There has been misreporting in sections of the Australian Media giving an impression that the Australian PM has asked International Students to “go home”. However, a reading of the script of the statement clarifies that this is not what has been stated by the PM.
Listen to what he actually said…
JOURNALIST: Just on international students, they’re not covered by any of the support measures that have been announced so far, is that something that the Government’s looking at? We’re hearing that a lot of students are struggling to keep their accommodation. If they’re kicked out, that obviously causes a lot of other social issues and could more be being done by the Government to communicate to people who speak languages other than English? A lot of the feedback from communities is that these measures they’re trying to keep on top of them, they want to do the right thing, but it’s very difficult for them to understand in their own language. Is that something that the Government can look at as part of his daily dashboard?
PRIME MINISTER: The communications program that has been running on people’s screens now for us for some time, that also has a languages component to it, which has been rolled out around the country as well. And even in my own communications, whether it’s WeChat or other arrangements, we’ve been pretty focused on communicating through the various language media to achieve that end. In terms of students, the Immigration Minister, well, Acting Immigration Minister i should say, will have more to say about other visa holders and the arrangements the Government is coming to for those. And I’ll leave that to him to make those announcements in coming days. People should know, though, in particular for students, all students who come to Australia in their first year have to give a warranty that they are able to support themselves for the first 12 months of their study. That is a requirement of their visa when they come to that first year. And so that is not an unreasonable expectation of the Government that students would be able to fulfil the commitment that they gave. Now, these visas and those who are in Australia under various visa arrangements, they’re obviously not held here compulsorily. If they’re not in a position to be able to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries. We still have quite a number of people who are here on visitor visas. My simple, as much as it’s lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this if you’re a visitor in this country, it is time, as it has been now for some while and I know many visitors have, to make your way home and to ensure that you can receive the supports that are available where they are in your home countries. At this time, Australia must focus on its citizens and its residents to ensure that we can maximise the economic supports that we have. But there are many students who are in Australia. That’s why we lifted the hour restrictions on student nurses, for example, some 20,000 additional student nurses then became available into our health system. That’s very important. For those backpackers in Australia who are nurses or doctors or have other critical skills that can really help us during this crisis, then there’ll be opportunities for them as well. But our focus and our priority is on supporting Australians and Australian residents with the economic supports that are available.
The PM said a return home is an “alternative” [option] open to international students who are not able to support themselves to remain in Australia. This in no way a communication for them to go back now as has been reported in media as follows:
And this misreporting of what the PM actually said leads to the opposition jump in opportunistically… as expected… further giving impression that the PM actually said what he didn’t.
The article also reports: Meanwhile, AAERI in India has launched a petition calling for a delay to the July intake in Australia to allow students in India and Nepal more time to prepare to study abroad, sit English language tests in some cases and access loans, given the global lockdown and impact on usual preparation services.
Ravi Lochan Singh, president of AAERI India, commented on Morrison’s recent statement.
“The PM is factually correct that international students should have availability of costs for living without being dependent on part-time jobs,” he said.
“However it is also a reality that the Covid-19 situation is unexpected and it is possible that there are some international students who are not able to receive the funds too suddenly from their home countries.”
“Some universities have funded the cost of laptops to enable online mode of study”
Lochan Singh said however that universities had been very responsive to the evolving situation. “Universities have put aside funds to assist the international students and some have also funded the cost of laptops and such to enable online mode of study,” he told The PIE News.
“AAERI sincerely thanks the universities who have come forward to help the international students.
“The AAERI petition has been very well received,” he added. “I have had discussions on this with several university policy makers and am told that most universities are determined to either defer the July intake and/or have an additional intake in the later part of the year.”
He added that some institutions want to offer the July intake as an online option to new students, where the students join the study on campus once the travel restrictions are withdrawn.
“However, Department of Home Affairs in a recent webinar informed that there is no visa required for online study if undertaken offshore and there was clear indication that fresh visas will not be issued till the travel restrictions are [updated],” he revealed.
“Thus to expect new students to start their study in an online mode even before the visa is issued for their travel later in the year is possibly expecting too much. I would strongly recommend that the July intake is deferred to September or October 2020.”
Lochan Singh added that the Indian community had also been extending assistance to international students.
“Several Indian restaurants are offering free takeaway food for affected international students,” he related.
And now we have a clarification from Acting Minister for Immigration, Alan Trudge:
There are 565,000 international students in Australia, mainly studying in the higher education or vocational education sector. They are an important contributor to our tertiary sector and economy, supporting 240,000 Australian jobs.
Students are encouraged to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves in Australia. As part of their visa application, international students have had to demonstrate that they can support themselves completely in their first year.
Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation.
The Government will undertake further engagement with the international education sector who already provide some financial support for international students facing hardship. For example, we understand there are some education providers that are providing fee discounts to international students.
The Government will also be flexible in cases where Coronavirus has prevented international students meeting their visa conditions (such as not being able attend classes).
International students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight.
International students working in aged care and as nurses have had these hours extended to support these critical sectors.
International students working in the major supermarkets had also had these hours extended to help get stock on shelves during the high demand. From 1 May, their hours will return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight as more Australians are being recruited into these roles.