The Australian population continues to grow. It has now crossed 22 million. That was an increase of 451,900 people during the year, keeping the growth rate high at 2.1 per cent, said the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It is projected to increase to 35.9 million by 2050.
Of the growth, 66 per cent was caused by net overseas migration to Australia. The net overseas migration was 297,400 people, 9,000 higher than the previous year.
The remaining 34 per cent of growth was due to natural increases - the excess of births over deaths. The total number of births for the year ending September 30, 2009 was 296,300, 0.3 per cent fewer than the previous year. The total number deaths registered over the same period was 141,800, 0.3 per cent more than the previous year.
Western Australia had the highest population growth, with a 2.9 per cent increase to just more than 2.2 million people. Queensland had the second highest population growth, up 2.7 per cent to around 4.5 million people. New South Wales recorded a 1.7 per cent increase. It still has the highest population of any state or territory, with just over 7 million people.
Pressure is building on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to cut down immigration, some going so far as to suggest a 50 per cent cut, AAP reported.
Federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson, who last year floated a plan to cap the population at 26 million, today said the ABS figures highlighted "a recipe for environmental devastation, rising interest rates, and unaffordable housing."
But Mr Rudd said he saw the problem of population growth in terms of planning for future demand.
"The key challenge for us ... is how do we as a nation prepare for that in terms of infrastructure, in terms of planning for our cities, and all those other practical things which need to be done,'' Mr Rudd said.
The intake of migrants had been scaled back as the economic crisis hit and would continue to be dictated by workforce needs, he said.
"For the period ahead we've got to be very mindful of where the pressures still exist in the economy for more skills," Mr Rudd said.
Experts also note that the rapid rise in population helped the country dodge a recession last year as the global financial crisis raged.
"Population growth to a major extent underpins the domestic growth story," said James Craig, chief equities economist at CommSec.
"More people translates to increased spending and demand for homes, and as a result, increased momentum for our economy," he told Reuters. "And while population has been going backwards in Japan and stagnating across the European nations, Australia is moving ahead."
The sharp lift in migration is also serving to reduce the extent to which the population is ageing, since migrants tend to be younger on average, thus reducing the demands on health and other social resources.