Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has blamed a backlog of visa applications to WA for deep cuts to a state-nominated migration program that have prompted backlash from Premier Roger Cook. Mr Cook has written to the Albanese Government demanding that a 70 per cent reduction in the State Nominated Migration Program – from 8140 places in 2022-23 to 2350 in the current financial year – be reversed. Mr Giles insisted that while the number of nominations had been reduced for 2023-24, the actual number of temporary work visas that would be approved in WA were at “a very similar level”. He said nominations through the SNMP had been increased “very significantly” across the board last year as Australia re-opened its borders following the COVID pandemic and experienced “huge demand for skills” – particularly in WA. That had attracted a huge level of demand globally – the WA allocation was snapped up within nine months – but processing of those visas had not kept pace with applications, prompting a reduction in available nominations in 2023-24. “We are not cutting the visas coming to WA or indeed to other states,” Mr Giles said. “What we’re doing is making sure that our offer remains competitive and we don’t create a backlog.” Figures provided by Mr Giles’ office show just 3140 SNMP visas were granted in WA in 2022-23 - and that there were 7403 still on-hand as of June 30 this year. Reflecting that big processing queue, the total allocation of State and Territory nominated nationwide has dropped from 63,226 in 2022-23 to just 16,700 in the current financial year. However, Mr Giles revealed he was meeting with Stephen Dawson – the assistant WA Minister for Jobs and Trade – on Monday afternoon to discuss the migration settings. While the Albanese Government has reduced the number of nominations available through the SNMP nationally, allocations have been increased in other streams – including employer-sponsored. Speaking alongside Prime Minster Anthony Albanese at a separate event on Monday, WA Training Minister Simone McGurk highlighted that costly employer-sponsored visas were often not an option for small business owners. “Because the Prime Minister’s here (in WA) I was able to raise these issues with him just briefly,” Ms McGurk said. “To explain that one of the things about the skilled migration system, the (SNMP) is really appropriate for small and medium-sized businesses, for instance. “Where you have an employer-nominated intake, that’s really for medium and large businesses.” The SNMP allows the WA Government to specify occupations in high demand in WA – the number currently stands at more than 500 – that receive additional points to their visa applications, making it easier to gain entry into the country. Mr Albanese said his government had inherited an outdated and cumbersome migration system with one million visas awaiting processing at the time Labor won the 2022 election. Since then the Albanese Government has made it easier for New Zealanders to travel and settle permanently in Australia and announce plans to overhaul and simplify the migration system while placing a greater emphasis on permanent rather than temporary migration. Mr Giles said there were plans to move to a multi-year rather than a single-year system for allocating migration numbers, which would “smooth” the processing of visas. He said backlogs for temporary worker and international student visas had dropped by 73 per cent in the past year.