The latest figures show net migration has halved in the past two years, sliding from a peak of 316,000 in 2008 to just 171,000 in 2010 - coincidentally around the target of 170,000 adopted by the Coalition during the 2010 election campaign.
The slowdown comes as Australia is gearing up for a mining boom that will require more skilled workers and at a time when retail sales and house prices are stagnating.
The Bureau of Statistics figures attribute only part of the collapse in net migration to a slowdown in arrivals. Also in play is an explosion in permanent departures to 260,900 last year - a new record high and the first time permanent departures have eclipsed one-quarter of a million.
Detailed figures show the exodus from Australia accelerating with 138,400 residents leaving Australia in the most recent six months, up 13 per cent on the six months before.
“The high Australian dollar means purchasing power is very high abroad,” said CommSec economist Craig James. “Young people can get working visas to the United Kingdom and other places, try their luck, and know there are jobs waiting for them at home if it doesn’t work out"...
The government cut skilled migration places in 2010 exacerbating the slowdown. It has since increased them and the effect will be shown in future population figures.
“We don’t yet know whether they have done enough,” said Mr James. “They only make these adjustments once a year and its often too late. Businesses are crying out for skilled labour.”
Australia’s population grew 1.5 per cent in 2010, the slowest rate since 2005. NSW grew more slowly at just 1.2 per cent, well below Victoria’s and Queensland’s 1.6 per cent, and Western Australia’s 2.1 per cent.
New South Wales and South Australia were the only states to suffer net interstate emigration, with 11,243 locals leaving for other states, most bound for Queensland and Victoria.
Queensland gained 1808 migrants from other states and Western Australia 1315.
Western Australia sourced the bulk of its population growth from abroad taking in a net 18,695 residents from overseas in 2010 in the biggest per capita migration program in the nation.
NSW remained the favourite destination in terms of absolute numbers, taking in a net 51,000 new residents from abroad, around one third of the nation’s total.
Departures from NSW have slowed in lockstep with arrivals from overseas. Only half as many locals left for interstate in 2010 as in 2008.
The fastest growing regions in NSW were centred around Tamworth and Port Macquarie which grew by 2.0 and 1.9 per cent. Sydney grew 1.7 per cent and the Far South Coast 1.6 per cent.
The Bureau's central projection put Sydney’s population at 6.7 million in 2051, up from 4.5 million today. It’s central forecast has Australia’s population at 34 million by middle of the century, with a forecasting range of 30 million to 40 million.
The high projection has Melbourne overtaking Sydney as Australia’s biggest city by 2051, housing 7.5 million residents to Sydney’s 7.3 million.
Published in today's SMH
Leaving NSW: -11,243
Leaving South Australia: -715
Heading for Queensland: +1808
Heading for Western Australia: +1315
Heading for Victoria: +864
Net interstate migration, year to December, ABS 3101.0
. Immigration. At this rate they'll have nothing to worry about
. Oh, and we're slowing down the flow of migrants
. Who'd want to leave NSW? Hordes. NSW and SA suffer net emigration