Australia's population has just hit a new high of 24 million. But, as in Britain, Canada, France and elsewhere, the question is what's driving that population growth. Clarissa Bye reports in the Aussie Daily Telegraph that there are strange discrepancies between the robust fertility rates in certain parts of Sydney (Lakemba, at right) and the dearth of births in others (Surry Hills, Potts Point). As she notes, Lebanese- and Syrian-born residents have an average of four and 3.5 children respectively, whereas Australian-born women have 1.86.
Along the way in Ms Bye's story, a certain demographic doom-monger puts in an appearance:
IT'S the biggest story of our times, but political correctness has stifled debate so badly that politicians are too afraid to even talk about it.
According to visiting Canadian author and free-speech advocate Mark Steyn, low birth rates have put Western societies into a "demographic death spiral"...
"Normally for a population transformation you need a Black Death, the Plague or a world war," he said. "But in this case we are having it without any of that. That's why it's the most fascinating question of our times."
People underestimate how fast this change takes place. A small minority having four kids doesn't sound that big a deal. But, to keep the math simple, take a population of 100,000, 90 per cent of whom have 1.86 kids per woman and 10 per cent of whom have four:
The 90,000 have 83,700 children;
The 10,000 have 20,000 children.
The 83,700 have 77,841 children;
The 20,000 have 40,000 children.
And thereafter the minority is the majority. And all that growth is without a single new immigrant.
Australia's pollies give more thought to the birth dearth than do most other western leaders. In my book America Alone, I quote Peter Costello, then the country's Treasurer, calling for more babies:
Have one for mum, one for dad, and one for Australia.
As Ms Bye notes, the current Prime Minister is also interested and informed on the issue:
While Mr Steyn gives Malcolm Turnbull brownie points for understanding the implications of declining birthrates — they once shared a session passing notes back and forth about the issue — he is pessimistic about the PM's will to reverse the trend.
Actually, Mr Turnbull (on my right) and I were passing napkins back and forth on which we'd doodled upside-down family trees from various demographic-deathbed scenarios. If memory serves, Kevin Rudd (on my left) then put his glass down on my napkin, and the west's future dissolved in a moist blur...
As I said, this unprecedented demographic transformation is the biggest story of our time. You can read Clarissa Bye's report in full here.
~Speaking of the Aussie Telegraph, two of its star columnists, Miranda Devine and Tim Blair, will be joining me on Friday night's edition of Viewpoint with Chris Kenny, live at 8pm Oz Eastern Time. Which is yesterday US Eastern Time, if you know what I mean. In fact, I may already have done the interview and forgotten all about it after the post-show beers with Tim et al. But, if I haven't, I hope you'll tune in.
~My Aussie tour proper kicks off this Sunday in Perth - and what could be more romantic for Valensteyn's Day than an evening of apocalyptic doom. It's sold out, but, if you'd like to be put on the wait list, please shoot an email to the IPA here.