Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview - Sky News with Laura Jayes

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: Fully vaccinated eligible visa holders and international students entering Australia soon, federal ICAC, religious discrimination bill

LAURA JAYES:

Fully vaccinated eligible visa holders will be able to enter Australia in less than a week. International students are desperate to get back and local businesses need to fill labour shortages. Joining me live now is the Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge. You're announcing further support for the education sector. What is it?

ALAN TUDGE:

Good morning, Laura. So, as you know, the international borders will be open on the 1st of December for international students, which is good news for those universities, as well as good news for Australians. But to accelerate the return, we are waiving some of the fees and we're extending the innovation grants, as well as making some additional visa flexibility for those students who have been stuck offshore and not been able to get in.

Now, what does all this mean? It means that students will be able to come in here, hopefully get back to normal as quickly as possible, do their studies, but also, importantly, to critically fill those labour shortages, which we do have, Laura. And that's as big a part of this as it is actually them doing their studies in the short term.

LAURA JAYES:

What about if their visa has expired, is getting close to expiring? Do they need to reapply or will you just extend that?

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, so the critical thing here is for those people who have completed their studies but may not have been able to take advantage of their post-study work rights and effectively we're allowing them to continue to do that post-study work rights, even if that visa had expired. So, they'll have to reapply for that, but they'll be granted that, which means they can come into Australia and do their post-study work rights, which many of them value and we will particularly value, at the moment, given that we have such critical labour shortages, particularly in hospitality, but right across the country and international students typically fill many of those roles.

LAURA JAYES:

Indeed. And will they be able to work more?

ALAN TUDGE:

So international students typically can work 20 hours per week and can work full time during the summer period and the holidays.

LAURA JAYES:

[Interrupts] So, you're not extending that at all?

ALAN TUDGE:

In recent times, we’ve actually allowed them to work up to 40 hours per week just to deal with some of the labour shortages. So that continues for some time yet. When they get their post-study work rights, that is they’ve finished their degree, and they get work rights afterwards, they can work full time in whatever job they like.

LAURA JAYES:

Okay. Will any of them have to quarantine? There's 160,000 international students wanting to get back. It's more straightforward in New South Wales, but what if they want to get into WA or Queensland?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, at the moment, if they come into Melbourne or into Sydney, they'll be able to come in quarantine free. My expectation is that will be the case into Adelaide as well by the end of the year, once they get to that 90 per cent threshold, which Premier Marshall has indicated. And it'll be up to the Queensland Government and the Western Australian Government as to what they will do. I suggest that may be a disincentive for those international students to want to return there, so I'm hoping that they will be able to look carefully at that.

LAURA JAYES:

Okay. Well, I think they're all pretty happy, 160,000 of them, that they can get back in, in some way, anyway.

ALAN TUDGE:

That’s right.

LAURA JAYES:

But there is a fair bit on the agenda in Canberra this week. It’s all looking a bit chaotic, I must say from where I sit, but let's talk religious freedom laws. The Prime Minister is about to introduce this in the House. Moderates say they want protection for students in tandem. Is that a reasonable request?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, so the Religious Discrimination Bill is really important in terms of generally providing protections for religious people, but it critically provides protections for religious schools to be able to employ teachers of their own faith. Now, that is fundamental to a school because you can't be a Catholic school if you can't employ Catholic teachers. So that's the most fundamental part. Any other issues are dealt with in different bills, such as the Sexual Discrimination Bill. We do want to- we have put a reference through to the Australian Law Reform Commission in relation to some of those other issues, and we'll get that report back in the months ahead. But this Bill deals with religious discrimination.

LAURA JAYES:

[Interrupts] So, can it be done in tandem, though? Can it be done in tandem?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, we've outlined our process, Laura. This Bill deals with religious discrimination, which is so important. And it is urgent for schools, by the way, because in Victoria right now, there is legislation which would prevent Catholic and other religious schools from being able to preference religious teachers, or teachers of their own faith, for their school. Now, that goes to the essence of those schools. They are set up for a purpose and it goes to the essence of it. So this Bill is quite urgent to be able to override those provisions, particularly in Victoria.

LAURA JAYES:

Okay. But what's so urgent about it? What has happened in the last couple of months or years that means that this legislation is so urgent?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I mean, we made the commitment that we would introduce this legislation in this term of Parliament, and that's exactly what we're doing, and obviously there's not many weeks left of Parliament before we go to an election. But it is particularly urgent now, given the actions of the Victorian Government to effectively attack Christian and other religious schools by preventing them in their draft legislation from being able to employ Christian and other religious teachers in accordance with their own faith. And this is very typical of the Labor Party, Laura, by the way. I mean, the Labor Party has always had great difficulty with Catholic and independent schools. They constantly attack the funding …

LAURA JAYES:

[Talks over] But aren’t they supporting this legislation?

ALAN TUDGE:

… and now they’re – well, let's have a look what they're doing in Victoria, though. I mean, they used to attack their funding mercilessly …

LAURA JAYES:

[Talks over] I know. But in where you are, in the Federal Parliament, Labor’s supporting it, aren’t they?

ALAN TUDGE:

… they used to attack where religious schools could open. Now, they’re attacking them on the basis of who they can recruit. Let's be clear about what the Labor Party is about. Well, we'll wait and see what the Federal Labor Party does here. Wait and see…

LAURA JAYES:

[Talks over] Okay.

ALAN TUDGE:

…what the federal Labor Party does here. They've got form in attacking Catholic and independent schools. They're doing it again in Victoria, and we want to make sure that those schools are protected.

LAURA JAYES:

All right. One final question about the federal ICAC. This is not something that's been discussed a lot in the final sitting fortnight in Canberra there. David Littleproud has just suggested that you're not introducing legislation for a federal ICAC because Labor's not going to support it. I mean, on that logic, you really wouldn't be introducing much during the whole term, would you?

ALAN TUDGE:

We're still working through the ICAC legislation, as you know, and we made a commitment to do this. We’ve been working through this for some time, and I'll leave the details up to the Attorney-General.

LAURA JAYES:

Okay. Thanks so much, Alan Tudge. We'll speak soon.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much, Laura.