Source: The Mercury, Tuesday, February 3, 1998, p.1
By KATE HANNON Social Issues Writer LIKE post-war Australia, the cry of "populate or perish could once again be heard around the nation, new population projections show. Australia's expected population growth until the middle of next century has been drastically revised following falls in immigration and fertility. Australia's annual migrant intake dropped by almost 20% in 1996-97 and the nation's fertility rate has been in steady decline for 34 years. A new Federal Government report released yesterday has even predicted, Australia's population growth rate could be falling by the middle of next century. With a population of more than 18 million now, Australia faces slow growth as it enters the new millenium. Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said the report and the latest settler arrival figures, would form the basis of community consultation on the size of the coming year's immigration intake. In Population Flows: Immigration Aspects the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has revised figures prepared three years ago by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Then, the ABS predicted Australia's population would grow to between 22.5 and 23.9 million in 2021 and between 24.9 and 28.3 million in 2051. This was based on the fertility rate remaining at 1.85 and the net overseas immigration intake remaining at 100,000 from 1997-98. But the migrant intake dropped to 94,400 in 1996-97 from 114,170 the previous year, a decline of 17.3%. And since 1972, Australia's fertility rate has followed a worldwide trend falling to well below about 2.7 children per woman to 1.80 in the past year. Both changes were beyond the expectations of the ABS back in 1995 which banked on the fertility rate not dipping below 1.82. The department says that if the death rate rises then combined with lower immigration and fertility, Australia could experience a reversal in its population growth. "A declining fertility rate, lower net overseas migration and a rising number of deaths would mean that, by the middle of next century, the population will be growing only very slowly and could start to decline," the report said. There was no reason Australian women should not follow the trend set by many European countries where fertility rates have now fallen below 1.5. Figures released by the ABS last year showed that the number of deaths was increasing in keeping the ageing of Australia's population. Meanwhile, the bulk of Australia's settler migrants during 1996-97 were from New Zealand (15.2%), the United Kingdom (11.3%), China (9.1%), Hong Kong (4.5%) and South Africa (3.7%). The department's Settler Arrivals figures for 1996-97, also released yesterday, show 43.4% of arrivals settled in NSW followed by 21.3% in Victoria, 17.1% in Queensland, 12.3% in Western Australia, 3.9% in South Australia, 1.0% in the ACT, 0.6% in the Northern Territory and 0.5% in Tasmania.
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