Anglican Church’s call for end to baby bonus sparks outrage in immigration debate

by Ray Clancy on April 28, 2011

in Australia

Row over baby bonus divides Church and State

A row has broken out in Australia over a proposal from the Anglican Church of Australia’s general synod’s public affairs commission for the country’s $5,294 baby bonus for parents to be scrapped.

The Church’s key think tank is calling for a policy of sustainable immigration and in its submission to a population inquiry it recommends that the Government carefully consider any move to increase Australia’s population.

In particular it wants a halt to policies that provide an incentive to increase the population.

It calls for an end to ‘any policy that provides an incentive specifically and primarily to increase Australia’s population, notably the baby bonus’.

The $5,294 baby bonus is paid to families who earn $75,000 or less for the six months after the child’s birth. Last year, there were 278,000 payments nationally.

The suggestion has caused outrage and politicians have quickly dismissed the idea. Families Minister Jenny Macklin, who is finalising welfare proposals for the May 10 federal budget, says the baby bonus scheme will stay.

‘We won’t be scrapping the baby bonus because we understand how important it is to provide financial support to families once they have a new baby, so I don’t agree with the position that is being put. The baby bonus is there to support families at a difficult financial time when a baby comes into the home,’ she said.

Junior Treasury spokesman David Bradbury also said that the government has no plans to scrap the measure. ‘The baby bonus, along with the range of other measures that we have in place to support families, they’re a package of measures and they are important in providing assistance,’ he said.

He confirmed though that there is an ongoing discussion about sustainable population. ‘We do need to acknowledge the challenges of an ageing population,’ he said.

And it has caused friction within the Church itself. Anglican Bishop Robert Forsyth told ABC News 24 the view to curb population growth is not that of the wider Anglican Church. He said it was a proposal that was controversial within the church when it was first raised.

‘They are not the general views of the Anglican Church. The reason I know is because that report came to the General Synod last year and the General Synod did not agree to support this proposal. We have a number of commissions that are special think tanks. In this case it did not get the wider church’s endorsement,’ he explained.

There are those who support the idea. Independent MP Tony Windsor backed the Anglican committee’s calls for the baby bonus to be scrapped.  He said it was poor policy that sent the wrong message about the true cost of having children.

‘It concerns me that some people who aren’t really in a position financially or in maturity see the bonus as a short term gain but in reality it’s a lifetime responsibility that requires much more,’ he said.

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