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Jim finds new way to make babies

Written by on May 10, 2024

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has hinted at measures to bolster Australia’s dwindling birthrate in the upcoming May budget, but has ruled out lump-sum payments akin to the Howard government-era baby bonus scheme.

Australia’s recent surge in population growth, buoyed by a soaring migration intake, has become a hot button political issue, and has led to calls for the government to bolster natural population growth rather than solely rely on international arrivals.

Dr Chalmers, himself a father of three, on Friday flagged additional support in next Tuesday’s budget for Australian families to have more children if they wished.

“I know that people will make their own choices and I don’t pretend for a moment that the government should direct those choices, but we want to make it easier for people to have bigger families if they want to,” Dr Chalmers said.

Asked if the further support would mirror the now-dumped baby bonus, a program established in the 2004 budget by then-treasurer Peter Costello, Dr Chalmers said the government believed there were other options to give families more opportunities to grow.

“We found a better way to support people who make that choice,” he said.

The Treasurer also pointed to existing measures the government had announced which were designed to give people greater flexibility when planning for children.

“We’re making these enormous investments in early childhood education,” Dr Chalmers added.

“We can expand paid parental leave and pay the superannuation guarantee on that paid parental leave.”

According to official estimates published by the Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s population rose by 2.5 per cent in the year to September to 26.8 million, driven by a record jump in international migration, up more than half a million in the 12 month period.

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Meanwhile, the natural increase – which measures births minus deaths – fell to just 111,000 over the same period, 3.9 per cent lower than the prior 12 months.

Responding to demands to clampdown on migration, the upcoming budget forecasts are set to show net overseas migration will be slashed from 518,000 in the 2023 financial year, to 395,000 in the current financial year.

Net overseas migration is then tipped to decline further, easing to 260,000 in 2025-26, before returning to 235,000 in 2026-27 in line with its pre-pandemic trajectory.