Baby boom

When last year’s ABS birth statistics were released, I doubted that the apparent increase in fertility was anything more than delayed births: it was older women driving the apparent baby boom, with age-specific fertility rates actually falling for women in their 20s.

But the 2007 statistics released today unambiguously report a baby boom. The total number of babies born was the highest ever, eclipsing the previous 1971 record, and every age group from 15-19 to 45-49 (even them, 506 babies, up from 438) is contributing to the increase. Women aged 30-34 were making trips to the maternity ward at a rate not seen since 1962.

Of course I remain a baby bonus/FTB sceptic. But I’d have to concede that a period of considerable prosperity for families, due in part to the rivers of taxpayers’ cash flowing their way during the Howard years, probably made a difference. From media reports of hospitals working beyond capacity, 2008 may break 2007’s record, and with many 2009 births already locked in it will probably produce big numbers too. The economic downturn will help us see whether higher fertility is driven by economics, or whether the cultural shift away from having children has started to reverse itself.

Minority support for a 2010 emissions reduction scheme

Today’s Newpoll finds opinion on climate change action rather more affected by the financial crisis than the Climate Institute’s poll last week suggested.

While the Climate Institute found 22% agreeing that the financial crisis meant that action on climate change should be delayed, Newspoll found 30% supporting a delay. On top of that 21% of respondents were against a carbon pollution reduction scheme, nearly double the 11% opposition Newspoll found in response to a differently-worded question back in July. Wtith 5% uncommitted, if Newspoll is right only a minority – 44% – now supports the government’s scheme of a 2010 implementation of an ETS.

The poor presentation of the Climate Change Institute results makes it difficult to fully analyse the reasons for the very different conclusions the polls reach. But Newspoll’s question on delay pointed out that energy ‘may become more expensive’, a better question in balancing the competing considerations, and so more likely to approximate the ‘real world’ reactions to an ETS.

Victorian government still committed to anti-democratic reforms

The Age‘s headline reads ‘Backdown on activist councillors’, in reference to the anti-democratic bill currently before the Parliament restricting the freedom of councillors to vote on matters they had previously been involved in, limiting rights of financial support for candidates, and denying voters the capacity to choose candidates committed to defending their interests.

The actual amendments have not yet been put to the Parliament, but based on Minister Richard Wynne’s media release the bill is still very unsatisfactory.

Rather than any objection to or submission on a proposal, the bill now proposes to cover only parties to a civil actions or VCAT appeals, or those who lodge objections to a planning permit. But as I argued last week, if a candidate runs on issues relating to the same subject as a civil action, VCAT appeal, or planning objection, the election victory turns the ‘private’ interest into a ‘public’ interest as well.

And there is no word about changing the absurd requirement that councillors keep complex records of who donates to them and then match them against all matters they have to decide on in council meetings.

I’m yet to hear what the Liberals will do on this bill – the Greens are still leading the fight. But I am hoping that the Liberals will come good.