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Australian MP criticises government for neglecting international students

MP Julian Hill of Brisbane called the government’s treatment of international students "mean" and "miserable."
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   25-02-2021

Julian Hill
Image Credit: www.julianhillmp.com

With 30% of its international student population still stuck outside outside Australian borders (The Pie News) and the government has formulated no concrete plan for their re-entry. Consequently, criticism of the government is rising in the higher education sector and from within its ranks.

Last week as the parliament debated on the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Refunds of Charges and Other Measures) Bill 2020, MP Julian Hill accused the government of showing no empathy towards international students. The video of his speech is now going viral.

He began by acknowledging the contributions from Australia’s international student. “Students enrich all of our cities, our regions. They enrich our communities and our campuses and places of study. They make our places more vibrant. [International education] is also our fourth biggest export sector worth more than $40 billion a year in export revenue to this country.”

But the pandemic has had a massive impact on the sector, with The Pie News reporting that it has cost Australian universities 17,300 jobs and $ 1.8 billion in revenue already. With borders still closed, revenues are likely to dip more in 2021. The government has, however, remained obdurate.

International students are suffering as well. In December 2020, The Guardian published a story which showed how the government had failed to offer any assistance to temporary visa holders during the pandemic.  Thousands of students, backpackers, and asylum seekers were depending on food vouchers to survive. Many were being forced to make a choice between paying tuition fees or eating as part-time jobs dried up. Their mental health had deteriorated. But the government had offered no respite or resources. The acting immigration and cultural affairs minister Alan Tudge remained unsympathetic, even suggesting they “go home.”

However, the pandemic had not stopped the government from trying to entice new students with proposed pilot programs such as the one for Charles Darwin University and by granting offshore visas. This has merited the charge that, for Australia, international students seem to be only cash cows.

MP Hill openly acknowledged this. “International students deserved a lot better than they’ve had from this mean, miserable government, and it does not represent the views of Australians. You are welcome here.”

He repeated the pleas from University bodies that the government send positive messages to students who are struggling, draw up a tentative return date, and find ways to offer financial support to its flailing higher education sector.

You can watch MP Hill’s speech here.

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