Queensland remains a population magnet.

Author:Barker, Ross

While there was a relative lull in the late 1990s, Queensland's population growth has resumed its earlier rapidity. In the past the main driver was immigration from other states, chiefly New South Wales and, to a lesser extent, Victoria. Now overseas immigration to Queensland is growing fast and it, together with natural increase, is likely to be the key determinant of Queensland's future growth.


In population terms Queensland has a reputation of being Australia's growth state. An analysis of the latest data available for all states, including the 2006 population census results, shows that this is indeed the case with Queensland recording the largest level of growth in each year since 2002 and usually also registering the fastest level of growth in percentage terms. The components of growth, however, are changing as is the distribution of growth within Queensland. The state is now more reliant on overseas migration as the major contributor to growth. This trend towards a higher level of overseas migration is expected to continue while interstate migration is projected to remain relatively subdued.


Queensland's place as a leader in Australian population growth has been well established since the early 1980s. For most of the period since 1981, Queensland has recorded the nation's fastest and largest population growth. Between 1991 and 2007, Queensland recorded the largest population growth of any state or territory, growing by 1,221,100 people compared to 990,300 people in New South Wales and 784,800 people in Victoria (Table 1).

Table 1: Population change, states and territories 1991 to 2007 (average annual change in thousands, year to June) 1991 1996 2001 2006 1991 Total Change to to to to to 1991 to 1996 2001 2006 2007 2007 2007 NSW 61.2 74.1 48.4 71.9 61.9 990.3 Victoria 28.0 48.9 64.7 76.9 49.1 784.8 Queensland 75.5 58.1 92.5 90.5 76.3 1,221.1 SA 5.6 7.5 11.3 16.3 8.6 138.2 WA 25.8 27.2 31.6 46.7 29.4 469.7 Tasmania 1.5 -0.5 3.6 3.4 1.7 26.5 NT 3.3 3.2 2.6 4.3 3.1 49.5 ACT 3.8 2.2 3.0 5.6 3.2 50.5 Australia 205.3 220.5 257.6 315.7 233.3 3,733.2 Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) catalogue no. 3101.0 Notes: NSW is New South Wales; SA is South Australia; WA is West Australia; NT is Northern Territory; ACT is Australian Capital Territory. The average annual population growth during this period was 76,300 people, compared to 61,900 in New South Wales and 49,100 in Victoria. In terms of population growth rate at the state level, Queensland has competed with Western Australia in recording Australia's fastest growth. Over the 2001 to 2006 period, Queensland's average annual growth rate was 2.4 per cent, compared with 1.6 percent in Western Australia, 1.3 per cent in Victoria and 0.7 per cent in New South Wales. The national growth rate was 1.3 per cent over the same period.

Analysis of the average annual population change across intercensal periods since 1991 (and the 2006 to 2007 period) reveals that Queensland's population growth has ranged from 58,100 people per annum between 1996 and 2001 to 92,500 per annum between 2001 and 2006, a 59 per cent variation. The state's relatively slow population growth between 1996 and 2001 is attributed to a low level of net interstate migration gain during this period. This slump occurred immediately after a high growth period, which had peaked at average annual growth of 75,500 between 1991 and 1996, and just before a record average annual growth of 92,500 between 200l and 2006.

Over the 2006 to 2007 period, Queensland's population growth (90,500) exceeded that of any other state or territory, continuing the pattern evident between 2001 and 2006. Victoria's population growth also exceeded that of New South Wales in the 2006 to 2007 period, as it did between 2001 to 2006. This period was the first time that population growth in Victoria had outstripped population growth in New South Wales in terms of size since 1956.

While natural increase has remained a relatively steady contributor, migration, both net overseas and net interstate migration, has played a very significant but fluctuating role in Queensland's population growth (Figure 1). There is evidence of clear spikes in migration, from both interstate and overseas, in the early 1980s when net interstate migration rose from around 17,000 people in 1980 to 35,500 in 1982 and net overseas migration rose from around 9,500 to 17,600. Further spikes were observed in the late 1980s, partly as a result of the exposure that Expo 88 afforded to Queensland generally, and to South-East Queensland (SEQ) in particular. During this period net interstate migration rose from 19,700 in 1987 to 47,100 in 1989. A similar spike occurred in net overseas migration, which jumped from 13,200 to 21,800 over the same period, mainly due to a significant increase in trans-Tasman migration.


The early 1990s were also a period of strong population growth for Queensland, particularly with regard to interstate migration. While

net overseas migration dropped back to pre-Expo 88 levels, net interstate migration surpassed the total recorded in 1989 and in 1993 (49,200 people) and 1994 (44,900), the highest levels in Queensland's history. For each year between 1992 and 1996, Queensland recorded a net interstate migration gain of over 30,000 people, considerably less than the peak in 1993 but substantially higher than for any other state or territory in Australia.

Total population growth in Queensland in the new millennium has surpassed the levels recorded in the early 1990s. Since 2002, Queensland has consistently recorded a total population growth of over 90,000 people per annum. While initially, as with the early 1990s, the driver of this growth was net interstate migration (which typically accounted for over 40 per cent of population growth), since 2005 an increased fertility rate and growth in the level of net overseas migration have altered the composition of population change. It is only in recent years that both natural increase and net...

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