WIDESPREAD use of the Australian Government rate for a quarter of a century.
Pill has been blamed by the for the nation's lowest birth The Minister for Social Justice, Mr. I. M. Sinclair, said the alarming fall in birth rate was also due to increased prosperity, later marriages and a desire for material things.
"Women are working after marriage to buy things like washing machines—and defer having children," he said. "The Pill is helping them to do this.
"By the time they start having children they are older and therefore have fewer," said Mr. Sinclair. "Women are not only marrying later, but a higher percentage is staying in the working force."
The Government is now reported to be studying a scheme to substantially increase child endowment to help the birth rate problem.
The scheme is based on a French family allowance plan which effectively halted that country's declining birth rate after the war.
Government officials believe a baby bonus plan favouring large families will be presented to Cabinet before it begins framing the Australian Budget in August.
Mr. Sinclair said he had asked his department to prepare a full report on the French scheme.
The fall in Australia's birth rate was shown in figures released by the Government's Statistical Bureau in Canberra.
These showed that 235,689 babies were born in Australia in 1963. The number declined to 229,000 the following year and to 222,800 in 1965.
The decline has created problems for the Government in projecting the country's work force in 10 to 15 years' time. It has also added pressure to the already overworked Immigration Department to set up migrant recruiting to make up the leeway on births.
A Liberal member of the House of Representatives, Mr. J. Killen, has called for introduction of a substantial increase in family allowances, He warned the House of "dramatic consequences" if the birth rate continued to fall.
Red China's plans for Thailand
THAILAND IS the next country on China's list to become another Vietnam, a French Jesuit missionary priest said on arrival at Sydney Airport this week. Fr. A. Bonningue, 58, Professor of Literature at the National University of Bangkok, lived in China for 15 years until he was expelled—after three years in gaol—in 1954.
He was Dean of the College of Philosophy in Peking and President of the Tientsin Catholic University.
Fr. Bonningue, who will lecture on South East Asia while he is in Australia, said he was certain that Thai Communist leaders were being trained in China and North Vietnam for the day when they would lead the Communist war in their own country.
"Thailand today is like Vietnam was six years ago," he said. "There are definite signs of subversion there, but no organised guerrilla activity. Only small groups fighting against the government."
Fr. Bonningue said a vigorous programme of social development in Thailand would be vital to the interests of the West in forming a bulwark against the spread of Communism from China to Vietnam.
Fr. Bonningue said that in gaol he was tortured by being kept awake for long periods and questioned night and day.
"I thought I would die in gaol and had prepared myself for the day, hoping it would come quickly," he told reporters. "But one night when I was in bed I was roused, taken to sign a document and freed."
He thought that unless Western countries like America, Australia and New Zealand, implemented a social development programme, the Thai people would be tempted to trust the Communists.
Ecumenical movement gets a boost
AN IMPORTANT move towards furthering ecumenical relations between Churches in Australia is expected later this year when a permanent commission for co-operation between the local Council of Churches and the Catholic Church is set up.
At present there is little clear direction from the Catholic hierarchy in Australia about relations with other denominations. Although there are ecumenical contacts, these are mostly informal.
The proposed commission would probably seek to remove misunderstandings on both sides and establish a dialogue on matters of doctrine and practice which are the cause of deep divisions.
Following a recent meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops, an official body of leading Catholic theologians is being set up to seek closer links with the 11 Anglican, Orthodox and Free Church members of the Australian Council of Churches.
The Australian Council's observer at Vatican H, Canon Frank Cuttriss, has said that a permanent consultative body in Australia was needed to promote ecumenical relations.
Canon Cuttriss was addressing the annual Council of Churches conference in Sydney.
All denominations will observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Australia this month—another sign that slowly but surely the ecumenical spirit is moving in.
Rodger Telling ;.