There seems to be a federal inquiry in Australia at the moment
into the optimum population that the Lucky Country should be aiming for.  Various interested parties (which should
include any member of the Australian population I would have thought, but then
again public inquiries can be dull affairs) are putting in their views on this
important issue, including an advisory body to the Anglican Church.  The Daily Telegraph newspaper
reported that the General Synod’s public affairs commission has made a
submission to the federal population inquiry in which it:

“…described population
growth as a taboo subject and ‘the elephant in the room’.”

The commission wants the federal government to stop feeding
this elephant by halting:


”…any policy that
provides an incentive to increase population, notably the baby bonus.”

(This was the first time I had seen the details of the baby
bonus scheme in Australia and it seems very generous – $5,294 as long as
you earn $75,000 or less for the six months after the child’s birth.  It applies to adopted children and even to
stillborn babies.)

The commission is, however, an advisory body only which does not carry
the authority of the Anglican Church.  The
Church itself has been less stringent in its pronouncements, only asking that
the Government:


“…carefully consider
any such incentive, ‘while continuing to support low-income families and
sustainable immigration’…The spokesman said, while the church wanted the
Government to carefully consider population incentives, it was not questioning
the baby bonus in particular.”

Interestingly, and somewhat paradoxically, while the Church is asking
for the Government to exercise more care and consideration when
it comes to population growth incentives and to cut the migrant intake,
it also
wants increases to paid parental leave entitlements.  The Church is
concerned about the fairness of
population growth to future generations. 
These future generations’ quality of life will suffer if the population
continues to grow.  The Church mentioned
in particular:


“The growing congestion of
cities, destined to become worse, means time lost in commuting, more polluted
suburbs, denser housing.”

However,
on the other hand, the Business Council of Australia, which represents
Australia’s top 100 companies, has submitted to the same inquiry that the
quality of life of future Australians will decline if the nation’s population does
not increase.  The BCA argued that:

“…a 36 million population by 2050
is a “sensible” target that will strengthen the economy and improve
communities.


…anything less will slow
the economy, undermine health and education services and contribute to urban
decay.”

In the debate on population, it seems that the Anglican Church is
on the side of those who think that an increasing population is a danger to be
avoided, or at least not to be encouraged.  I therefore suggest that the Anglican Church
in Australia change the opening wedding address in the book of common prayer to:

The union
of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God…and, when it is
God’s will, and as long as it does not increase the population in a way that is
unfair to future generations, for the procreation of children and their nurture
in the knowledge and love of the Lord.

After all, anything less may appear to
be a population incentive, one given by God Himself, and we couldn’t have that…now what was that command
given to Noah after the flood…?

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...