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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - The House will welcome this Bill and the accompanying Bills which will make it easier for us to absorb migrants and make the lot of migrants in Australia easier. These Bills will be acceptable to migrants. It is important that Australia should recognise the need for further immigration, and it is in that context that I wish particularly to support the Bills. Statistics show that the net number of migrants we are receiving in Australia has increased in the past few years. In 1961 the number was 61.000; in 1962, 62,000; in 1963, 72,000; in 1964, 99,000; and last year - the figures were released only today, I think - 105,000. This shows the need for Bills such as those we have before us.

One aspect the House should consider is that our natural rate of increase is lessening to a degree and our dependence on migrants is increasing proportionately. Australia is one of the few countries which is very much underpopulated. It needs a greater population. It would appear that it is only through immigration that we can obtain the necessary increase of population. I should like honorable members to consider the fall in our natural birthrate which accentuates this need for migrants and makes these Bills even more acceptable than they would otherwise have been. This fall in the natural rate of increase coincides almost exactly with the adoption of new methods of contraception, including the contraceptive pill. I shall give the figures to the House because they are most important, particularly in this context. In 1961 the natural increase in Australia was 151,000. This figure has fallen progressively to 123,000 in 1965 and the fall is continuing. I have had analysed the factors behind this fall and for the first time I can produce some statistics. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) and I have both been interested in this subject. The statistics relate to what is known as completed families. I will not go into the details of the way in which they have been compiled, although I shall be pleased to put them before any honorable member who is interested. However, I will not weary the House with details. The point is that the completed family - that is, the number of children that a married woman will be expected to have during her whole married life - until 1961 was rising, but since that date it has fallen very substantially. In 1958 the completed family was, on the average, 2.69 children. In 1959 it was 2.73; in 1960, 2.76 and in 1961, 2.84. This was the crucial year in which new contraceptive methods came into operation. In 1962 the completed family was 2.78; in 1963, 2.72; in 1964, 2.58 and in 1965, 2.43.

On present trends - the fall is still continuing - with the preliminary figures that are available for 1966, the figure will be down to about 2.25 for this current year. As honorable members will see, it is an increasing rate of fall. It is important to realise that the vital line is not far below 2.25; it is about 2.19. This allows for about 6 per cent, of non-nuptial births. It allows for a masculinity ratio of 52.4. It allows for the known fact that about 19 per cent, of females never marry and about 1 1 per cent, of marriages that are celebrated are remarriages. If the population is to remain stationary, over the long term we will require the nuptial index to be about 2.19. If the index falls below that figure the population will, in the long run, decrease. It can increase through natural sources only if we are above this vital line. We were quite a long way above it a few years ago. We are not far above it today and at the present rate of fall we will be very much below it in three or four years' time. This would mean that although the Australian population would go on increasing for a* little while because of the age distribution, without migration we would reach a peak of 14 million or 15 million in Australia and then our population would start to decline. These are the trends that are current in the community at the present moment.

I hope I will have an opportunity of setting out these vital figures in greater detail. I think that honorable members will agree they are figures of the highest significance. If the present position is that our natural rate of childbirth is unable to sustain an increase in the population we will, in default of migration, be facing before very long a declining population in Australia. This is something that would be unacceptable to every honorable member in the House. We are a country, we think, with a future. We are a country with a lot of territory but comparatively few people. I am not going to take time to discuss the question of the policy that is necessary to maintain our natural rate of increase. I know that this Bill would not permit a discussion of that character, but it does permit us to bring forward the considerations that render even more necessary now than three or four years ago an increased migration policy.

Our migration rate has been stepped up in accordance with the figures I read to the House a little while ago. Of course, it is not as great now as it was in 1911, 1912 and 1913 when we were absorbing some 80,000 migrants a year with a total population of under live million. In order to get up to the 1911, 1912 and 1913 level we would have to be absorbing an additional 100,000 migrants a year. Perhaps honorable members have forgotten that although our present migration programme has been big and sustained it has not had the intensity of the programme we successfully carried through in the three years 1911, 1912 and 1913. I would suggest to the House that it might, in considering this matter of migration, turn its mind to the vital fact that by reason of changes in the habits of the population - and I do not wish to criticise this in any way at present, but I simply state this as fact - our completed family figure is decreasing. I do not wish to suggest any policy that might hold out a greater inducement for a family to have a number of children, although I would, of course, support such a policy. However, I do not think this is the time or the place, in relation to this Bill, to canvass it. We have to accept these statistical facts which, I think, have not been known to the country but which I have placed before the House for the first time. Unless there is some change in the outlook of our people our natural rate of of increase will in 10 or 15 years come to a stop and our natural increase will then become a natural decrease. Unless we realise that, we will not be putting sufficient emphasis on this parallel question of migration.

Our rate of population increase over the last four or five years has been large, but it has been sustained only by the increasing migrant flow that I have detailed to the House. The rate of natural increase has fallen and is continuing to fall. It looks as though, unless something is done to reverse the present trend, we will be crossing, within a year or so, that vital line of 2.19 children in the completed family, which means that our natural growth in Australia will, over a long term, come to a halt.

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