Friday, April 11, 2008

Go Forth and Multiply

I was pootling home listening to the radio today and a debate on the validity of the Baby Bonus ensued. It was also a baby day with a friend giving birth to a little girl . . . I listen to an alternative radio station with a fairly young demographic and of course most of the callers felt that they 'needed' the bonus to support their six children born to six fathers in order to maintain their lifestyle and enable them to buy a Playstation for weekend entertainment. (Bit cynical?)

In the 2004 budget, the then Treasurer Peter Costello urged Australia to have three children . . one for mum, one for dad and one for the country and for their troubles, each birth would be rewarded with a lump sum payment of $4258.00, affectionately dubbed "The Baby Bonus". Soon to be raised to $5,000 in July. (How many women expecting June babies will be crossing their legs until the 1st July? If you know an obstetrician, tell them not to plan a ski trip!) Not a bad incentive to indulge in a little pleasurable slap and tickle and then sagitate over 9 months planning on how to spend it.

Double your chances with twins or invitro-induced multiple births and you can earn a small fortune. The problem is, there is no stipulation on how you spend this 'bonus'. It is meant to be spent on the said ankle-biters. But Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman has dubbed the payment the "Plasma Bonus" because it's boosted his business no end as young families spend it on plasma TV's and other high end electrical goods and computers. Clever little Snugglepots these newborns raping on Halo whilst they dribble in their mashed banana!

The revelation from one of Australia's biggest retailers comes as the Federal Government considers dramatic changes to the baby bonus scheme, effectively cancelling out the lump-sum arrangements currently in place. One proposal being examined would include 14 weeks' paid maternity leave rather than a lump sum payment to new mothers. This is particularly favoured for introduction to young parents under the age of 18 to ensure that the payment is spent judiciously on the child's welfare. But whilst the tabloid TV programs such as A Current Affair and This Day Tonight continue to plug stories of Janelle and Kylie having loads of kids to any Tom Dick or Bruce in order to claim the Baby Bonus are actually not quite hitting the mark.

Oddly enough, it's the rich who are becoming the highest claimers of this untaxed, un-means and asset tested payment. High-income suburbs. The largest increase in baby bonus claims in NSW,140% in the last 4 years, came from couples in the exclusive Kirribilli and Milsons Point area, which has one of Australia's highest average household incomes. Yet the area's fertility rate has remained static since 2001 at about 1.2. As if they need it! I suppose it will pay for the Prada Pram and the Benetton booties and Sass and Bide singlets.

The largest number of payments are still being made to couples and single parents in poorer suburbs, where many people start a family -- yet more often than not those areas are registering fertility rates below the national average.

I guess this proves that the baby bonus has nothing to do with fertility rates but simply a waste of taxpayer's money and an increase in middle-class welfare. It is supplemented also by a means tested 'family tax benefit' where parents receive a fortnightly payment for children up to the age of 18 and a small subsidy for daycare where the real dollars are needed so that mum can go to work and pay for the humongous mortgage.

Then again, if the cost of raising a child is $150,000 to age 18, $5,000 might as well be spent on a plasma screen . . it sure won't make a dent in the cost of raising a child.

Why we need to encourage parents to have more children, incur more debt, escapes me . . there's a perfectly reasonable solution . . .immigration . . . where we could encourage skilled labour into the country, improve services and productivity straight away, and have them hit the ground running!

OK maybe I'm being a bit bitter and twisted because I've had me bits cut out and can no longer conceive or act as an incubator to finance an overseas holiday. Or perhaps because there was never special parking for 'Mother's with a pram' next to the 'Disabled' bays when I was a Yummy Mummy. Perhaps I'm tasting sour grapes over the fact that my benefits were pitiful because I earned 2 cents over the income threshold.

Anyway it's Friday, my mood is better, I'm still in Coventry but hopeful, the weekend is upon us and it's warm and sunny. My dog didn't run away today, Adam's employed (whackadoo!) and Clare has ventured into English-speaking Miami, it's payday and because I've been living alone, I don't have to spend my weekend washing and cleaning . . .Have a good one folks . . .I can feel it in me waters . . .something good is gonna happen! (I love this clip more than the song! Terrence, touchy feely bit in the blue singlet is just for you!)


Nick said...

Ah, Kirribilli and Milson's Point, I know them well! It sounds reactionary I know but I tend to agree with you, who needs all these kids and how many parents really need the handouts? It's always tricky to provide help for the genuinely needy without giving it to the unneedy as well. Which is why invariably the middle-classes are the biggest consumers of any benefits or public services - mainly because they're smart enough to claim them instantly and fiddle the income requirements. The norm in the UK is parental leave only, strictly no bonuses.

ian said...

My wife will not buy stuff from Harvey Norman because she hates their ads. I always thought the Oz accent of the man who exhorts us to get on down to their stores was faked for an Irish audience. Now I discover that it's a real Oz company.

You learn something every day!

Grannymar said...

Baino you are singing my song! Mind you I have to sing it in silence as folk think I am jealous, only one child etc, etc. It is the whole idea of 'being paid' to have children that gets me. Whatever happened to having a child because you wanted it and were prepared to make sacrifes of that child, in my day it was called LOVE!

Grannymar said...

Sacrifices even

Thriftcriminal said...

Friggin excellent vid. Speaking of Cardiff, check out the film Twin Town, everyone in it is horrible, but it really is funny. On the sprog/cash front, ARRRRGGGHHH it's that grow the economy thing isn't it? Newsflash to the economists, there are too many people on the planet as it is. Swap an iPod for a vasectomy for 90% of the blokes on the planet and think about sustainability. I'll have my iPod retrospectively thanks. We have bloody Harvey Norman here too. (spits on the ground). Rant over. Have a bloody good weekend m'dear.

Quickroute said...

Baby bonus eh! and don't the Chinese and Japanese get taxed when they have more one baby? - interesting how the powers that be influence the natural process of parenting!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Baino! Even though back in the old days I didn't have ten kids only because of their cost!! That was also before special parking bays, four wheel drive prams and bonuses. Still don't have a plasma TV ... *sigh*. Maybe it's just jealousy on my part. Have a GREAT weekend! The weather is superb :)

Emperor Ropi said...

Enjoy your break, I can't understand how you can write so much.

Melissa said...

I laughed out loud about the crossing of legs until July first! :) Interesting results for the studies about what folks are choosing to spend their checks on. Alaska does a similar thing -- gives a certain amount per child. But I don't know of any other state that does.

That video is fantastic! LOL

Baino said...

Nick: I spend my life getting largely age pension benefits for millionaires. Our advisers manipulate their tax position to ensure a pension or at very least a pension card.

Ian: Poor Gerry. I didn't know they were international. He's a keen racing man so may even have stables over there. He's true blue Aussie alright.

Grannymar: I agree, the money would be better spent on subsidising day care for families who need to work to survive.

Thrifty: Not a bad idea, Mac seem to have a lot of old ones in stock . . small price to pay. Poor Gerry, what did he ever do to you folks?

Quickroute: Quite so. More than one child in China and you lose benefits.

The baby bonus was a vote catcher and a reaction from a paranoid and parochial government who are afraid they won't have enough younglings to support an ageing population.

Anony: we're of the same ilk. I wouldn't buy a plasma if I could afford it and don't get me started on preferential treatment for young mums . .their enviro pirates . . did you know it's almost impossible to buy cloth nappies these days!

Ropi: I have a lot of time on my hands, particularly in the evening and a lot of 'stuff' in my head and I type really, really fast. (I pulled the post . . just me being emotinal again)

Melissa: France, Singapore, Canada and Germany also have baby bonuses and India offers them to families to raise daughters which have been traditionally unpopular in order to prevent skewed gender balance.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I DO know about how difficult buying cloth nappies is! My Sis has had to resort to plastic until babe is big enough for the only ones she's found :( She doesn't fall under the same as the other Mums because has been trying to have a baby for many, many years and is my environmentally conscious Sister who is very poor due to costs of IVF ;)