Federation Chamber 22/02/2021
Mr KHALIL (Wills) (16:09): It’s almost a year since O-week celebrations were cancelled, semester 1 was postponed and classes moved online for university students across the country, but for many students it’s also marked a year since they have been stuck overseas and had to continue their learning from overseas. There are hundreds of thousands of students who are overseas right now, unable to come back into the country and are still paying their fees and studying their degrees offshore, online. Our onshore education sector contributed $37 billion and supported over 247,000 Australian jobs in 2018-19. It is our fourth-largest export sector, right behind iron ore, coal and gas, yet, despite this, the government has paid little attention or, arguably, has ignored international students.
In October 2019, almost 51,000 new and returning international students arrived in Australia. In October 2020, this figure had fallen by 99.7 per cent to just 130 students. The government has failed to bring back Aussies stuck overseas, due to quarantine systems or not setting up federal quarantine. This failure means we can’t even get on the job of welcoming others back safely to Australia, like international students. That’s had a devastating impact on our university sector. We’re looking at $19 billion worth of losses by 2023. That means uni job losses and it means subject cuts. The government knows this, but still thousands of students studying remotely are an afterthought for his government.