A Somewhat Different Government Bonus
In contrast to much of the world, Australia is vast in area, but relatively sparse in population. So back in 2004, the then treasurer Peter Costello urged his fellow country men and women to procreate for their nation. He encapsulated his plea in the statement "one for mum, one for dad and one for your country." But he did not rely on words alone. He had a stimulus package to offer--$3000 per baby.
The results? Amazing.
The fertility rate increased by 3.2 per cent between 2004 and 2006, with almost 12,000 "extra" children born, according to a recent survey by the Melbourne Institute.
Now the implications of that baby surge are about to be felt by schools. The Federal Government has promised to give every Australian four-year-old access to preschool by 2013. To achieve this, Premier John Brumby has set forth a vision of "one-stop shops" - centers that would combine child care, kindergartens, maternal and child health facilities and primary schools.
That, of course, brings out other problems. Where are they going to get all the preschool teachers needed to deal with this wave of new students - especially when there is already a shortage?
Like all social policy, the issues are complex and interwoven. Still, it's nice to see a country grappling with key issues in child care and trying to design a system that will enhance the lives of children.