Australian immigration boom may have peaked

16 May 2014


Australian immigration may have peaked, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Net inward migration in the year to March 2014 stood at 380,910. This is slightly down from the January 2013 figure of 411,000. But, it still amounts to 1.65% of the Australian population. As such, it is still, as Pete Wargent of the Australian propertyobserver.com.au website says, a 'huge' figure.

The Australian government remains committed to attracting around 250,000 immigrants per year in the near to mid-term. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection says that it expects net overseas migration (NOM) to continue to account for 40% of Australian population growth in the years ahead.

'Populate or perish'

Australia has pursued an extremely active immigration policy since the end of the Second World War in 1945. The then immigration minister, Arthur Calwell, encouraged 'New Australians' to settle in Australia and warned Australians that Australia must 'populate or perish'.

The population of Australia in 1945 was about 7,400,000 and was overwhelmingly descended from British and Irish settlers, many of whom were criminals transported to Australia as punishment by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The post-war government was committed to growing the population by 1% annually through immigration. At first, migrants from the British Isles were given preferential treatment but, since 1972, Australia has followed a completely non-discriminatory immigration policy.

Melting pot

There have been large waves of immigration from European countries such as Italy, Greece, Germany, Croatia, and the Netherlands. More recently, many more immigrants have come from Asian countries.

The population of Australia has grown enormously since 1945 and has also grown in diversity. The population is now above 23m. Census statistics released in 2012 showed that, while over a third of Australians identify themselves as having ancestry in the UK, about 4.5% say they are of Chinese descent and 2% say they are ethnically Indian.

There are now around 300,000 Australian citizens born in India and around 320,000 from China.

Australia committed to immigration programme

Australia's Coalition government, which came to power in September 2012, promised before the election to stamp out what it says is abuse of the asylum law but remains committed to attracting other types of immigrants.

The Coalition has taken steps to prevent migrants from Asia from travelling by boat from Indonesia to Australian waters where they often claim asylum. The government has coordinated a military campaign which has seen some boats containing migrants turned back into Indonesian waters.

Critics of the government say that this campaign is against international law but the government says that the migrants are not genuine asylum seekers but economic migrants seeking a better life.

Continuing immigration

At the same time as it cracks down on this form of migration, Australia will continue to accept large numbers of migrants through various immigration schemes.

A publication by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection says that Australia plans to accept 250,000 migrants every year at least until 2017. A report on Regional Net Overseas Migration forecasts immigration levels as follows

Year ending Immigration number
June 2014 241,700
June 2015 249,900
June 2016 250,300
June 2017 250,200

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