The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 22/09/06

Interview with 6PR

Friday, 22 September 2006

10.05 am
(AEST time)

SUBJECTS: Higher birth rates

JOURNALIST:

Peter Costello good morning to you.

TREASURER:

Good morning gentlemen.

JOURNALIST:

What was it again, one for me, one for you and one for the country?

TREASURER:

No, one for Mum, one for Dad and one for the country. 

JOURNALIST:

Ah, that’s right. 

TREASURER:

Three per family, you can’t have one each fellas.

JOURNALIST:

Mate, they have gone like it like rabbits.  Never since 1971 and the second highest since 1960.  Has this gone too well Peter?

TREASURER:

Well, it is pleasing I think that the birth rate seems to have lifted, we have got more children born in 2005 than at any time since 1971 and taking into account 1971, it is the next highest since 1960.  So that is the next highest in over 40 years. 

JOURNALIST:

265,00 little bundles of joy were delivered but we had David Suzuki on the programme earlier in the week Treasurer, and if we could just take the opportunity to replay a bit of what he had to say:

SUZUKI:

You know I was shocked to find that you have got a Minister in the Federal Cabinet here who is encouraging Australians to have more and more children.  Why?  Because everybody thinks that in order to keep the economy growing forever you have got have a growing population to keep that economy growing. 

And so no one ever asks what is the cost of adding more people to Australia, a country as far as I am concerned that is already overpopulated because of demand of each Australian is so great?

JOURNALIST:

So you are saying Australia is overpopulated?

SUZUKI:

You bet.

JOURNALIST:

What, per square metre of area we have in this country of ours?

SUZUKI:

Well do you think you can live on every square metre in Australia?  I mean give me a break. 

JOURNALIST:

Well there you go Treasurer, you have got a bit of an idea of what David Suzuki said.  Are we overpopulated now?

TREASURER:

Of course we are not.  We are on a continent for heavens sake and there are 20 million people that live here and it would be the most sparsely populated continent in the world and you have only got to fly over it, you would probably be flying over from Perth to the MCG for the Grand Final this year and have a look down there.  You won’t see anybody for thousands of kilometres. 

JOURNALIST:

Yes but Treasurer, you know as well as most of us that most of Australia is just places you can’t and wouldn’t want to live. 

TREASURER:

Yes but even in the fertile green built around the coast there is still as you know, huge stretches of uninhabited land.  If you have ever flown over Australia up to Singapore or somewhere and you fly over Indonesia have a look at the settlement in Indonesia and compare it to Australia.  We are the most sparsely populated continent on earth.  There are 20 million people here, to our north up in China a country of about the same size as Australia there are 1.2 billion people.  So we have got 20 million and what have they got, 1200 million. 

JOURNALIST:

Yes but they have got their issues there, sir.

TREASURER:

Well China is now emerging as one of the big economic superpowers of the globe.

JOURNALIST:

Can you just remind us while we are having one for me, one for you and one for the Treasurer?  What was the reason behind it?

TREASURER:

Let me tell you why.  Because back in the 1960s when families were averaging over three children per family, we saw the birth rate go into steady decline until it bottomed with about 1.7 per family.  But what that means is we are not replacing our population, it is not a question of growing it, we are actually not replacing us and what that means is that in 20 or 30 years time when we have a very large proportion of our population which is of retirement, we just won’t have the younger people to man the jobs, look after the aged care, produce the health services and ensure that society continues to operate in the way that we all want it to do. 

JOURNALIST:

I have done some stats, at this rate if we keep going like we have been this year and if you keep offering those bonuses I reckon the population will be about 30 million by the end of this decade. 

TREASURER:

Well I would like to see your stats.

JOURNALIST:

Well I am doing my bit Peter, what are you doing?

TREASURER:

Because even though the…

JOURNALIST:

Don’t deflect the question, what are you doing for our country?

TREASURER:

I will come to it, let me just finish this.  Even with this kick-up in the birth rate we are still are at a birth rate of about 1.8 per family.  That is on average we are having 1.8 children per female which is actually still not enough to replace the population. 

JOURNALIST:

Well I reckon if the Eagles and the Dockers get into the Grand Final we will do our bit for the population over the course of next week.  So are you getting behind the Western Australian teams, seeing the Bombers finished last?

TREASURER:

Well, no, no, I think you are exaggerating there, I think the Bombers finished second last. 

JOURNALIST:

Oh there you go.

JOURNALIST:

There is a big difference. 

TREASURER:

There is a big difference if you are an Essendon fan.

JOURNALIST:

Now remember you are going to go to the polls soon, who is going to win the flag?

TREASURER:

I think, well I think it would be very interesting to see a West Coast-Fremantle Grand Final.

JOURNALIST:

Lovely, particularly in marginal seats. 

 TREASURER:

I am not sure you will, I am starting to get worried about Sydney again, actually.  I think Sydney are coming good at the right time of the season.

JOURNALIST:

Oh well, they will be out of it after tonight, so…

JOURNALIST:

Peter thanks for your time.

TREASURER:

Good to be with you fellas.