On the back of his government’s announcement to keep Australia’s borders shut till mid-2022, the prime minister said today that reopening international borders is not his government's immediate priority. He also encouraged universities to propose a plan on bringing international students back to Australia.
A day after his government’s Budget was presented in Parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made it clear that his government's immediate priority is to suppress the coronavirus spread in the country and safeguard Australians, and not opening up borders to new migrants and international students.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government's priority is to keep Australians safe
- Mr Morrison said universities can work with states to bring international students to Australia
- Australia intends to maintain the 2021-22 Migration Program ceiling at 160,000 places
"We are conscious of how we accommodate, mitigate the impacts of being unable to bring more people into the country and indeed allow Australians to leave,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“But those international borders, we would like to get to a place where we can have a more liberalised arrangement. But for the foreseeable future right now, that is not on the immediate horizon. What is on our horizon right now is ensuring that we continue to suppress the virus and we ensuree that our quarantine system is reliable,” Mr Morrison said.
"The reopening of international borders is something that is very hard, very, very hard for us to put a sort of finite position on. The pandemic is worse now than it was a year ago. Australia has been successful because we've run a successful border control policy, and I'm not about to put that at risk at a time when COVID is now going to rage through the developing world," he said.
Prime Minister Morrison was responding to budgetary announcements that Australian borders are unlikely to open before mid-2022.
The Australian government intends to maintain the 2021-22 Migration Program ceiling at 160,000 places, including 79,600 skilled and 77,300 family stream places.
Speaking about international students, Prime Minister Morrison said he has always encouraged universities to put forward a proposal on getting them back into Australia.
"The suggestion, though, that this will somehow be all done by the Federal Government and subsidised by taxpayers I think is unreasonable," Mr Morrison responded to a question on making separate quarantine arrangements for students in Australia or a third country.
"The universities have much to gain from doing this, and I've always encouraged them to come forward and, and put forward proposals that would enable them to be able to see some students come into Australia. And I think that is achievable.
"It's not all going to happen in one go. It's not going to happen of a switch on, switch off sort of binary way. But we do have state governments in the country who are willing to engage," he said.
Melbourne-based economist Vinod Mishra said universities had presented proposals to the government in the past.
“The federal government is asking the states to agree on public health and quarantine measures for bringing international students to Australia. But states want the federal government to decide on international borders and immigration,” Mr Mishra told SBS Hindi.
Mr Mishra said universities are not the sole beneficiaries of international students.
“Universities don’t operate outside the Australian economy. They employ a lot of people directly or indirectly. Associate industries such as catering, housing and hospitality sectors also benefit from them,” he said.
University of Sydney student Abhishek Handa said the government’s decision would adversely impact students willing to study at campuses.
“There are many students around the world who are willing to get admission into Australian universities and some have got it. But they cannot travel to Australia. This will hamper their university experience as they have no choice but to attend online classes,” Mr Handa told SBS Hindi.