Australia’s so-called “fertility crisis” has mercifully gone quiet in recent months. But there’s another attempt to talk up the issue today by Mike Steketee in The Australian. It’s packaged as a “good news” story: Australia’s birthrate is up, and the 254,579 births registered last year were “the highest since 1995.”

Time for a reality check. Fertility is a complex matter, but if we know anything about it all we know that falling birthrates are primarily driven by two things: increased living standards, and improved status of women. The Malcolm Turnbulls of the world, who argue for increased fertility rates, are (consciously or not) arguing that we should reverse one or both of those trends.

No-one who looks at the planet as a whole could possibly imagine that underpopulation is a problem – quite the reverse. It’s true that population is unevenly distributed: teeming in Africa and Asia, much less so here. But whose fault is that? There’s no shortage of people who would like to come and live in Australia – we spend a fortune on navy patrols and detention centres to stop them doing so.

The never-spoken subtext of the “fertility crisis” is that it’s a crisis of white fertility. Australia could have as many people as it wants if we were to let them in. But that wouldn’t satisfy the fertility pundits, who want nice European babies, not dark-skinned immigrants.

They’re entitled to their preference, but public policy should not be driven by such ethnocentrism. Let’s stop subsidising Australian women to have children they don’t want and the world doesn’t need.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.