Migration numbers at record high
By Tim Colebatch
The Age (Melbourne), December 4, 2009
The number of permanent and long-term migrants arriving in Australia has soared to more than 500,000 a year.
Record numbers of migrants, temporary workers and overseas students are piling into the lucky country.
The Bureau of Statistics reports that Australia's population growth rose to another record level in the year to June, with preliminary figures showing the country grew by 443,139 or 2.07 per cent.
Part of that came from a record crop of babies, as Australian women gave birth to more than 300,000 babies for the first time – lifting the country's fertility rate back to 1.98, almost enough to keep the population steady without any migration.
But almost two-thirds of our population growth is now coming from net overseas migration, which has trebled in just five years to a record 285,347.
On preliminary figures – which usually understate the reality – the bureau estimates that 510,564 migrants, students and long-term workers arrived here in the year to June, 15 per cent more than a year before.
But only 225,217 residents left the country to go home or migrate elsewhere, down 1.4 per cent from a year earlier, as changes to immigration policy have encouraged overseas students to stay here rather than return home.
Victoria again had the highest net migration rate outside Western Australia. Even on the preliminary figures, net overseas migration into the state jumped 36 per cent in a year, to 78,843 – compared with 20,252 just seven years earlier.
Victoria's population grew by a record 113,858 or 2.14 per cent, marginally above the national growth rate. By June 30, the state had 5.43 million people, and was on track to reach 5.5 million by February.
The latest figures include no new estimate for Melbourne's population. But if you assume its share of the state's growth remained unchanged, it probably passed 4 million in September, and is now growing by almost 2000 a week.
The federal and state governments have strongly supported the surge in immigration, arguing that it adds to Australia's skilled workforce, diversity and economic strength. Without it, the Australian economy certainly would have gone backwards in the year to June.
The immigration numbers are also a key factor in Melbourne's soaring house prices, up 15 per cent in the year to November.
In the past year:
* WA's population increase by a record 65,704, or 3.03 per cent, as Perth heads towards a city of two million people.
* Queensland increased by a record 112,908, or 2.63 per cent. Brisbane probably passed two million in August.
* NSW has surged back to the top of the population growth charts, increasing by 115,542, or 1.65 per cent, to 7.1 million.