AUSTRALIA’S population soared by almost half a million people in the year to March – boom not seen since the 1960s, according to the latest statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday shows the population increased by just over 2 per cent – or 439,000 people – in the year. There are now 21.8 million of us.

Most of the recent increase of almost 300,000 people was due to immigration. But there’s also a mini baby boom, with 160,000 babies entering the world during the year.

Recent research showed Australia’s population would balloon to 35 million – seven million more than previously thought – during the next 40 years. The government says the population boom is great news because it means the economy will keep growing.

However, some green groups say enough is enough. Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Charles Berger said the growing population was on a collision course with the environment. She said more people meant more greenhouse pollution, poorer river health and struggling infrastructure. Every extra million people added 25 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution, she said.

The ABS data showed Western Australia was leading the population proliferation, while Tasmania was last.

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