Still need for overseas workers, says Joyce

Abattoirs was one example where employers were struggling to fill vacancies with local labour, he said.

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The government has announced that the skilled migration program intake will be cut by nearly 20,000 – from 133,500 to 115,000 – this financial year, as it cuts occupations from its critical skills list.

Bricklayers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and metal fitters are amongst the occupations taken off the list as demand for skilled labour falls in the building and construction sectors.

Senator Joyce, in cautiously welcoming the announcement, said the government still needed to be careful about cutting worker immigration, especially for the meat-processing sector where operators struggled to maintain full production.

“If we take away 30 per cent of the production line, you end up closing the whole production line down,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Government intake \’should go further\’

Meanwhile, the oppostion has called on the government to further reduce the migrant intake as the economy slows.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says the government has “finally recognised” the gravity of the threat migration poses to jobs in Australia.

“They should be prepared to reduce the immigration intake in light of the economic circumstances,” he told ABC Radio, when asked whether the government should go further than the latest announcement.

“We\’re disappointed they have failed to do so in recent months.”

Frontbench colleague Nick Minchin said the government had been “mugged by reality” on immigration.

“At least the government is going in the right direction,” he told ABC Television, adding that the immigration intake was still 13,000 higher than the level reached by the previous Howard government.

Small Business Minister Craig Emerson refused to speculate about further adjustments to the intake. “We\’ve got a weather eye on this,” he said.

Outspoken Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey questioned whether the cuts would result in more Australian jobs.

“But in times of unemployment I\’m quite committed to giving Australians first chance,” he said.