Australia’s population hits 25 million, 33 years ahead of schedule

By Leith van Onselen

As Australia’s population hits 25 million later today, it’s time to reflect.

Twenty years ago, in 1998, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) forecast that Australia’s population would hit between 23.5 and 26.4 million by the year 2051.

At the time, the ABS incorrectly assumed fertility rates would decline and, most importantly, that net overseas migration (NOM) would remain at 90,000, rather than the 240,000 currently:

Ever since that initial forecast 20 years ago, Australia’s population forecasts have been continually revised upwards as well as overshot.

As noted by Bernard Salt over the weekend:

Every edition of these projections since 1998 has upped the mid-century outlook for our nation. The present medium projection delivers 38 million by 2050 and 44 million by century’s end. At the start of this century the projections for 2050 indicated only 25 million. We’ve upped the outlook by 13 million in two decades.

On top of escalating population growth, driven by mass immigration, Australia’s population growth has become more concentrated than ever into our major cities.

The 2016 Census revealed that 86% of new migrants (1.11 million) in the five years to 2016 settled in Australia’s cities, versus just 14% (187,000) that settled in Australia regional areas over the same period.

As noted by the ABS:

In 2016, Sydney had the highest overseas-born population of all capital cities (1,773,496), followed by Melbourne (1,520,253) and Perth (702,545). The 2016 Census also reveals that those born overseas were more likely to live in a capital city (83%), a much higher percentage than people born in Australia.

This trend has since intensified, with just 6% of migrants settling in Australia’s regions in 2017-18, according to the Department of Home Affairs.

The end result of Australia’s mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy is hiding in plain sight.

As population growth into our key migrant hotspots of Sydney and Melbourne has ballooned:

Traffic congestion has unambiguously worsened:

Worse, “avoidable social costs” of congestion are projected by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics to soar as rampant population growth continues to overrun our cities’ infrastructure:

As noted recently by Mike Seccombe in the Saturday Paper:

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates the “avoidable” social costs of traffic congestion in the eight Australian capitals cities. They reckoned it to total $16.5 billion in the 2015 financial year, up from $12.8 billion in the 2010 financial year. By 2030, they forecast, the cost of congestion would rise to between $27.7 billion and $37.3 billion. That is roughly the cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, fully implemented.

Australians living in our two major cities have also been forced to live in smaller and more expensive housing, as the population deluge has not only lifted demand, but also forced greater density (e.g. high-rise apartments):

Living standards have unambiguously been crushed – a situation that Infrastructure Australia projects will deteriorate under every build-out as Sydney’s and Melbourne’s populations balloon to 7.4 million and 7.3 million respectively by 2046, with traffic congestion to worsen further, as well as reduced access to jobs, school, hospitals and green space:

At no time have Australians been asked whether they wanted the nation’s immigration intake, and by extension, population growth to increase, nor remain at current turbo-charged levels. Instead, mass immigration has been forced down their throats by our policy makers, all in the name of ‘growth’ and to fatten the wallets of big business.

This comes despite mass immigration having a direct impact on quality of life, as well as growing community resistance. Indeed, the five most recent opinion polls have all showed overwhelming voter support for lower levels of immigration:

  • Australian Population Research Institute: 54% want lower immigration;
  • Newspoll: 56% want lower immigration;
  • Essential: 54% believe Australia’s population is growing too fast and 64% believe immigration is too high;
  • Lowy: 54% of people think the total number of migrants coming to Australia each year is too high; and
  • Newspoll: 74% of voters support the Turnbull government’s cut of more than 10% to the annual permanent migrant intake to 163,000 last financial year.

Instead of blindly continuing down the path of a ‘Big Australia’, it’s time to hold a plebiscite at the upcoming federal election to seek voters’ preferences about the nation’s future population size, the answers of which would then be used to formulate Australia’s immigration intake to meet the said target.

Here is an example of the type of question that could be taken directly to the Australian people via plebiscite:

Australia’s population is currently 25 million. Under zero net overseas migration (NOM), it is projected to reach 27 million by 2060.

ScreenHunter_15977 Nov. 09 07.44

By 2060, do you believe Australia’s population should be:

  • 27 million;
  • 30 million;
  • 35 million;
  • 40 million;
  • 45 million?

Obviously, there is room to move on the language and the chart should be updated to show the level of NOM corresponding to the choices, but you get the idea.

The important thing is that Australian’s views are sought directly, and this consensus is then used to formulate a national population policy.

Our living standards are at stake.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


    • Absolutely! Looks like we may have a drought coming on, the water supply infrastructure won’t take it and neither will the economy. Unemployment will go up and the government will need to justify high immigration. We might also find the drought provides enough financial shock to be the feather on the donkeys back of one of the banks.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Had my first Nepalese experience the other night. Wow! Tinder and Grinder an chocka block full of vibrant imports up for some Aussie stability. I love vibrancy and I aint Stoopid!!

    • Staggsy
      u were saying your folks may have had some dealings with dodgy GC land promoters
      Might be worth having a yarn with the coppers, see links yesterday.
      that sort of crime never becomes a cold case.

    • Great point. It is madness to want 70,000 immigrants per year when the immigration rate has been 240,000/year for the last 10 years.

      We must have net zero immigration till 2030.

      • i say shut down all immigration (except for the refugee intake) for the next 10 years and then re-open the borders to about 50,000 a year, no more.

    • It’s not stopping as the 200k ish a year are written into the budget (got to get that GDP right), and Bill or the Commies won’t change course.

  1. Absolutely unbelievable to think that in 1998, having a population of 20 million was seen as too much!

    The next year after that, India got a billion people and that was correctly seen as a problem – but here, Costello said that having 3 kids is a solution?

    It is as if we are living in a parallel universe where PM Lee Kuan Yew has a “stop at 2” (children) policy but the population of Australia, by fiat, explodes like crazy.

  2. As I keep saying, this really only negatively affects Sydney and Melbourne. There are plenty of far nicer places to live. It’s like someone in the UK complaining about the national population because London is a bit crowded and expensive.

    • “There are plenty of far nicer places to live”

      Try telling that to the migrants who almost all come to Sydney and Melbourne. Are you suggesting that locals give these cities up and move elsewhere just to make way for them?

      • I’m saying that the national meta narrative is ineffective due to the Sydney / Melbourne centricity. It’s very like the UK media’s South of England centricity.

    • Correct there are oodles of better places to live in Australia.

      As with everything in life it is important to “follow the money” to work out why people are not living in them.

      With our economic model becoming centred around private bank lending secured by existing housing it is logical that people will flock to the hot spots of private banking lending and the biggest hotspots are Sydney and Melbourne.

      As credit flows secured by existing housing flows freely prices rise and they permit borrowers to secure even more credit.

      Provided there is enough trickle down of this credit into wages the process can continue for a long time especially if the process has the proceeds of a massive quarry and farm to support it.

      If we want to encourage a more dispersed population we need to change the economic model (or more specifically the deregulated private bank credit creation) that is driving increasing concentration.

      It is no surprise that modest changes to that deregulation have stopped property markets in their tracks.

      Redirecting some of that credit creation to more productive purposes is likely to involve low cost regional land.

      • Andrew,

        Yes and the best cure for that is large dollops of productive credit creation outside the cities where land is cheap, the air is clean and the commute is counted in minutes.

        Then large numbers of single roast swilling, penny farthing riding inner urbanites with the attributes you describe might take the plunge!

    • I like living in Sydney.
      Each to their own though. Not sure why it evokes such intense feelings in people.

      • +1

        He conveniently left out the bit about the employment rate. Mike MB and Roy Morgan tell us that there are 2.3 million unemployed people in Australia! The same firm said that in June 2008, there were 1.3 million unemployed!

        Clearly the point of mass immigration is to replace Aussie workers with 3rd world passport holders willing to work here for $10/hour and throw the Aussies onto the unemployment scrapheap.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      My convict Ancestor sailed into Sydney Harbor in 1816 and my wife’s ancestor on the first fleet,…our families have been here ever since,…we are not going anywhere!

    • Is it really a smart idea to boost our population given our current food and water limitations, not to mention any effects due to climate change? Only 6.2% of Australia is arable, and the average quality of that arable land is quite low. See the World Bank figures for different countries

      When you multiply hectares of arable land by average grain production, it turns out that France can feed around a third again as many people as Australia when both countries are having good years. Unlike France, we have terrible drought years when food production is cut in half. In a good year, we can feed around 60 million people (See the CSIRO book “Australia’s Role in Feeding the World”, Tor Hundloe et al. eds.), but only 30 million in a drought year, and multi-year droughts are not uncommon. I certainly wouldn’t want my children and grandchildren dependent on the world market for food, as world population approaches 11 billion, let alone any other effects on quality of life from the vastly bigger population.

      • “I certainly wouldn’t want my children and grandchildren dependent on the world market for food”

        Our governments decided we should be dependent on the world market for gas. So our governments don’t care about the above. Imagine having to re-import food the way we will re-import gas.

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    What about that Andrew Bolt hey!? What a racialist!! You need to cover that story. Dude hates vibrancy…

    • FiftiesFibroShack

      Bolt sees his own shadow and thinks he’s about to be mugged by an African gang member.

  4. Great to see the refreshingly boring successor to Barnaby Joyce say how great population growth was yesterday, and that he wanted more and more. Michael Whatsisname McCormack on page three of the Financial Review did a karaoke performance of all the greatest Big Australia hits, faithfully reproducing Turnbulls lyrics with a country flavour. Good for the nation, she’ll be right as long as we build the infrastructure, force migrants to the regions and all your other favourites. Sure water in the regions ran short some times and youth unemployment in the regions was uncomfortably high in some parts but even so, he said, we need more and more people and we need them everywhere. It’s a big country, look how many square miles that we’ve got. Funny, in all my years of following politics, the Country Party’s constant whinge has been city folk telling country people how to butter their bread and what to put on their toast. But there he is, in Stutchburys Liberal Party Review, telling city folk in Melbourne and Sydney how great it is that their cities are being torn up for downsized housing and downsized quality of life. Most people with a sense of history would say that John McEwen was the greatest leader of the Country Party, but for the workings of Coalition politics, he would have been the ideal successor when Holt drowned in 1967. But move over Black Jack from Wangaratta, here he is, Whatsisname from Wagga telling city folk how it is, a true National leader deciding for the urban dwellers what a great day reaching 25 million is, and how that is not enough. Lets add more and more. All there to see in the Channel Nine owned Financial Review. Great coverage and publicity for Whatsisname, as he looks to cut a figure on the National stage. City folk like me need more non entities from Wagga telling us how great a million extra people in both Sydney and Melbourne, in just ten years, is for our quality of life.

  5. But Australia’s population and growth are so much less than Tanzania’s! (courtesy of the AFR)

    • Good article on this site the other day, The Immorality of Mass Immigration. It was said there that part of the tactics of the mass immigration proponents was when people complained about deteriorating quality of life, to point out conditions in third world countries and say “but look at how bad it is there”

  6. Need to make plans to get out of syd or melb if u r there. They are no longer aust cities anyway. How many new aussies would go to war for our country? Bugger all because being multicultural means they never have to fit in anyway. Prepare.

  7. Western countries are being flooded with the third world. And it started about the same time for each. And its getting worse. The pill and abortion means we actually dont need too many young aussies anyway..we can import more and more people and there is a limitless supply. When does aust turn third world?? My guess about 2100. was nice knowing u. Our anzac diggers need not have bothered …waste of time

    • FiftiesFibroShack

      Why would people leave the ‘third world’ and try to make their new living conditions comparable to what they fled in the first place?

      • Because they’re not trying to. Like most people, they aren’t thinking that far ahead, they just have their eyes on the prize. Besides which, even an Australia in decline is better than what they’re coming from.

    • “When does aust turn third world?? My guess about 2100.”

      Whole world third world. Sounds great.

  8. One of the factors to this is in addition to the pseudo GDP positive tick….

    Is that the boomers are retiring and it was projected that when they retire the ratio of workers per retiree would be much lower than in the 90s and 2000s… This affects the incoming tax to supply the government and Australia….. Hence boosting the population regardless of standard way of life goes down is desirable in a big scheme of things.

    • Where do you propose to get these wonderful migrants who will never grow old? There is no great overhang of baby boomers. There are a lot more people in Australia born from 1965-1985 than from 1945-1964.

  9. Hitting 25 million around now has been a dead cert since we hit 24 million (and pretty much since Howard and Costello adopted this level of population growth as one of their few measurable goals) , so no big surprise there.
    More surprising is the way that the media coverage between then and now has changed from being openly celebratory to either ignoring it or striking far more funereal or worrying tones. There has been a sea change in public attitudes in this, and even the MSM now reflects it.Give it a bit longer,and even sitting politicians will aknowledge it (our political leaders generally being followers, not shapers, of public opinion).

    • The AFR ran a smashing piece this morning about a South African M&A lawyer and his wife migrating to Sydney. I very much enjoyed it.

    • Page 2 in the AFR has Jen Hewitt complaining about mass immigration. The tide is turning if the right wing press are running that message

      • yes it was good to see both sides presented in a single place. this is what journalism should be about.

  10. If we cut immigration, the numbers may not necessarily drop much. I think we will see far more spouse applications as migrants enter into fraudulent sham marriages with Australian sponsors. Then there is the ongoing fam8ily sponsorship as migrants and refugees sponsor family members. We may find that the only area than can be reduced is the Skilled Migration stream where, in spite of its problems, may result in a cost to the national skills base.

  11. The Grey RiderMEMBER

    Was the topic de jour on ABC radio this morning…a number of pollies were interviewed. Didn’t matter which level of Gov’t…none of them would say what the targets were w.r.t population for planning, etc. Seems the collusion runs deep…we need to strike the root , Henry Thoreau style.

    • i suppose but any number they give will cause them to be criticised so you cant really blame them can you

  12. the ABS incorrectly assumed fertility rates would decline

    The story is the same for world population. Future projections keep being revised upwards.

  13. The 25th Milllion Australian.

    Sunil Chataratachi from Mumbai 🇮🇳 & Seo-yun Lee (Cindy) from Seoul Korea 🇰🇷 are both vying to be Australia’s 25th million person today.

    Each of them reflects the diverse & vibrant pathway to Australian residency.

    🔹Sunil is 38 years old from a rural Indian family & the third son of five. The father took up with another woman and the family was abandoned. His eldest brother incurred large gambling debts & the cow died. The mother also has severe kidney issues.
    Sunil being the third son is the designated mummy boy (must provide for the mother & her sisters).

    The travelling agent recruiters who work the Indian slums & rural area gave the mother a $18,000 loan for Sunil to be packaged up with false documents & health check and then sent to Australia as a student to work illegally & secure a PR.
    Sunil is using his youngest brothers identity as he was over the age limit. The agent also organised Fake funds, bank declarations & other false documents needed.
    Since being in Australia as a student, Sunil has worked hard at three jobs, 7 days a week, cash in hand or fake multiple ID. He is very proud that he has never paid one dollar in taxation on his income – better than India!
    He has repaid most of the agent procurer loan debt. He also paid for his mother to ‘visit’ Australia so she could present to the local hospital for emergency medical treatment. (Sign the promise to pay form, exit & never pay).
    Sunil lives in North Parramatta in a small 2 bed unit with 8 others from his area.
    Now that Sunil has the PR, he will sponsor in his mother, her 3 sisters and his 4 brothers.
    Sunil will stay on his Indian sole passport as he is an Indian first & the Australian PR stamp provides all the benefits welfare and healthcare that a full citizenship do
    🔹Seo-yun Lee (Cindy) is 33 years old from Seoul.🇰🇷
    She is relatively uneducated and after leaving school worked as a shop assistant and then a street stall before drifting into personal services as her vocation, including travelling to other Asian countries as a tourist for this work.
    At 25 Seo-yun was judged too old for the local Asian market by her organisers and was sent like thousands of others to travel to Sydney Australia initially as a tourist and then later as a student.
    As a Korean Seo-Yun did not have to prove her funds or intentions and in Australia is allowed to work in her vocation.
    Seo-Yun worked in her vocation for 8 years in Australia also doing part time English & Childcare as her visa alibi, paying others to do her assignments.
    Seo-yun lives in the CBD Korea Town and shares a room with 3 other Korean woman all doing the same.

    Seo-yun has earned enough money to pay $25,000 to a Korean who has a PR for him to sponsor a spousal visa. After 1 year on a bridging visa with full work rights (including in her vocation) she now has the PR stamp.

    Seo-Yun (Cindy) will try to gain Australian citizenship as she can have dual passports. She will have to pay someone to do the English language test however as she can barely speak English.
    She intends to divorce her current sham partner after 1 year and then charge $25,000 herself a spousal sponsor for Korean man seeking PR.
    Welcome to Australia Sunil & Seo-Yun !