The Australia Bureau of Statistics released their latest population and migration data. It is tremendous news, the first negative net migration for Australia since the June quarter of 1993. Australia’s population growth rate (0.1%) was the slowest since quarterly estimates began in June 1981.[1]

This welcome reprieve from decades of mass migration means less competition for scarce jobs, time spent in traffic jams and hospital waiting lists.

Two key reasons why Australia’s restricted international border should remain.

Better management of population growth  

The closing of the international borders due to the the pandemic has given Australian citizens a much needed break from the impacts of mass migration.

The significant downturn in quarterly population growth is very promising. It allows much needed time to formulate a high skilled migration program with less reliance on temporary low skilled foreign workers. The temporary migration program needs to be significantly tailed back.

For two decades, Australian Governments have maintained immigration fuelled population growth, which has grown too unmanageable levels. There are nearly 2 million temporary foreign workers competing with Australian citizens in a extremely tight labour market. There are over 1 million Australian citizens looking for work.

In the past 20 years, uncontrolled immigration has been the main driver of Australia’s population growth. Since 2000, the population has escalated by an incredible 6.65 million people (see Chart 1 below).[2] This is more than the population of New Zealand and many other countries throughout the world.[3]

In 2019 Australia had one of the highest population growth rates in the world at 1.5%, higher than India at 1.0%, USA 0.5 and the UK 0.6%. Larger regions with underdeveloped economies such as East Asia and South Asia had population growth rates of 0.6% and 1.2 % respectively.[4]

Australia’s unmanageable population growth is the culmination of two decades of careless migration policies from Liberal and Labor Governments.

The remarkable figure of negative net overseas migration for the June quarter, is a big win for Australian citizens. For the past two decades, net overseas migration reached unprecedented levels. The highest on record occurred in 2008, net overseas migration spiked at over 300,000 (see Chart 1 below).

Chart 1: Australia’s population and annual change June 2000- June 2020

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020. [5])

Population health

The Morrison Government’s decision to close Australia’s international border in response to the arrival of the Wuhan coronavirus in March 2020 was a masterstroke response in suppressing the spread of infections.

It demonstrated that Australia is able to control the number of immigration arrivals in a quick and safe manner.

Many countries left their borders open to maintain the international movement of foreign workers, chain migration and foreign students. Thousands of local citizens suffered as a result. The latest daily figure for the UK reveals a steep rise to 36,000 new coronavirus cases.[6]

For the Australian community, a critical question is will the Federal Government revert back to their huge and loosely controlled migration program in 2021?

Will they take account of different standards and practices in infectious disease controls and public health standards across the Asia Pacifica region? Will this prompt a more selective migration policy in the future?


[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘National, State and Territory Population, June 2020’, 2020 <> [accessed 19 December 2020].

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics.

[3] Wikipedia, ‘List of Countries by Population (United Nations)’, Wikipedia, 2020 <> [accessed 19 December 2020].

[4] World Bank, ‘Population Growth (Annual %) | Data’, 2020 <> [accessed 19 December 2020].

[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics.

[6] By The Visual and Data Journalism Team and BBC News, ‘Covid-19 in the UK: How Many Coronavirus Cases Are There in Your Area?’, BBC News, 20 December 2020, section UK, p. 19 <> [accessed 21 December 2020].

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