Migration numbers slashed after crackdown

Matt Coughlan
Peter Dutton says the government has restored the integrity of Australia's migration program

Migration to Australia has been slashed to its lowest level in more than a decade after the federal government put tough new hurdles in place and targeted dodgy claims.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the government was meticulously going through applications to weed out unsuitable claims.

"We're making sure that people who do become part of our Australian family are coming here to work, not to lead a life on welfare," Mr Dutton told reporters in Queensland on Friday.

Tougher vetting has led to more permanent migration visas being issued, with dishonest and dodgy applications in the government's crosshairs.

Mr Dutton said he had restored integrity to the migration program.

"We have a welcoming migration program, but we're not going to allow people in where there's a fraudulent application, where there's dodgy information being provided," he said.

The 2017/18 intake plummeted by more than 10 per cent to 162,417.

There has been a 46 per cent increase in visa refusals, while skilled migrant numbers dropped by more than 12,000.

The family stream was cut by 15 per cent to 47,732.

Mr Dutton accused former Labor governments of "ticking and flicking" applications in order to meet the migration cap of 190,000.

"We have turned that around to make sure that the people who come to our country come in the right circumstances," he said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said he was more worried about temporary migrants with work rights being ripped off and depressing Australians' wages and conditions.

"When we've got young unemployed people in Australia, why is this government increasing the number of temporary guest workers?" Mr Shorten told reporters in the Adelaide Hills.

Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said it was a good result if the migration system had more integrity.

Migration levels are now at their lowest since John Howard was prime minister.

"It's a function of the prime minister and I listening very carefully to the concerns of Australians," Mr Dutton said.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said he was disappointed migration levels had fallen so far below the 190,000 ceiling.

"We encourage the government to get closer to reaching the ceiling in the 2018/19 year, considering the economic and social benefits the program offers to Australia," Mr Willox said.