Australia’s population hits 25 million, and overcrowding in major cities is a problem

Government is seeking to encourage new migrants to live and work outside Sydney and Melbourne

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 6:42pm

Australia’s population was due to hit 25 million on Tuesday, renewing debate about overcrowding and infrastructure pressures in major cities as the government explores ways to encourage migrants into regional areas.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects that the population is growing by one person every 83 seconds.

It will mark a doubling of the number of people since 1970 who call Australia home.

The population rose by 388,000 last year and about 60 per cent of this was due to immigration by people with special skills or family visas.

Despite Australia’s huge size, about 90 per cent of new arrivals settle in Melbourne and Sydney, the government said, prompting a fresh debate on its approach to migration as cities fill up.

“There are some areas that are feeling population pressures but there’s other regions in Australia that are actually crying out for more people,” Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge said.

“We need a better distribution of migration across Australia because nearly all the migration is going to Melbourne and Sydney at the moment.”

Tudge wants migrants to look outside the country’s two largest cities to state capitals and regional hubs where he said there were better chances of finding jobs.

The minister added the government was considering levers in its visa allocation to promote regional migration, but did not go into detail.

“We do have an ability to provide additional encouragement, indeed conditions, on people as to where they go,” he said.

“So that is what we are exploring, and that is why we are having discussions with the South Australian premier and elsewhere.”

Australia’s economic success is built on migration with more than a third of the population born overseas, according to the latest census data which shows England, China, New Zealand and India as the top countries where migrants come from.

A separate ABS study released in June shows net overseas migration now accounts for 62 per cent of total population growth. Natural increase makes up 38 per cent.

But immigration has become a political hot potato as the ruling centre-right coalition government and the opposition Labor party start campaigning for the New South Wales state election due next March followed by national elections in May.

Far right politician Pauline Hanson has blamed the rising migrant numbers for growing inequality in Australia, while Senator Dean Smith became the first member of the government earlier this year to call for a review into population growth.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters