our population, we should increase the take of skilled migrants. That we we aren’t adding to the globe’s already significant overpopulation issues and are responding to the needs of the Australian economy.

    • GROBP says:

      07:25am | 13/11/12


      Then the kids that cost money to raise to working age do what? Go on the dole.

      The answer is don’t increase population one bit and become self sufficient. It’s the ONLY sustainable way. There are gaping holes in every other option. Don’t be fooled by them Bertrand, they are masters in deception.

      As a scientist it’s laughable listening to people talking about sustainability, reduce my carbon footprint blah blah. Yep, so last year we all reduced our footprint by 10%. That will gobbled up, negated, cancelled, annulled by population growth in a few years. Then what? So Labor’s whole platform has been “green”, but yet they increased population by 300k a year. Ridiculous.

    • acotrel says:

      07:39am | 13/11/12

      The traffic and housing shortages in our capital cities get worse every day, yet we have country towns everywhere which are losing population which migrates to the big cities, and every one of them has a lot of room for expansion.  Why is it so ? Does government have a role in this - Gough Whitlam thought so !

    • GROBP says:

      07:54am | 13/11/12

      “Gough Whitlam thought so ! “

      Wasn’t he sacked?

    • AdamC says:

      08:44am | 13/11/12

      Migration, though it grows the population in the here and now, does not resolve the demographic problem. This is because the average age of migrants reflects the average age of the broader community. There is a lot of ignorance about the nature and drivers of the demographic problems we face.

      “Children under the age of 16 are also a net economic burden…”

      That statement is amazingly short-sighted.

      “That we we aren’t adding to the globe’s already significant overpopulation issues ...”

      I know I am never going to get a proper answer to this, but what actual evidence is there that the world is ‘overpopulated’?

    • GROBP says:

      08:57am | 13/11/12

      .....................“but what actual evidence is there that the world is ‘overpopulated’? “................

      That would take eight hours verbally to discuss. Google “ecology”.

      You’re commenting on how we need more people and you don’t know the impacts? Are you a politician?

    • acotrel says:

      09:01am | 13/11/12

      Yes, he was sacked as a result of bullshit and innuendo, and it could have caused a revolution, if Gough hand’t tempered his comments with a bit of good judgement.

    • Colin says:

      10:03am | 13/11/12

      Arrrh, now I finally get it.  Acotrel is one of those old farts still longing for and crying over the glory days of Gough Whitlam.  That sure explains a lot…..

    • Stormy Weather says:

      01:17pm | 13/11/12

      Bertrand, you sound like that scary child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

      Increased skilled migrants (or outsourcing to overseas) only ever takes jobs away from Australians as well as decent working conditions.
      To look at children as an economic burden is crazy. I mean, weren’t you once a child?
      Children costs a lot of money in which is put back into the economy. What do you want, child labour?

      We either value having children as a fact of life or we slowly commit to a voluntary human extinction program.
      It’s not children who are the problem, it will be the burden on the economy by an idle aging population. Some elderly people may be incapacitated for over 20 yrs whilst needing a lot of resources. Are you going argue their cost?
      I think in the end we should value everyone, otherwise we get into dangerous ideology.

    • Economist says:

      06:20am | 13/11/12

      The Baby Bonus helped to maintain the birth rate? Perhaps with a few individuals, but the main factor was the general performance of the economy. That people felt secure enough to afford to bring a child in to the world.

      You seem to suggest that the intent of the Baby Bonus was to get people procreating to maintain the birth rate. Well only the truly stupid would do it for what was at the time $3-5000 dollars. I think there were other factors at play. Good riddance to this policy.

    • GROBP says:

      07:36am | 13/11/12

      ...................“Well only the truly stupid would do it for what was at the time $3-5000 dollars”.......................

      Yep, hardly future contributors and tax payers were the main procreaters..

    • Big Jay says:

      07:56am | 13/11/12

      “Well only the truly stupid would do it for what was at the time $3-5000 dollars.” True, but unfortunately truly stupid people are out there and did do this.

      Interesting you say the performance of the economy let people feel secure enough to bring a child into the world, you don’t think sky-rocketing house prices put a lot of people off having kids? or delaying till their mid30’s to find they have fertility problems?

    • AdamC says:

      08:27am | 13/11/12

      Economist, I agree. The partisan attacks on Swansong and his baby bonus cuts ruined an otherwise important and and well-argued article.

      The greatest risk to the ‘Asian century’ story is actually demographic decline. East Asian governments, following the stupid, lefty development economics of the mid-twentieth century, drank the population control kool-aid and actually thought reducing the population was a good idea. Well-run Asian polities like Singapore have realised that demographic decline is actually a really, really bad thing. They may be too late, however, to stop it. In the meantime, the PRC persists with the folly of limitng many couples to only one child.

      In the modern, Gaia-worshipping West, the population-reduction thesis is based on two fundamental myths, unsupported by evidence. (Like many religious beliefs.) The first is that humankind is running out of resources and that resulting shortages will destroy modern civilisation. The second is that having fewer people will somehow increase living standards, despite the obvious fact that we need people to do just about everything.

      In reality, having more people enables greater economic specialisation, allows for scale economies and makes building new infrastructure viable.

      The Malthus crowd, who have been hopelessly wrong for centuries, manage to continue to attract devotees to their millenarian cult of the apocalypse. Thankfully, most Australian politicians are not yet believers.

    • GROBP says:

      08:48am | 13/11/12


      With all the glaring evidence I just cannot comprehend how you could possibly have such a view. I’m perplexed. How are our lifestyles better than say 30 years ago? Don’t we have an unemployment rate of 10%, but you’re saying a shortage?

      We’ve had the biggest gift in mining to ever occur. EVER. Where’s the money to build the infrastructure you’re talking about? Spent. There’s not enough after such a massive boom as well as we all borrowed to the hilt. That’s never going to happen again. So what massive changes can you see that I can’t that will fund all this great lifestyle you speak of. I suggest get your head out of the economics books and instead use common sense and logic to see we are headed for disaster very rapidly with a growing population.

    • Economist says:

      09:36am | 13/11/12

      Big Jay I’d argue it was all about timing. House prices took off in 2002. But the debt boom also provided a significant improvement in unemployment and employment growth, interest rates were comparatively low compared with the previous ten years. Real incomes grew, despite the cost of living increases in fact income growth does seem to still outstrip cost of living.

      I don’t have a chart in front of me but I’ve got a gut feeling if you charted birth rates with employment growth and income growth you’d find that there may be a 9-10 month lag but they peak and trough about the same.

      AdamC I think you meant disagree with me, but studies I’ve read about are that the Baby Bonus was not a statistically significant factor in the recent baby boom of 2001-2008, it was other economic factors.

      That’s why I don;t support the policy. You’re better off focusing on creating a stable, robust strong economy.

    • AdamC says:

      01:12pm | 13/11/12

      Economist, we actually do agree. I also oppose the baby bonus. I just do not see the point of it and do not buy the idea that it increases the birth rate.

      GROBP, the problem is that you are confusing paranoia and irrational fear for evidence. Australians have never had it better. Sure, the mining boom hasn’t been as flash as some of the more extractively minded looters and pillagers (AKA our ALP government) would have hoped, but Australia did fine in the 1990s and most of the noughties sans mining boom.

      Indeed, a reversal in the terms of trade may have a silver lining. Specifically, it may prompt the electorate to swallow some of the economic reforms needed to iron out the increasingly damaging structural problems in our economy. Indeed, a failure to reform our outmoded regulatory and taxation arrangements is a far bigger risk to Australian prosperity than the almost laughable notion that we are ‘overpopulated’.

      Seriously, GROBP, you need to stop imagining that some sort of extravagent, fantastical disaster is around the corner.

    • GROBP says:

      02:02pm | 13/11/12


      ...............“Seriously, GROBP, you need to stop imagining that some sort of extravagent, fantastical disaster is around the corner”............

      Yep, I agree. Greece will also come good any day now. It’s fine to spend every cent of revenue in a boom and also lend some and sell producing assets too…Then look back at the spending spree and say “how good have we got it”.

      We haven’t got it good, it’s a blip of madness where we’ve spent all of yesterdays money and all of tomorrow’s as well.

      If that makes sense to you, which clearly it does to both you, Economist and both parties, then nothing will stop where we are certainly heading.

      I hope you’re on here in five years time so I can say I tried to tell you.

      ...........“laughable notion that we are ‘overpopulated’.”..........

      We may not be overpopulated in your one dimensional view of the economy but we sure are ecologically. We kill more species than ANY other country. There’s more to life than money.

      I’m sick of the deluded positive views of the economy of people on both here and the wider community. We’re headed for economic Armageddon just like Greece, the UK, Europe and the US, there is nothing more certain. Everyone kept saying we are different because we have mining. Okay, so now we don’t have mining what will the new caveat be?

      The day I heard people telling me a 600k house is cheap, alarm bells have not stopped ringing. Everywhere I’ve looked since that day has made the bells louder. Open your eyes AdamC.

      Tell me where is the money coming from that eclipses all that we’ve spent from the mining boom, the massive personal and government debt plus the revenue from selling assets. Have a go at answering.

    • Fed Up says:

      06:23am | 13/11/12

      Just middle class welfare…DUMP IT.
      Some of these single income families are earning over 150K a year.
      Gov assistance was designed to help LOW and FIXED income earners not the bluggin middle classes.
      Scrap the baby bonus altogether and use the money more prudently on those that really need it.

    • GROBP says:

      07:29am | 13/11/12

      Fed Up;

      I think Kevin Andrews missed the online poll that from memory showed a few thousand pollsters overwhelmingly said get rid of the baby bonus.

      Population should be the election issue. Gillard knew it was an issue, that’s why she lied to us with these population statements


    • I hate pies says:

      08:53am | 13/11/12

      There’s your problem right there Fed UP. The people on 150k are paying $50k+ a year in tax - they’re the ones that are supporting the low income earners; yet we deride them for getting a small rebate.
      Also, all the family payments are means tested. No-one on 150k gets anything from the government.
      Rather than punishing those that work hard, we need to change our culture and the attitude of those that don’t want to.

    • Rose says:

      09:55am | 13/11/12

      No I Hate Pies, welfare is not an entitlement for those who have paid tax, it is only ever supposed to be a safety net for those in need. Scrap all middle class welfare and invest that money in education, health and case management and training for the long term unemployed and you will see real benefits.
      Paying tax is not like putting money in an investment account, you don’t get to take it out when it suits you. Paying tax is about paying for the services you receive (roads, education, infrastructure, health etc)  and for those services to ensure some sort of opportunity is afforded to all to improve their lot. Middle class welfare is greed, pure and simple!!

    • Tim says:

      10:22am | 13/11/12

      I hate pies,
      Hmmm I’m paying heaps of tax too and subsidising many people.

      Where’s my rebate?

      Oh that’s right, I don’t qualify under one of the “vote buying” categories.

      “Rather than punishing those that work hard, we need to change our culture and the attitude of those that don’t want to. “

      I agree, and we can start by reducing these ridiculous payments to people who don’t need them and only provide welfare as a safety need to those few people who truly can’t look after themselves.

    • I hate pies says:

      11:09am | 13/11/12

      But Rose, most of our country doesn’t actually pay for the services you listed. They’re paid for by those that get punished most by the government; the greedy ones that pay all the tax.
      Tim - have kids, problem solved. Or employ a tax accountant.

    • Michael says:

      12:11pm | 13/11/12

      Rose the flaw with the way you see this is that it is perfectly ok for some people to pay more for the same services as another based on income not on use of services.

      Now if we charged more based on something like gender or race or religion it would be a crime against humanity…almost.

    • Tim says:

      12:53pm | 13/11/12

      I hate pies,
      so your spiel about the government helping those who work hard was just a bullshit excuse to continue the gravy train for parents?

      Unsurprising really that the entitlement mentality amongst many is so ingrained that they try to rationalise the payments they get as a rebate and not welfare.

    • Rose says:

      01:44pm | 13/11/12

      Yep, I’m perfectly OK with some people paying more tax than others, absolutely don’t have a problem with a progressive tax regime. Whatever tax you’re paying, your paying at an amount commensurate with your ability to pay. Rest assured, I’m paying considerably more tax than some others I know and I still think it’s fair. Would you rather live in a country where the less you have the greater tax burden you have to shoulder.
      Our tax system works pretty well, no one is being charged more tax than they can afford, if they are they need a new accountant, and our economy is chugging along nicely. It would be better however if the level of middle class welfare decreased and the tax burden was able to be reduced for everyone, or at the very least services etc were improved for everyone!!

    • Michael says:

      01:51pm | 13/11/12

      Correction, we recieve the childcare rebate.

    • I hate pies says:

      02:01pm | 13/11/12

      Tim, it’s not welfare - I don’t need the money. Welfare is when the government support you; I pay far more tax than I receive from the government, hence the term rebate. I didn’t think it was a difficult concept; maybe you could look at it objectively and see you can figure it out. I know I can.
      The problem we have as a country isn’t the high income earners receiving modest rebates, it’s that there’s many, many people who now receive more from the government than they pay in tax. They are the ones that aren’t contributing to our society, not me. I contribute many, many tax dollars.

    • glenm says:

      02:05pm | 13/11/12

      @ Tim, I am in agreement with I hate Pies on this one,  If the tax system was equitable to a single income family, by allowing the sole provider to income split then the baby bonus / middle class welfare should not be required. Tim if your single you get the benefit of your one income only being required to support yourself. A family with a sole income supports two / three / four or more and pays the same tax rate with negligible support offsets.
      I have no problem with getting rid of the baby bonus, but the government needs to look at the whole tax system in context.

    • Tim says:

      02:50pm | 13/11/12

      I hate pies,
      44% of families pay no net tax due to these family payments.

      Why do you think this is fair or equitable?

      You are a net taxpayer. Good. But if you had no kids you would be paying even more. Like every single or childless person has to.

      yes if you decide to have children your expenses will increase. How is that the taxpayers fault or responsibility?

      I can understand some assistance to families may be required but the current level is way over the top. The strain on the budget is too much.


    • I hate pies says:

      03:09pm | 13/11/12

      Rose, a progressive tax system isn’t fair; by it’s nature it increases the burden as your income increases. It shouldn’t be based on your ability to pay, rather on what is equitable. The only way to make it equitable is to have a flat rate, regardless of what you earn. That way everyone is contributing, and everyone is contributing the same portion of their income.

    • I hate pies says:

      03:46pm | 13/11/12

      Tim - exactly, that’s my point. We have far too many people in this country that don’t pay tax, yet we focus on the rebates received by high income earners, not the 44% that aren’t paying tax.
      If I didn’t have kids I’d be paying less, because my wife would be working, so I’d take a job that had less hours, and we’d receive the same cash in pocket for a lower income, due to paying less tax.

    • glenm says:

      05:17pm | 13/11/12

      @ Tim,“yes if you decide to have children your expenses will increase. How is that the taxpayers fault or responsibility?”

      Yes its not anyones responsibility other than your own if you have children. However we live in a country that generally accepts our social responsibilty to look after those in need.  We look after those who dont deserve it all the time. In the case of a family with one parent working on say 100k, why not allow that income to be split 50 /50 . Thats no different to the tax position of a single on 50k only supporting themselves. Remember the family on 100k has at least one child as well. Sure its a personal coice to have kids but once the choice is made , is it acceptable to then put families into poverty.  If we could restrucuture the tax system we could eliminate the “middle class welfare” by not taking the tax dollars off these people to start with. The current system takes to much away then tries to hand it back its an inefficient system which is inequitable and places a stigma on those that recieve it.

    • Rose says:

      05:25pm | 13/11/12

      Okay, so we do it your way and have a flat rate, then what we have is a system which places a far higher burden on those with less income. For example, if someone has a taxable income of $500 p/w and they pay 20% tax, they lose $100 per week, a far greater hardship than if they were earning $2000 per week and pay $400 in tax. By having a sliding scale there is a more even burden across the board, it’s fairer.

    • Gregg says:

      07:11am | 13/11/12

      Nature has many tentacles we as humans would seem to yet understand.
      Why is it necessary to keep pushing the growth buttons we should be asking for we sure do see the more rapid consumption of resources, increased damage to the environment and the rising cost of what we would class as basics of living, the materialism of the planet for those able to afford it and the massive shifts of economics that see the development of problems like Europe is facing and Australia will likely too, not to mention the wars that can be developed because of poverty and shortages.

      So enter side stage Nature and as we have less available people to look after the elderly sad as that may be, life spans may even start to decline through premature deaths and even euthanasias.
      A declining population may even start to offer employment to more of those surviving and whereas there could be far less farmers about for they are an ageing breed too just like many of our power stations, life may resort back to more of a DIY approach in regard to food production.
      Going back in time to when that was the situation, you probably had larger families not just because of less entertainment and materialism but there was farm work that many children could assist with.

      All those yuppies may find that birds are best left to tweeting and even if they are living at home and not socialising as much, they might find they have to tend the vege patch a bit to not be as hungry.

      Our politicians may not want to push this type of scenario and it is most likely unpalatable to most and so we’ll always have people pushing the envelope of living to have the best of what a modern world can grow to without realising what a cliff they are pushing themselves to.

      Those hippies finding their alternative lifestyles and nice peaceful locations for teepees are not so stupid afterall and all that free love might just help to smooth out the population rise and decline roller coaster.
      Hang on tight!

    • acotrel says:

      08:06am | 13/11/12

      ‘Hang on tight! ‘

      You seem to have a firm grip on the situation.

    • Ian1 says:

      07:12am | 13/11/12

      Not every demographic is experiencing the same decline in fertility.  Seems to just be those with tertiary qualifications and hefty tax burdens isn’t it?

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:13am | 13/11/12

      Ironically, tertiary-educated people (Trades school to university) are most likely to have children that would grow up to be contributors to Australian society and economy.
      The kind of people that would start having more kids because they are going to get a payout are most likely to raise children who will only go onto the dole and follow their parent’s irresponsible footsteps.

    • Mumofmany says:

      11:56am | 13/11/12

      My husband and I are tertiary educated - and we pay a bucket load of tax - but we are bucking this trend are expecting our 8th baby, with no government subsidies!  We expect all our children to make valuable contributions to society in the future as they are raised with a strong work ethic and social conscience. We feel like we are making up for all those people who chose not to have kids grin

    • FINK says:

      07:17am | 13/11/12

      John Howard presided over a mining boom which attributed to unparalleled economic growth for this county, he had to spend the money, he had 20 billion in the coffers anymore would seem unnecessarily excessive.
      Did he
      -build infrastructure?
      - invest in health ?
      -invest in education?
      - create incentive for small business?
      NO to all of the above, what did he do, he paid off the middle class, what a complete waste of our money..
      As there is a royal commission into the Catholic Church, we should also have one into the Howard Government .

    • Gregg says:

      07:44am | 13/11/12

      I reckon you might find that the states are usually the one involved with infrastructure, often in partnership with the private sector and the states and even councils get funding from the federal coffers.

      You might even find that the Labor government, in now for almost five years has had a pretty good swig of the mining boom times and exactly what have they achieved other than raise a massive debt burden for Australians.
      We do not need a royal commission to decide what to do, just an election.

    • acotrel says:

      08:03am | 13/11/12

      That is not really fair.  The libs might have not been very constructive, but at least John howard had some couth and looked like a statesman - all bright and shiny new -  but didn’t even have a spare tyre.

    • GROBP says:

      08:04am | 13/11/12


      Good idea FINK, trouble is politicians set the terms of reference. Have a read of some and be gobsmacked about what’s not included.

      Where’s all that money? Our money? In the market capitalisation of the four banks. Mostly foreign owned. It might seem it’s tied up in housing but that will change and is essentially a massive tax payer gift to the banks and other big business. We as collective voters are absolute mugs. By the time most of us work it all out Australia will be completely broke.

    • Big Jay says:

      08:05am | 13/11/12

      @Gregg - States have only started doing infrastructure in conjunction with the private sector lately (as in last 15yrs at most) because the Howard govt slowly deprived them of funding (generally) preferring cash handouts to voters.

      Furthermore, for all the ALP’s ills the NBN is under constructions, school halls are standing in schools, QLD is rebuilding their infrastucture after the floods and cyclones. So their is at least some hard evidence on (in) the ground.

    • Gregg says:

      10:07am | 13/11/12

      @Big Jay
      The NBN is not even paid for and will be one the greatest white elephants ever.
      School halls are great infrastructure aren’t they, empty for most of the time even if they were needed at that and yes, mainly Queensland councils are doing a lot of repair work as resources and funding allows, a lot of funding courtesy of a flood levy.
      Repairs of that nature get carried out in all states following floods or other disasters if not to the same extent.

    • FINK says:

      10:08am | 13/11/12

      “some couth and looked like a statesman - all bright and shiny new”
      Yes, but he tarnished very quickly in his final term and Mr Sheen oops sorry Mr Abbott just couldn’t keep the polishing the tiring knob up.
      Howard like Rudd had a chance and the ideas to make some real advancements for this nation, unfortunately they both pulled up lame.

    • Big Jay says:

      12:02pm | 13/11/12

      @Gregg - You asked what they’ve done in 5yrs, and there are SOME examples. What did the Howard govt do with their 11yrs in better economic conditions?...The Adelaide to Darwin railroad and thats about it!!

      I didn’t say the School Halls were good, or that they were good value for money, but they are there (I also think the BER scheme was cr@p).

      “Repairs of that nature get carried out in all states following floods or other disasters if not to the same extent.”

      Of course, but QLD wasn’t insured and was already in debt, and then went on to vote in a spendthrift govt. What do you think would’ve happened without the Fed getting involved and taking the political flak for the flood levy??...The repairs wouldn’t be happening (or very slowly) and QLD’ers would be looking at shoddy infrastructure everywhere.

      Again, I’m not saying the former QLD Labor was any good, clearly they were idiots. I’m just saying evidence of Federal money is there to see.

      As for the NBN, I’d prefer the govt build too much infrastructure than too little. At the moment it looks like overkill, one day we’ll be wondering how we ever lived without it. I wonder what people thought of building a 10 lane bridge crossing Sydney Harbour back in the 1920’s?

    • pete says:

      07:25am | 13/11/12

      I think Wayne Swan is a fool.

      There you go Kevin, it only took me six words to say it. Don’t dress up an attack on Wayne Swan (a fool) by hiding behind a terrible policy like the baby bonus.

      And given there’s little difference between liberal and labor, why do governments continually allow the ongoing immigration of geriatrics if we have an aging problem?

    • pete says:

      07:46am | 13/11/12

      and i’m a bigger fool, that was seven

    • acotrel says:

      08:12am | 13/11/12

      ‘I think Wayne Swan is a fool.’

      The fool who is the envy of every politician who manages an economy anywhere else on the planet ?

    • James1 says:

      12:48pm | 13/11/12

      “and i’m a bigger fool, that was seven”

      Don’t worry pete.  You are probably still better with numbers than Mr Swan.

    • DexteR says:

      07:35am | 13/11/12

      There are 7 billion people on the planet, we do not need one more.  If our population needs more young people we can import them, it’s not like there is a shortage of people wanting to come here.  As long as we maintain control over who we let move here and choose wisely, a falling birthrate is no problem at all

    • Don says:

      05:09pm | 13/11/12

      Let’s look on the positive side here. Did you ever think to read that China’s population will soon enter a decline? Two child policy didn’t really work, increased prosperity worked a treat. Get the picture? Increased prosperity = reduction in birthrate across every culture from Japan to Spain and now to China. Case closed.

    • Al says:

      07:39am | 13/11/12

      Whenever I see some article regarding population growth or the ageing population I just think of one word:
      It is what the vast majority of organisims manages to get too when external pressure on the population is minimised.
      For some reason humans seem incapable of this as a species though.
      (And yes, I do realise homeostasis is more complicated than this, but here is not realy the area to go into a full lesson in biology, population levels social structures in species other than humans and all the various factors that can impact the population levels).

    • Suzanne says:

      07:41am | 13/11/12

      Thats fine.  I have had well over quota with ONE marriage, so done my bit

    • AFR says:

      07:43am | 13/11/12

      I always had a slightly uneasy feeling that the baby bonus was some sort of “white australia policy by stealth”.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      08:03am | 13/11/12

      What? So the Middle Eastern/Muslim couple whose small child has gone missing and she is about to have her 13th isn’t getting the baby bonus?  I didn’t realise that.

    • Big Jay says:

      08:08am | 13/11/12

      True, in saying that it’s preferred to increasing immigration. However, their are plenty of non-white Australian’s around these days (such as myself, beneficiaries of much earlier immigration programs).

    • AFR says:

      09:06am | 13/11/12

      But we also know that those of Euro/Anglo stock are having less children than those from other parts of the planet. People from culture where large families are the norm will continue to produce large families, perhaps not as big as in their homelands, but bigger than average.

    • fml says:

      01:21pm | 13/11/12

      I don’t know how, but It is obviously a conspiracy against the minority white middle class male with no voice.

    • Elphaba says:

      08:20am | 13/11/12

      I find it a bit sickening that people would choose to have a baby just because they get a cash prize from the Government.

    • Dave E says:

      08:22am | 13/11/12

      I knew this would turn into an immigration/race discussion.

      I make my living from immigration and have a foreign wife, but it is far from clear that immigration (whether regulated or not) is the answer.

      Young skilled migrants usually bring their parents over - meaning there are even more older non-working people to be cared for and supported. Many business migrants are also in their 40s or 50s (as it takes that long to develop a career that is significant enough to be eligible for application under that stream).

      Raising a child is expensive, as is taking time off work or going part-time for a decade (which many women or men now do). The baby bonus is nowhere near full compensation for this, but it does help.

    • ibast says:

      08:26am | 13/11/12

      Encouraging population increase through increased birth rate is an immoral standpoint in an overpopulated world.

      If you want to increase population, you should be doing so through increased immigration.

    • Big Jay says:

      08:29am | 13/11/12

      Why does the Coalition continually come up with problems but no solutions?...This article is complete incoherent rubbish like everything the Coalition announces these days.

      * Population GROWTH can’t go on forever. It’s a finite planet and till we find a new one we should be a bit more realistic.

      * The Coalition continually whinges about money and the budget surplus. As soon as the ALP cut something (anything!) they whinge then too. Perhaps the Coaltion would like to articulate what they will cut when they reach govt?...Tell us how they’ll get a surplus with no mining tax, no carbon tax, soft revenue in Corporate Tax and CGT, sluggish world growth, soft(ish) commodity prices, peak in mining construction (2013) and so on.

      * The ALP has a Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and his remarks on popuation have been a complete joke. Perhaps the Coaltion would like to articulate what kind of population they would like to see in Australia, by when, how (just babies? immigration?) and how it would be managed in terms of housing, water, power, roads, education, health and so on?...I have no doubt it’s beyond them too.

      * What effect (if any) did the massive house price growth under the Howard govt have on people family planning?...I’m convinced this has reduced the number of (responsible) people having kids but I don’t have hard data to support that assertion.

      * Is this kind of commentary what Tony Abbott was on about yesterday to bring respect back to the Australian polity?

      For me, people inherently want to have kids and just need something like secure conditions to do so. Given the Coalitions record on housing affordability AND job security I don’t think they have any credibility on the issue.

    • AJ says:

      08:35am | 13/11/12

      I know of at least four couples who are close friends who have been trying to get pregnant for years.

      Maybe if Australia looked at amending the laws on adoption and surrogacy (both altruistic and commercial), then it would be easier for couples to have children? I’m not advocating handing out adopted children to anyone that asks for one or enabling young women to be exploited as surrogates, but the reality seems to be that there are plenty of couples who would like to have children naturally, but cannot.

    • Achmed says:

      08:36am | 13/11/12

      The article totally ignores the peril of over population.  We live on a planet with finite resources.  For example; the amount of water on available is finite. There is no delivery coming from anywhere to replace/increase the amount of water.
      We constantly have the discussion about the resources such as iron ore being finite.
      Having finite resources does not change just because it suits the billionaire industrialists and their greed for more profit.  paying a baby bonus and having paid maternity leave does not change the fact we have finite resources.

    • Kika says:

      09:04am | 13/11/12

      You will also find, Mr Andrews, that we’re not just choosing to have less children, it’s because life in the developed world is considerably busier and more expensive than it’s ever been. And I’m not just talking about having incomes to maintain 4 TVs and a SUV along with a McMansion mortgage. I’m talking about having double incomes just to get by. Sure it’s easy to get by with one person working and mum at home with 4 kids, but the 50’s is long gone. We can’t afford to have one person not working with multiple kids to feed.

      The world is overpopulated. We have to stop thinking of increased birth rates in economic terms alone. If we’re only thinking 50 years ahead then we’re missing the point entirely. We are living longer. We don’t need more babies. We need to encourage healthier older adults to keep working. Yes it stinks but it’s the only way forward. If you want more tax payers then boost immigration. Having babies now puts a drain on the current taxation pool so who knows whether there will be any long term benefit in waiting 25 years before they stop being babies, school children, high school children, university students (all still draining the taxation pool) and waiting for them to start working full time to save our economy.

      Less people = more money to spread around. The scandinavians have the right balance.

    • Brett says:

      09:10am | 13/11/12

      If anyone thinks that people still have the baby bonus by the time the child is 3 is living in a dreamworld. As the father of 3 children the baby bonus was spent by the time it was paid. Reducing the baby bonus will not influence whether a couple has children or not.

    • Anna C says:

      10:04am | 13/11/12

      Brett, yes but most families will continue receiving: the Family Tax Benefit Part A; Family Tax Benefit Part B; Child Care Assistance; Child Care Rebate; Parenting Payment; Immunisation Allowance etc etc.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      04:08pm | 13/11/12

      Brett you are making an assumption from the standpoint of a person who would actually spend the baby bonus on the actual children.

      A lot of people might have other beneficiaries in mind when they decide to take up the offer- even if that isn’t actually possible to do- it’s not like they’re going to cautiously read through it first.

    • Brian of Buderim says:

      09:13am | 13/11/12

      I nhave two comments on this article.
      1. Why do we think that an individual’s usefulness to society ceases absolutely at 65? If we can change our national mindset so that those, like me, over 65, with something to offer can continue to contribute then we shouldn’t have to worry about looking after ourselves.
      2. Every day I produce 2+ litres of urine and about 500-750 grammes of faeces, in the driest country on earth and then we use litres and litres of drinking water to flush these out to sea where they are a pollutant.  We cannot continue relentless growth on a continent with very limited water supplies, mostly in the already over-allocated Murray Darling.

      I call for a “steady state” Australia where the population growth is zero.

    • sunny says:

      06:05pm | 13/11/12

      I mainly agree with you. I don’t plan to stop working as soon as 65 ticks over, unless I’m in la la land or pushing up daisies. Also agree on the sustainability part. But say we achieve the perfect sustainable society where we have say 100% renewable energy and 100% sustainable water / land / resource recycling and management, then what does it matter if the population grows?

    • Sync says:

      09:26am | 13/11/12

      Population Growth.

      My question(s): Where do we put/house them? Where does the electricity they’ll consume come from? How do we address the water they’ll consume? What about the roads they’ll drive on? Will there be an increase in the number of trains/trams to accommodate their travel needs? Where does the extra natural gas they’ll need come from? Whose going to pay for it all?

      Not so simple, is it?

    • fml says:

      01:17pm | 13/11/12

      Where do we put/house them? In houses.

      Where does the electricity they’ll consume come from? Power station

      How do we address the water they’ll consume? Tap.

      What about the roads they’ll drive on? They’ll stay the same.

      Will there be an increase in the number of trains/trams to accommodate their travel needs? Nope, they will just increase in frequency.

      Where does the extra natural gas they’ll need come from? Whose going to pay for it all? They will, with bills and such.

      Pretty easy.

    • Big Jay says:

      09:57am | 13/11/12

      As for the aging population question. Again, neither party is putting up any decent solutions.

      My solution?...Productivity is the name of the game! A workforce that can produce the same amount of goods and services with less people. We would be looking to do that with more investment in education, infrastructure and machinery (hardware and software). That sounds a bit like hard work, that no govt in Australia is interested in.

      For instance, their is vast tracks of unused railroad all over the countryside, 1 train driver can replace 40 truck drivers. Get people out of traffic jams, just add water to our vast under-utilised farm land, lower red-tape and if it is necessary then streamline the processing as best we can. I’m sure Acotrel is going to be back me here, but I’m not sure that is a good thing. smile

      Also, people always point out the cost of looking after our aged will rise, without pointing out the (relative) cost of educating and looking after our young will fall.

    • Anna C says:

      10:01am | 13/11/12

      Instead of paying people to breed (to supposedly help out our ageing population) why don’t be just import them instead and charge a bundle for the privilege?  There are many people around the world who would pay handsomely to come and live here.  Why not kill two birds with one stone?

    • Luc Belrose says:

      11:21am | 13/11/12

      Those who are flagging for a larger population forget that a large part of our businesses and jobs have been exported to China and elsewhere because it is cheaper to have goods made over there. In the US the people complain about the massive exodus of jobs and were demanding their return during the recent elections.
          Current projections are for the same trend to continue in order to bring down labour costs in Australia ie cheaper wages.
          Natural population growth will not increase greatly and immigration will be the main source of population gain.

    • Miranda says:

      11:24am | 13/11/12

      Peter Costello did not sire a generation of babies with the provision of the baby bonus and the current government does well to drop it.
      The introduction of the baby bonus coincided with a cohort of women then aged in their late 30s and 40s, who had delayed childbearing, realising that they were nearing the end of their fertility and taking the plunge before it was too late.
      It is no surprise to women like me who belong to that generation that the fertility rate of 1.73 babies per woman in 2001 then increased to a high of 1.96 in 2008. By 2010 it had droppped off that high to 1.89. This compares with up to four babies per woman in the early 1900s.
      The policy clearly did have an inherent racism and we could easily increase our population through migration - skilled or refugee - which would also help ease world population pressures.
      It begs the question however of whether we want to increase the population or to what extent we need to challenge the assumption that economic growth is sustainable and good for the country in the long run - as other commentators have discussed.

    • gof says:

      12:35pm | 13/11/12

      @Miranda ,
      “The policy clearly did have an inherent racism and we could easily increase our population through migration - skilled or refugee - which “

      The problem is these immigrants i.e Asian, Indian, Muslim etc.. is they breed like rabbits and are already at plague proportions. So immigration is not the answer unless they abide by a 1 child per couple policy.

    • I hate pies says:

      11:47am | 13/11/12

      Why don’t we just restrict research into disease prevention? People are now living through diseases we used to die from, creating many more oldies than there used to be. We’ve engineered our way out of natural attrition. It’s harsh, but it’s true.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      04:13pm | 13/11/12

      That is all it comes down to;
      The nonsense term “Ageing population” is a polite way of saying “population whose non-taxable elderly aren’t dying early enough”.

    • I hate pies says:

      04:53pm | 13/11/12

      Pretty much, yeah…or we could increase the retirement age to 85

    • Bho Ghan-Pryde says:

      11:55am | 13/11/12

      Given enough time, would not the fertility rate increase of its own for societies like Australia? Think about it. We are in a period where fertility is in decline and this is the case across a range of countries that have reached a certain level of technology and prosperity.
      Now, those who do not have children in this environment (for whatever reason) will not pass on their genes – those genes will be gone. Those who do have children will pass on their genes and those genes will tend to be of those who are more fertile (for whatever reason) in our type of society. It follows that the fertility rate will rise in time. Think about it – you know it makes sense. The problem of low fertility (if it is a problem) will solve itself.

    • marley says:

      01:08pm | 13/11/12

      No, it doesn’t make sense. Women are less fertile today because they have fewer kids, because they have them later in life, or choose not to have them at all.  That is a social pattern, not a genetic one, and I doubt it will change.  It certainly hasn’t in Europe, where the decline in birth rates has been under way for the better part of a century.

    • Bho Ghan-Pryde says:

      03:04pm | 13/11/12

      Social patterns and customs are just an enviroment. If they select they will select in the same way as natural enviroments. Why would you suppose they would be any different? If there is a selection pressure - in this case some choose not to have children and others do- then that must out in the genes in the long run. Or maybe Darwin was wrong.

    • ban kids and look after old says:

      12:12pm | 13/11/12

      stop having children and look after the old instead

      Paul Ehrlich said so on THE DRUM Nov 2012

    • fml says:

      01:14pm | 13/11/12

      Doesn’t paul ehrlich ever get tired of being wrong?

    • George says:

      12:23pm | 13/11/12

      A vote for Liberal, Labor or the Greens is a vote for a big Australia.

      Simple as that.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:44pm | 13/11/12

      Right, Kevin Andrew, deliberately inducing a baby boom to occur at the same time the baby boomers are retiring so that the states have to find the money to support two non taxpayer generations (remember that the new baby boom won’t become productive taxpayers for another 20 years, and that is assuming that there are jobs available, which in the current environment is unlikely since all the labor intensive industries will have gone overseas) It also highlights one of the most fundamental flaws of Federation since the federal government has its hands on the policy levers (breeder subsidies, immigration) while the states have to pick up the bill for the infrastructure which is a bit like ordering a meal at a restaurant and having someone else pick up the tab

      For an interesting read on Australia’s population debate:  Bigger or Better? Australia’s population debate by Ian Lowe.

    • Stormy Weather says:

      01:23pm | 13/11/12

      “single-income families suffer the highest rates of poverty when their youngest child turns three because of the ending of benefits like the baby bonus. It is hardly the time for Labor to be hitting them again.”

      Yet it’s ok for Labor to hit sole parents by removing their parenting payment when their youngest child turns eight, affecting the poorest families, including the ones already working?

    • I hate pies says:

      02:04pm | 13/11/12

      Maybe the poor families in Australia that are working need to have a look at the poor families in other countries rather than the rich families in Australia; it might help to give them some context.

    • Stormy Weather. says:

      03:17pm | 13/11/12

      So according to your logic I hate pies, we should be “grateful” for not living in huts and working in slavery conditions?

      Comparing poverty in a developed country to a 3rd World country is simplistic and purposely designed to undermine the hardship of fellow Australians and further the public discourse.
      It’s convenient to dismiss poverty in australia by distracting the public with 3rd World extreme poverty.

      Not to mention, in a 3rd World country leaving your child unattended while you work would not grab the attention of human services. Not feeding your child for days would not have your child removed and not have you deemed as a neglectful unfit parent.

      Impoverished families/children in developing countries are exposed to extreme violence, predators, malnutrition, disease, lack of education, justice etc.
      Would you like Australian kids to experience the same before you shed compassion?
      Or would you rather live in a civilised society?

      I ask you to maybe take a look at the rich families in Australia and compare their opportunity and avarice for middle class welfare to that of a disadvantage family in this country and to those in the developing world.

    • I hate pies says:

      03:51pm | 13/11/12

      In a nutshell, yes. For all the reasons you have listed our poor people have it pretty good. Thanks for proving my point for me.

    • expat says:

      01:45pm | 13/11/12


      The people who we ideally want to have these babies (educated, working individuals) have absolutely no intention of having children any time soon or even at all these days.

      The correlation between education and birthrates is well documented, the more educated people become, the less children they have. Maybe this is why the education system is being grossly dumbed down?

      I’m in my early 30’s, unmarried, educated and in business for myself. Most of my friends (male and female) are in a similar situation. Very few of us have intentions of marriage or children, the ones that do will struggle to get there because it simply does not rank as a high priority.

      Throwing money at people to have children is the wrong strategy, first the government must understand why we do not want to have children.

    • BruceS says:

      02:06pm | 13/11/12

      Thank you Kevin, for promoting constructive thought dealing with this growing issue.

    • Realist says:

      03:07pm | 13/11/12

      We need a STABLE POPULATION asap.

      Can Australia stave off ageing by importing younger immigrants or having more babies?

      No. The Productivity Commission stated clearly that it cannot make any significant or lasting impact on population ageing: “substantial increases in the level of migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age”.

      A 1999 Australian parliamentary research paper, entitled “Population Futures for Australia: the Policy Alternatives”, looked at the claim that immigration could offset an ageing population. It found that in order to maintain the proportion of the population aged 65 and over at present levels, “enormous numbers of immigrants would be required, starting in 1998 at 200 000 per annum, rising to 4 million per annum by 2048 and to 30 million per annum by 2098. By the end of next century with these levels of immigration, our population would have reached almost one billion.”

      The paper concluded: “It is demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young. No reasonable population policy can keep our population young.”

      Importing younger migrants or having more babies to stave off ageing is an irresponsible pyramid scheme that only leads to a bigger number of ‘aged’ people down the track.

      Population growth in a finite world is unsustainable. In the long run, the only way to successfully manage ageing is through responsible policies including: (1) Greater productivity; (2) Greater workforce participation; (3) Adjusting eligibility for entitlements such as the aged pension, aged care and subsidised health care; and (4) Increased savings (e.g. superannuation).

    • Shaughan Terry says:

      03:15pm | 13/11/12

      There is another problem here. There is no point the governments promoting population growth and more babies and then refusing to pay for medical treatment the little kids need on the grounds that it is too expensive and we can’t afford it.

      Surely we should factor all the costs and advantages in before making these far reaching decisions, otherwise people are just being suckered in. Having babies and paying for their upbringing is expensive to the parents and to the state. There are going to be huge costs for the next twenty years and the positives only come around (if they come at all) just as Kevin Andrews is due to draw his pension. Fancy that.

    • RP says:

      03:42pm | 13/11/12

      Yes. Let’s forget the politics for a moment and get back to the topic.
      In 1962, The Economist described Japan’s growing life expectancy as possibly ‘one of the most exciting and extraordinary sudden forward leaps in the entire economic history of the world’. In 2012, the same magazine ran another in-depth article about the Japanese lagging economy, saying ‘What matters most for Japan’s economic growth prospects is the decline in its working-age population … which has been shrinking since 1996” (The Economist Nov 20-26 2010 issue).

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      04:17pm | 13/11/12

      Do you know what impresses me about this thread?

      Not a single person has bothered trying to turn this into a wartime national defense argument, or some juvenile ‘superpower’ fantasy.

      Certainly a sign of a mature society. If not for the simple fact that it shows we are capable of basic arithmetic and DO listen to expert analysis.
      Well done.

    • Debbie says:

      05:44pm | 13/11/12

      “I hate pies” is really code for “I hate paying my share of taxes”. We all know that a flat tax would disadvantage lower income earners but just as long as you had more money in your pocket you would be happy with that.

    • Mel says:

      06:43pm | 13/11/12

      The problem is that too many of the wrong type of people breed. They are hardly the type who will be hard working tax payers who will keep us all in our old age ....


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