Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show a shocking 67% reduction in the monthly birth rates from between July and December 2021. The Government claims I’ve got my facts wrong but the data is published on the ABS website for all to see. Guess what significant event lines up with roughly nine months prior to this data…
Data source: https://explore.data.abs.gov.au/vis?tm=births&pg=0&df[ds]=ABS_ABS_TOPICS&df[id]=BIRTHS_MONTH_OCCURRENCE&df[ag]=ABS&df[vs]=1.0.0&hc[Measure]=Births&pd=1975%2C&dq=1..AUS.A&ly[cl]=TIME_PERIOD&ly[rw]=MONTH_OCCUR&fbclid=IwAR2uu5iUXHGW_J5moMnQNfzKVAsTc_UZVsBG4QSvr_isOwRFveUCJ4ZbSXY&vw=tb
Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (14:28): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Gallagher. It has been four weeks since the Australian Bureau of Statistics published data showing a 67 per cent reduction in Australia’s monthly birthrate between July and December 2021 as compared to the long-term average—a startling decrease. I drew attention to this data during Senate estimates, hoping for some reassurance. None was forthcoming. Let me ask again: Minister, why has Australia’s birthrate declined from 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021, revealing a 70 per cent reduction?
Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory—Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:29): I thank Senator Roberts for the question and I recall the discussion that we had at estimates and the fact that we requested, from Senator Roberts, some time to go through the information that he tabled in that hearing. I haven’t got that information back, but I think the advice given by the chief medical officer—who I was sitting next to—and me was that the data you were using didn’t align with the information we had. We hadn’t seen a drop-off of that size, which would be quite noticeable. In fact, that financial year of reporting, which incorporated births, actually showed the strongest birth record achieved so far—we had seen more births during that period. I’ll have to come back to you, because you tabled some documents in that meeting and the Department of Health took them away. If there’s anything further way in which I can advise you, I will do so.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Roberts, a first supplementary question?
Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (14:30): Minister, that’s not as I remember it, but we’ll wait for your response. Is there any systematic information-sharing between the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Health to keep an eye on key indicators reflecting on our COVID measures, or does the Australian Bureau of Statistics just publish critical data like this in due course and hope that somebody notices at some time?
Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory—Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:30): I thank Senator Roberts for the question. The ABS work very closely alongside other departments with the data that they are collecting, and they keep an eye on tracking any significant changes. If the ABS saw something in their data that would concern them—and I would imagine the numbers you’re citing about declines in birth numbers in one month would raise attention—it would be dealt with across government. In their cause of death publication the ABS reported that there had been 15 deaths due to the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021. That was against vaccinations of 42.5 million vaccines administered in that year.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Roberts, a second supplementary question?
Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (14:32): Minister, what specifically is the government doing to get to the bottom of this staggering decline in births?
Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory—Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:32): The first thing—and I remember this quite clearly from estimates—was that we undertook to look at the information you tabled in that hearing and align that with some of the data the ABS were collecting. They collect their births and deaths data as soon as it is available from the state and territory registries of births, deaths and marriages. The first thing we need to do is to get to the bottom of the numbers that you provided and make sure that the data that we got from the ABS, which I saw in that hearing, didn’t align with the numbers that you tabled.