SUBJECTS: Border closures, International students
Leon Byner: Let’s talk about the 300 students that we’re going to bring in to SA from the embarkation point of Singapore. I caught up earlier this morning with Education Minister Dan Tehan. Dan Tehan, thanks for joining us today.
Dan Tehan: It’s a pleasure, Leon.
Byner: A trial to bring 300 international students back into SA is likely, we’re told, to get the green light. I have to say that the public, in general, under normal circumstances, welcome this. But, under these circumstances, where you’ve got severe restrictions to so many local communities who can’t virtually move, they’re in a straitjacket, there’s been a bit of pushback.
Tehan: There has, Leon, and I can understand that we do need to make sure that we’ve got the issues, especially around the South Australian-Victorian borders, sorted out. And, we’re working with the South Australian Government on that, because we do want to make sure that we are seeing the right and proper movement of people across the nation. This is something that the Prime Minister has been working with all states and territories on. Obviously, when there are health reasons as to why these measures, these restrictions, need to be put in place, we support them. But, what we do need to see, as we address the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria, in particular, that we’re able to free up the movement, especially across borders right across the nation.
Byner: Now, we’re going to charter a flight, are we? Or, the universities are to bring these 300 students in?
Tehan: Well, state and territory governments are leading the pilots, and individual arrangements will be up to each individual state and territory as to how the pilots work. What we’ve said is, because of the importance of the international student market to jobs in Australia – 250,000 jobs are created by the international student market – that we will work with the state and territory governments as they seek to implement the pilots.
Byner: Now, you’ve said that no international students will take the place of Aussies returning from overseas. So, one has to reasonably presume that this is going to be a charter.
Tehan: Look, that is the most likely course of action that will take place, because we’ve made it very clear that we want these pilots not to get in the way of international students, sorry, of Australian residents returning from home, from overseas.
Byner: Yeah, because the plan, as I understand it, Minister, is for there to be 10 to 12 thousand. That’s what the unis want, in order to make a real economic difference.
Tehan: Look, over time, one of the things that we would love to see is a resumption of the international student market. As I’ve said before, it creates 250,000 jobs in our nation. And, as we know, we’re facing the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. So, well, we want to be doing everything we can to create jobs in this nation. And, we know, when it comes to international students, a quarter of a million jobs will be created if we can get a resumption of the international student market. Now, we have to do that sensibly. We have to do that working with our medical experts. We have to make sure that we’ve got the proper quarantine facilities in place, and these are all the things that are being worked through.
Byner: By the way, the one thing I think people want to see is that no group are advantaged over another in any move such as this. It’s not that there is no willingness to accept this. There’s an absolute willingness for the population, but the amount of emotion people expressed was quite angry.
Tehan: Yeah, look, especially when there are restrictions on liberties as a result of the pandemic. And, look, I represent a rural electorate on the border with South Australia, and I know and understand how difficult it has been for people with some of the restrictions that have been put in place along that border. So, I can understand why people have that strong sense of feeling with regards to making sure that we do have in place the proper policies here, so people can move as best we can, to enable us to still stay controlling the pandemic. But, also making sure, that when we come to things like international students, that we will know will create jobs, that we’re not going to see Australians wanting to return home being disadvantaged by this.
Byner: Minister, thank you for joining us today. That’s Dan Tehan.