Australia’s migration numbers falling
Federal government officials have confirmed Australia’s migration intake is falling well short of the 190,000 annual ceiling as they impose more rigorous visa checks using larger coordinated security databases.
The revelation that this financial year’s intake is on track to fall about 20,000 below the annual cap came as One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said she was refusing to back the Turnbull government’s business tax cut partly because of its failure to cut the immigration rate
Officials from the Department of Home Affairs told a Senate estimates hearing last month that the intake had been 183,608 people in the 2016-17 year and stood at 138,086 as of April 30.
They told the Senate committee that visa applications in skilled migration, family and children categories were more complex than in the past because technology was increasing the amount of international data that could indicate risks to particular applicants.
“As we connect what were formerly standalone, isolated immigration integrity risk systems to intelligence databases … as you couple more databases onto your checking mechanism, you get more what are known as ‘hits’ in our trade. They have to be resolved,” Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo told the senators.
Mr Pezzullo said he wouldn’t provide details on the databases because they were sensitive and classified, “other than that they are real-time, intelligence-related, data-checking systems”.
“Every time you get a hit, you’ve got to resolve it. An officer who has to resolve that match takes time to do that, and that necessarily means more time is spent on that application than previously would have been the case,” he said.
Mr Pezzullo said this more rigorous program had started in the 2014/15 financial year and was accelerated in 2015/16.
The recent figure of just over 138,000 suggests the intake will fall about 20,000 short of the limit by the end of the financial year.
That was made up of 91,302 in skilled migration, 44,193 family visas and 2591 children.
The Australian newspaper reported last month that federal cabinet had considered a cut of 20,000 to the overall cap but ultimately decided against it.
Even so, Senator Hanson, said she had decided not to support the government’s proposed business tax cuts because “they’ve got to address the high immigration numbers coming into this country”.
“High immigration numbers are what’s destroying the standard of living, way of life in Australia. The cities cannot cope anymore. That has to be addressed,” she said.
Mr Pezzullo was asked whether the department had provided Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton with an options paper to cut the cap. He told the committee it was normal for bureaucrats to give ministers such options.
“We would have developed options for the minister to consider in the normal budgetary annual cycle,” he said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist