One of the most important issues facing West Australian’s is population change and high immigration. The previous WA Liberal Party policy drove the state too extreme levels of population growth (over 500,000 more people between 2006-16). Growing by a massive 25% in one decade – higher than all other Australian states and territories.
Western Australia at the population planning crossroads
After a slight pause in high growth, the McGowan government set about returning WA to high levels of immigration. For the year ending March 2020, net overseas migration made up 60% of growth – total population rising by a substantial 40,000 people (growth rate 1.5%). This was higher than the growth rate for Australia’s most populated State of New South Wales (1.09%).
But then the Wuhan coronavirus hit Western Australia and overseas arrivals come to an abrupt end. WA is once more at the population policy crossroads.
And the good news is the 2020-21 state budget assumes much lower population growth driven by natural increase (births minus deaths). For the year ending March 2020, natural growth reached 18,000. The budget expects population to increase by about 21,000 in 2020-21 and 18,700 in 2021-22 (See Table 1 below). The bad news is the McGowan government are aiming to open up the migration throttle once more from 2023-24 onward.
Table 1: The population assumptions underpinning the 2020-21 State budget
|2019-20 Estimated Actual||2020-21 Budget Estimate||2021-22 Forward Estimate||2022-23 Forward Estimate||2023-24 Forward Estimate|
|Population growth (%)||0.015||0.008||0.007||0.01||0.013|
|Population growth (no)||39628||21,249||18,742||26,961||35,400|
|Population ending March 2019-2020 to 2023-24||2,656,156||2,677,405||2,696,147||2,723,109||2,758,509|
(Source: West Australia Government, 2020.)
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016’, 2017 <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/7B33A7E366915C49CA258291001DFE75?opendocument> [accessed 14 April 2019].
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2019’, 2020 <https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/3101.0Sep%202019?OpenDocument> [accessed 2 April 2020].
 ‘2020-21 Budget Papers | Western Australia State Budget’ <https://www.ourstatebudget.wa.gov.au/budget-papers.html> [accessed 11 October 2020].
 ‘2020-21 Budget Papers | Western Australia State Budget’.