Overseas migration causes Australia's population increase

THE labour demands of the mining states of Queensland and Western Australia were the key drivers behind Australia's population reaching 23 million overnight, a demography expert said on Tuesday.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday showed the nation's population would pass 23 million overnight, primarily on the back of rising overseas migration.

Australian National University Professor of Demography Paul McDonald said the big story in the data was the rising population of the resource states.

He said WA had the highest population growth at 3.4%, or nearly three times the rate of growth in New South Wales

"At that kind of level the population doubles in 20 years - we're used to the story that Sydney and Melbourne are the big migrant cities, but a lot of the movement is now into the resource-rich regions," Prof McDonald said.

"It's now mainly about international migration, there's not much a story in the natural increase - which has been flat at about 150,000 a year for over a decade."

Prof McDonald said most of the rise was due to temporary migration, with 457 visa workers, working holiday makers and international students making up the bulk of new residents.

He said the increase was also partly due to a recent change allowing international students to stay in Australia after they finished studying.

"The other big factor is the partners of Australians - we are wandering around the world, meeting new people and bringing them back," Prof McDonald said.

"Not only that, but the working holidaymakers, backpackers and international students are meeting Australians here, and staying on."

Prof McDonald said while traditionally people were moving from regional areas to places like Sydney, many people were now leaving Sydney to go west or north to where the jobs were.

"It's the labour demand story again - Sydney has a relatively high population leaving, it's not people retiring and leaving the city - it's mainly people looking for work," he said.

ABS director of demography Bjorn Jarvis said the bureau expected the nation's population to reach 23 million at about 9.57pm on Tuesday.

He said the 23rd millionth person could equally be a newborn baby, or a returning backpacker who had been away more than a year.

Since reaching 20 million in late 2003, Australia's population has grown at about 1 million people every three years.

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