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Finance & Innovation

Australia's Migrant Intake Hits Lowest Level in 11 Years


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Australia's annual intake of permanent migrants has hit the lowest level in over a decade, according to a Department of Home Affairs report released on Sunday.

Under the 2017-2018 migration program, the number of people who entered into Australia peaked at 162,417 — a 10% fall from 183,608 the previous year.

The 21,000 decrease represents the largest single-year reduction in more than a decade and the lowest number of new migrants in Australia since 2007.

The significant fall is thanks to tough new federal government hurdles that were put in place to intercept inadequate, faulty immigration claims.

Skilled migrant numbers have fallen by 12,000 and visa refusals have increased by 46%. The family stream, intended to be used by people hoping to come to Australia to visit family, has been slashed by 15%.

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Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the government had answered public worry regarding migration levels and restored cohesion and honesty to the migration program.

“I want to make sure that we scrutinise each application so that we’re getting the best possibly migrant — people who are going to work, not be on welfare, people who are going to integrate into our community. We’re not going to allow people in where there’s a fraudulent application, where there’s dodgy information being provided,” Dutton told reporters on July 15.

"If you are bringing people in, like Labor did, that don't have the proper qualifications, that don't have the documentation that satisfies the examiners within my department, if they're worried about fraudulent documentation, those outcomes are not going to be productive for the economy," Dutton said.

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Australia’s rate of permanent migration has been capped at 190,000 since 2011. Despite the cap being met almost every year, the government is under no obligation to fill the limit.

The significant migration decrease is the latest development in a fiery internal debate within the coalition about the appropriate migrant cap level. This reduction report comes just months after former Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for permanent immigration levels to cut at just 110,000.

"At least until infrastructure, housing stock, and integration have better caught up, we simply have to move the overall numbers substantially down," Abbott said, citing the rate of immigration as a leading contributor towards stagnant wages, unprecendented population growth, high house prices, clogged infrastructure, and "ethnic gangs."


As a result of the intake debate, the Australian Industry Group — one of the nation's peak business lobby groups — and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have aligned and produced an unprecedented document that urges the government not to view the 190,000 intake number as a cap but rather as a target to strive for. 

“This historic national compact brings together civil society, business and our union movement in shared tripartite commitment to migration as part of Australia’s future,” the document reads. The document further claims cutting the annual migration rate would be detrimental to the nation's economy, job numbers, and social fabric.

“We affirm that Australia’s permanent migration program is essential to Australian society and our economy and do not support any reduction to the scheme.”