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Treasurer Peter Costello is to be highly commended for the innovative baby bonus paid to all mothers, who now get $4,000 on the birth of a baby.  The bonus has also boosted the birth rate. Australian Bureau of Statistics data show the fertility rate is l.79 babies per woman, up from 1.71 in 200l, the biggest increase in a decade.   

"The payment has had a strong psychological impact - it's a statement by the Government and society that we value children" says Australian National University demographer Peter McDonald.   

However, Australia's birth rate is still below the replacement level of 2.1. A healthy birth rate is essential for economic prosperity - hence the moribund economies of Europe caused by birth rates as low as l.3. 

Author Mary Kenny, writing in The Irish Catholic, echoed Pope Benedict’s call for Europeans to have more children: "Many economists now agree with the Pope. If Europeans don’t do something about their falling birth rate, they will be in dire straits within a generation. By 2050, Italy’s population could be down by one-third".   

Ageing of populations highlights economic rivalries between the two most populous countries.  The economy of India, the world's fastest growing free-market democracy, grew 8%  during the quarter ending Sept. 30. China's economy grew at 9% during the same period, because, as India's Finance Minister, Palianappan Chidambaran says, China is able to dictate with "brutal efficiency" the construction of infrastructure, which India with a coalition government comprising a dozen political parties cannot do. 

However, China's also brutal one-child policy means that within ten years China's working age population will decline - China is aging faster than any country in history. "It is growing old before it has grown rich", says Kamal Nath, India's Commerce & Industry Minister. Meanwhile India's youthful population with 350 million under the age of l5, ensures its workforce will expand for decades. Economists call this the "demographic dividend".  

As the competent manager of Australia's economy, Costello recognises the importance of a healthy birthrate, hence his encouragement to have "one [baby] for the wife, one for the husband and one for your country". Costello should now consider Health Minister Abbott's suggestion that baby bonus installments commence during pregnancy and not only after birth. 

In contrast to the pro-natalist policies Australia needs, a gang of four Senators, Fiona Nash (National) Judith Troeth (Liberal), Lyn Allison (Democrat) and Claire Moore (Labor) are energetically pushing for yet another abortion method, the dangerous RU 486 drug regimen, which Dr.Marc Fischer of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said might be ten times more dangerous than surgical abortion.   

The involvement of Senator Nash is strange - she supposedly represents rural areas where there are many concerns about closure of hospitals and the unwillingness of doctors to work in country practices, not to mention the demise of football teams because there are not enough youths. How can rural women far from hospitals deal with toxic shock syndrome that can occur with the incomplete abortions caused by RU 486?  There are few warning symptoms like fever -  toxic shock kills swiftly, like poison. Even if the hapless woman escapes this danger, she will be aborting at home alone - and she could be alone for the rest of her life because that baby may be the only one she will ever have.



BABETTE FRANCIS is co-ordinator of the Endeavour Forum, a counter- feminist, anti-abortion group



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN