It will be a big night for the nation on Tuesday. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' population clock, just after 10.15pm someone will step off a plane or a baby will be born to become the 23rd millionth Australian.
Ask a random roomful of Australians what they think of our population might be to the nearest hundred thousand and you'll find many of us are still getting used to the idea of being one of 22 million, let alone realising that the clock is about to tick over to 23 million - another milestone along the road to a bigger (but not actually big) Australia.
Using quarterly demographic updates to build on the 2011 census, the ABS reckons an Australian is born every one minute and 44 seconds, one dies every three minutes and 32 seconds and the balance of long-term arrivals minus long-term departures adds a net international migrant every two minutes and 19 seconds – all adding up to Australia gaining an extra person every one minute and 23 seconds.
Net overseas migration's share of population growth is running faster than our “natural” increase ( a ratio of 3 to 2), but the 23rd millionth moment occurring in the evening makes it much more likely that the first of the new million is a new born – most international flights arrive during the day.
So, with the politicians yet to chime in on the photo opportunity, I suppose the honour of welcoming and congratulating the first one-in-23-million Australian falls to this mere journalist.
Congratulations are indeed deserved because, Baby 23,000,000, you will have won the equivalent of the global lottery just by being born here. If your mother is an unmarried teenager reliant on our social welfare system, you're still much better off than most babies born on April 23. Odds are that you will have better housing, better health and much longer life expectancy than your mewing peers.
You have a universal free health care system serving your immediate needs when the world's richest nation still can't organise such a thing and most of the babies born tomorrow will do so in quite basic circumstances. You'll have doctors and nurses concerned for your welfare and the start of an immunisation program that gives you a world-leading chance of making it to primary school – unless you're unfortunate enough to score one of those dipsy organic Mosman mums.
And talking of school, you have the promise of 13 years of free education, if you want it and have the ability and common sense to grab the opportunity when much of the world is lucky to finish primary. Thereafter, we have a HECS system that offers you the chance of tertiary education without your parents being rich and/or apprenticeships in very valuable trades.
You have struck it particularly lucky in being born in a country that enjoys the rule of law – more-so if you're rich and white, but it's still there. You'll get to decide which bunch of politicians is less-worse than the other on a regular basis and make your way in a society that is one of the least corrupt on the planet. (Everything is relative.)
Yours is a society that, while not as financially egalitarian as it was a little while back, remains one with a bridgeable gap between its rich and poor. There is luck involved, but it remains possible here for you to do anything that your talent, drive and dedication is capable of. (Right now you can even write for a great newspaper company, the one without a publisher's political line, and end a sentence with a preposition.)
If you're a girl, you'll be able to wear as little or as much clothing as you wish, in appropriate circumstances, and you'll have the same rights as a boy to the education and career of your choice. At our present rate of evolution, that right will be taken for granted by the time you get to exercise it and you'll be legally able to marry the person of your choice, regardless of race, religion, social strata or sex.
Religion? It's your call to believe or not believe in whatever god or gods you like, as long as you peaceably extend that right to everyone else because faith is, well, a matter of faith.
You might not guess it with all the whingeing and whining you'll hear, but you've been born in the World Champion Economy – a country so rich and privileged that it complains about having a strong currency and an unemployment rate starting with 5. Your fellow citizens are convinced they are highly taxed, although they're in the bottom third of rich nations on that score, and, ironically, that the government doesn't do enough for them, although they're in the top third when it comes to social safety nets.
If you're really, really lucky, you'll be born a Queenslander and therefore inherent ownership of the nation's greatest rugby union and league teams, but have the freedom – if you can afford it - to live in Sydney, the world's most beautiful city despite what its citizens try to do and not do to it.
But you don't have to. You'll have freedom of movement to enjoy the whole Dorothy Mackellar panorama - sweeping planes, rugged mountain ranges, jungles, deserts, drought and flooding rains. You can go troppo in the Build Up and cuddle around a Tasmanian fireplace, worship vast, empty surf beaches and embrace the blizzard-tortured sculpture of snow gums. You can open your heart to the endless openness of the outback, absorb that red dust and strength of character into your soul, or thrive in a tiny inner-city apartment with the sound of sirens and aroma of coffee, spilt wine and stale beer as constant companions. You can even follow something called AFL, if you really want to.
We have cities and country towns and bush, Baby 23,000,000, where you can find your life's meaning, or lose it if you're careless. It's up to you – and that is the most wonderful privilege of all.
And you get all that just by being born here. Beyond such extraordinary fortune, it's a matter of wishing you well, hoping that you are born into a family that loves and strengthens you, that gives you what you need rather than what you want, that encourages you to adopt the best of the national character – believing in a fair go, supporting the underdog, being prepared to stand up for a principle against the odds.
John Menadue wrote an Australia Day reflection on what is different about being Australian. For him, it came down to redemption, to giving people a second chance. He quoted his friend Ian McAuley as saying that while the British sent the puritans to America, they sent convicts to Australia and that we got the better of the deal. The underprivileged and the outcasts in Australia got a second chance.
For you, Baby 23,000,000, it's a first chance. Please enjoy your incredible good fortune and privilege instead of taking it for granted, whingeing and demanding to be given more while offering less.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll be better than the current crop. I hope so.
Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.