Australia’s population is set to tick past the 25million mark tonight a generation earlier than the experts had predicted.
Back in 2002, the Howard government’s first inter-generational report forecast the national population reaching this milestone in 2042.
With the 25million milestone set to be surpassed tonight, 24 years ahead of schedule, social researcher Mark McCrindle said the public was getting tired of high population growth despite the economic benefits.
Australia has added one million people in just two-and-a-half years, with one person added every one minute and 23 seconds.
‘If we can’t manage the growth, there’s a problem,’ Mr McCrindle said.
‘If we can’t communicate the reasons for growth, there’s a problem.
‘We need better rebalancing of the population, we need better planning for this growth.’
Sydney’s population has surged past 5.1million while Melbourne is set to surpass the 5million mark this year, as close to two-thirds of immigrants moved to Australia’s two biggest cities in one year.
These cities are also suffering from daily road and public transport congestion as mining-dependent regional cities like Mackay and Gladstone in Queensland and Geraldton in Western Australia endure a population decline.
‘We’ve got some cities that are going backwards and others that are straining at the growth so we’ve got to get our regional growth right,’ Mr McCrindle said.
Beyond immigration, Mr McCrindle said the Treasury economists in 2002 had underestimated future birth rates two years before a $3,000 baby bonus was introduced to boost Australia’s fertility rate.
‘If you look back even two decades or less, we had a birthrate that was flat and indeed declining,’ he said.
‘Since then, it’s actually gone up and we’ve seen record births in Australia.’
Mr McCrindle said public servants making population forecasts in 2002 had also underestimated how medical advances would boost life expectancy to 80.4 years for men and 84.6 years for women.
Australia’s population growth
1881: 2.3 million
1918: 5 million
1959: 10 million
1981: 15 million
1991: 17.4 million
2004: 20 million
2013: 23 million
2016: 24 million
2018: 25 million
Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics; House of Representatives Standing Committee for Long-Term Strategies, December 1994
‘There was the assumption that the life expectancy gains would plateau, that we wouldn’t consistently see an increase in longevity,’ he said.
‘That’s also turned out to not be the case.’
The Australian Bureau of Statistics population clock showed 24,998,661 people on the land as of Monday afternoon.
The rapid increase in Australia’s population has also coincided with a sharp increase in the annual net immigration rate, from under 100,000 in 2001 to levels above 200,000 since 2012.
Both levels were above the 20th century average of 70,000 a year, which persisted into the late 1990s.
The net annual immigration pace, factoring in people moving overseas, stood at 262,489 in the 2016-17 financial year, as a record 539,000 immigrants moved to Australia.
Of the 539,000 who moved to Australia, 315,000 of them arrived on a temporary visa, including 150,000 international students, 50,000 working holiday makers, and 32,000 workers on temporary skilled visas.
Mr McCrindle said this largely reflected education being Australia’s biggest export earner after coal and iron ore.
More than 60 per cent of immigrants moved to Sydney and Melbourne as three-quarters of new arrivals settled in New South Wales or Victoria.
Australia reached the 24 million level in February 2016, overtook the 23 million mark in April 2013 and hit 20 million in 2004.
In 1994, a federal parliamentary inquiry, titled ‘One Nation, Two Ecologies’ predicted Australia’s population would reach 23 million by 2040, a population benchmark that was surpassed in 2013, or 27 years ahead of schedule.
It predicted birthrates would remain flat or ‘a little below replacement’.
With one Australian leaving every minute and 51 seconds and one death every three minutes and 16 seconds, the net increase is one person every minute and 23 seconds.