Australian population pushes past 24 million mark

The latest ABS demographic statistics show that Australia’s population broke through the 24 million mark during the first quarter of 2016.

According to figures for the quarter ending March 2016, Australia’s population is now sitting at around 24,051,400, with the largest increases in population being seen in Victoria (1.9 per cent increase year-on-year) — which now houses six million people — followed by NSW (1.4 per cent growth), and Queensland (1.3 per cent growth).

The report also suggested that net overseas migration contributed 180,847 people to the population increase in Australia, while natural population growth added only 146,763 people over the year, which was down by 5 per cent on last year.

According to Geordan Murray, economist at the Housing Industry Australia, the new figures put into focus the need to house the country’s burgeoning population.

Mr Murray said: “Australia’s future prosperity is linked to our capacity to attract skilled migrants. There are many dimensions to this issue, including how we house a growing population. Our policy makers cannot afford to be afraid of having these discussions with the community.

“Australia needs a well-articulated plan for population growth and the role that overseas migration needs to play.”

The increasing population in the eastern states reflects the growing demand for housing in these areas. For example, recent figures show that the cost of rent in eastern cities such as Sydney and Melbourne have increased in the past few months as vacancy rates have dropped.

“Vacancy rates have edged down in all capital cities,” said SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher last week. “Reflecting that, asking rents have jumped in some cities.”

However, senior economist Kim Hawtrey has said that although the country may be building more apartments to catch up after years of undersupply, Australia was facing “the greatest apartment boom of all time” and that cities such as Sydney were “getting way ahead” of themselves.

Speaking earlier this month, Mr Hawtrey said that Australia could be heading for a serious “hangover” as the consequences of rapid price growth, over-development and increasing settlement risks catch up with investors.

He said: “Use of sky acreage [in Australia] has gone beyond effervescent to positively humongous. Pumped up by investors, it’s theme park scary how many apartments we’re building.”

[Related: Vacancy rates drop, pushing rents up]

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Annie Kane

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