If Australia was balanced on its central axis, somewhere through the middle of the Northern Territory and South Australia, it would be leaning firmly to the east as the weight of population growth continues to be attracted to the Pacific Ocean.
Net interstate migration continues to favour both Victoria and Queensland, almost at the expense of the rest of the country. In part this is jobs related for Victoria, for Queensland it is more based on the affordable property combined with an outdoors lifestyle. Melbourne has consistently been recognised as one of the World’s most liveable cities and it is these accolades which are reflected in the population movement within Australia. However, it has to be noted that population movement from State to State, or Territory to State as it may be, is typically quite small compared to the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
The constant net migration loss from NSW is not a new phenomenon and really shouldn’t create too many raised eye brows. The day it becomes positive will be the day that Australia’s demographic and economic fundamentals change significantly. However, there should be cause for concern in the statistics surrounding South Australia and Western Australia. Both are industry related where confidence around employment opportunities and mining exposure is creating an exodus to Victoria and Queensland. The brain drain from Adelaide to Melbourne is not a new phenomenon, though it is one that South Australia would rather didn’t happen.
International migration is where the real story is. When interstate migration accounts for almost 4,400 new bums on seats in Victoria, overseas migration is five times that rate. This is where the demand for property is coming from. If these trends continue throughout 2016, overseas migration will contribute almost 100,000 new mouths into both NSW and Victoria’s economy. This is an enormous driver of consumption with economic multipliers extending throughout almost every industry. Combining NSW with VIC shows that over 70% of international migration is settling in those two States. This is the challenge for other regions in Australia as interstate migration has clearly demonstrated that internal population mobility is not what it used to be and potentially may not rebound to previous highs. Cheap air fares and technology has meant that shifting the whole family around employment opportunities may be a thing of the past.
So, what does the historical growth for the country demonstrate? It shows a long-term trend to Queensland as the growth region of Australia. However, that market share will continue to diminish if it does not increase its proportion of the Overseas Migration demographic shift. Western Australia could also find itself in the same position, albeit there is now a net interstate migration loss combined with only minimal share of the overseas migration trends.
Those Australian States that are missing out on international migration are going to see their economies continue to lack one of its fundamental drivers. Given our economies are largely based around consumption thereby creating growth, an increasing population is arguably the lowest of the low hanging fruit to achieve this. Without population growth, we are again at the $1 million Dick Smith question of “How do we grow economically without increases to the population?” Therein lies the conundrum for all but two of Australia’s States.