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The government accused of cutting migration ‘by stealth’ by James Pearson, head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This statement was made by Pearson in response to the decreased number of migrants in 2017-18. Following the 190,000 cap, a total of 162,417 people permanently migrated to Australia, as compared to the 183,608 of the previous year.

Peter Dutton, home affairs minister, remarked that the careful assessment of skilled migrants exaggerating their qualifications, and on the authenticity of spousal visa applications resulted in the reduced number of migrant intake.

However, Pearson commented that the government is “effectively throttling back the rate of migration by stealth”.

“We know that processing times have slowed right down, we know that visa application costs and the cost of [employer] sponsorships have gone up and the government has reduced the number of eligible occupations,” he said.

“If this [were] trade you’d say the government has put in place these non-tariff barriers in order to reduce the number of skilled people we are able to bring into our country … to grow our economy.”

With the 12,500 drop in the skilled work visa approval, businesses are affected. Pearson stated that based on several studies, well-planned and controlled migration drives economic growth.

He also remarked that he overheard chamber members from the general council that the political response to ‘the problems of Sydney and Melbourne … is making victims of regional Australia’.

Businesses in Australia except in these two state capitals are being starved of skilled migrants, affecting regional areas the most.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said that the migration numbers are dependent on what is currently happening in the economy. He then questioned the Coalition government for the 1.6m visa holders with temporary work rights.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said, ‘Of course [the drop] is a good result if there is more integrity in the system’.

Pearson reiterated the incorrect perception that migrants steal jobs from Australians. In fact, they create jobs since employers need to bring in overseas workers for the business to run. If these positions are not filled, the business will not run at all.

The case of Labglass, a small business in Queensland manufacturing industrial glass products was discussed to illustrate the importance of skilled workers and the extensive effects of immigration cut.

Due to a limited number of Australian courses on scientific glass-blowing, Labglass was dependent on highly-skilled migrants. Labglass tried to collaborate with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) on some training courses to fill the position.