A LEADING demographer has rubbished claims Australia's population growth over the next 40 years will have a significant impact on its environment and living standards.
According to a demographic report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia's population is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the world, after crashing through 22 million late last year.
The report shows the population grew at 2.1 per cent in the year to the end of September, outstripping the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. The world population grew 1.1 per cent in the same period.
Western Australia recorded growth of 2.9 per cent.
The population also increased in NSW (1.7 per cent), Queensland (2.7 per cent), the Northern Territory at 2.3 per cent and Victoria at 2.2 per cent.
WA's population is expected to reach 3.5 million by 2050 while Australia is forecast to reach 35 million over the same period.
A former Labor frontbencher, Kelvin Thomson, has regularly voiced his concerns about the environmental impact of a more populous Australia.
He said the Bureau of Statistics figures represented a ''recipe for environmental devastation, rising interest rates, and unaffordable housing''.
But KPMG demographer Bernard Salt has played down concerns Australia's forecast population growth would have on the standard of living in the future.
He told Radio 6PR the nation would be able to cope with 35 million people as long as the necessary adjustments are made.
"We do need to alter our lifestyle plan very carefully for this, because we can't continue to live the way we are living at the moment," he said.
"We have changed our lifestyle and we will continue to change (this) to accommodate the bigger population we need to ensure our prosperity and the skills we require."
If anything, population growth in Australia was slowing, Mr Salt said.
Australia had a population of 12 million in 1970 and had grown by 80 per cent to 22 million today.
If the next 40 years saw an increase of 13 million people, this would equate to only a 65 per cent increase.
"(Some) have gone all week at the knees at 65 per cent (growth)," he said. "But this is good news for Australia, the rate of growth is slowing down."
Mr Salt said migration figures also included Australians who had been living overseas for more than 12 months and returned home after the global financial crisis struck in 2008.
"When the global economy flounders as it did in 2008, the Aussies came home, and this accentuated migrant numbers and pushed up the rate of growth," he said.
"The Prime Minister is talking about a big Australia and a trajectory to a big Australia.
"It's not, it's a short term blip caused by the global financial crisis seeing Australians come back home."
- with Jacob Saulwick, Sydney Morning Herald