The population of the ACT grew slower than the national average in the year to March, putting further pressure on the Canberra Liberals who claim their election promises will be funded by an increase in the number of people living in the ACT.
The ACT's population grew by 1.1 per cent in the period, rising to 429,800 people, according to the data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Nationally, the population grew by 1.4 per cent while Victoria was the fastest growing state, up 1.8 per cent to 6.6 million people.
The figures showed there was a natural increase of more than 3300 people in the ACT and net international migration of 2141 people. Net interstate migration saw the population decline by 926 people.
The figures put pressure on the Canberra Liberals, who argue their election commitments - which include freezing residential rates and reducing car registration fees - will be paid for by a larger population.
Liberal leader Alistair Coe on Saturday said his party did not have a specific target for Canberra's population but the ACT needed to make itself a competitive jurisdiction to keep and attract residents.
"We think there is a real imperative to make sure, particularly for first-home buyers, that we have affordable housing options. There's no reason why someone should have to go over the border," Mr Coe said.
"We should be trying to harness growth here in the ACT. For kids that grow up, young adults, we want them to be able to buy a house here in Canberra rather than have to go over the border."
Mr Coe conceded the coronavirus pandemic meant times were tough for the ACT growing its population, but defended his party's argument without providing any evidence the party's commitments could be funded by the forecast growth to the population.
But an analysis of the Canberra Liberals' election commitments produced by Labor this week found 115,000 new rate-paying households, split evenly between homes and apartments, would be needed to pay for the Liberals' promises, which the party calculated at more than $1 billion over four years.
The ACT's population would need to increase by 50 per cent, or more than 200,000 people, before the start of next year in order to pay for the Liberal Party's commitments, Labor's analysis found.
The ACT government in August projected the ACT's population to grow by 19,500 people between 2019-20 and 2022-23, 9000 fewer people than pre-pandemic estimates.
Mr Coe on Saturday said the analysis was "deeply flawed" but declined to point to specific issues.
"[The analysis] doesn't consider the range of revenue that comes from population growth and comes from households," he said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the coronavirus pandemic would have an impact on the ACT's population growth for the next decade and Mr Coe did not know what he was doing as Opposition leader.
"The additional population would be required to move to the ACT from next year because the Liberal promises start from next year. Where would more than 200,000 extra people live? Where would they work? Where would their kids go to school?" Mr Barr said.
Mr Barr said the ACT would need to innovate to attract interstate travellers and residents while international migration was dormant as the world recovered from the coronavirus pandemic.
"ACT Labor [on Friday] announced a $3 million flight fund to attract more airlines from COVID-safe destinations as borders reopen to the ACT," he said.
with Dan Jervis-Bardy