The fall in Australia’s annual intake of permanent migrants to the lowest level since 2007 is a continuing topic of debate.
The intake in the last financial year was about 27,000 lower than the annual cap of 190,000. This was mainly caused by a cut of 12,000 in skilled visa places, and a cut of 8,000 (almost 15%) in family visas.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the government has introduced tougher vetting procedures, using new database technology to weed out “fraudulent applications” based on “dodgy information”. However, a former Immigration Department official who ran the migration program for 12 years told the ABC that vetting has always been thorough enough to identify fraudulent documents.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, tipped by some as a possible replacement for Bill Shorten as Labor leader, said the fall was a good result if it meant more integrity in the system.
Business groups, however, have expressed concern about the reduced intake, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Australian Chamber) describes it as a crisis, particularly for regional employers. The Small Business Council of Australia said its retail and manufacturing members would very likely suffer.
Earlier this year the trade union movement and the Australian Industry Group, a peak employers body, together urged the government to keep the intake around 190,000, after former Prime Minster Tony Abbott called for the cap to be reduced to 110,000.
Mr Abbott argued that the increased labour supply from immigration forced down wages, while increased housing demand forced up prices. Others have echoed this sentiment, and criticised the government for failing to develop infrastructure to keep up with migration. The Australian Chamber says employers are paying the price for the government's failure in this area.
Most recently, Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge has suggested increasing the vetting process by a tougher English test and a stricter assessment of migrants' understanding of Australian values.
Prime Minister Turnbull, who has frequently remarked on the success of Australia as a multicultural society, agreed that such an assessment had merit.