Thank heavens universities were ignored on international student ban

Only a month ago, Australia’s universities and international education lobby groups were demanding Australia lift its travel ban on China. For example:

The head of Australia’s peak foreign student body [the Council of International Students Australia]… Ahmed Ademoglu, who represents 700,000 international tertiary students in Australia, said they felt “exploited” and would discourage future students from enrolling here.

International students were aggrieved in particular by the detention of Chinese students in Australian airports and the block on Chinese student visas since the travel ban was introduced on February 1, according to Mr Ademoglu…

…it’s estimated the higher education sector could lose between $6 billion and $8 billion if Chinese students do not enrol for semester one. About 100,000 students remain stranded overseas.

Phil Honeywood, chair of the reputation taskforce appointed by Mr Tehan to manage the impact of coronavirus on the education sector, said he also raised concerns over the blocked visas on Wednesday.

“If you’ve got the opportunity to study in rival countries such as Canada and the UK, students will be more inclined to go there if the message is you can’t get your visa approved in the meantime,” Mr Honeywood said…

Eunice, a Chinese nursing student at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, said she found the China-wide travel ban, which will likely be extended beyond the start of semester, to be overzealous.

“I understand the Prime Minister wants to protect the residents in Australia. But there are many better ways to deal with the situation. And the Australian government chose the worst way”…

Here’s another classic:

Another international student, who wanted to be known as Ray, is currently quarantined at home in Beijing.

She is angry with the Australian Government and says the travel ban is a “poorly thought out knee-jerk reaction to follow the US”…

Chinese international students have also begun a petition which demands the travel ban be overturned and describes it as “rash and reckless”. As of Monday morning the petition had attracted more than 11,000 signatures…

Meanwhile, the travel ban has contributed to a sense of racism against the Chinese-Australian community.

Australian health authorities have advised travellers arriving in Australia from China after February 1 stay at home for at least 14 days from their departure date.

The National Union of Students similarly demanded the Morrison Government immediately revoke its China travel ban:

The National Union of Students has called for the travel ban to be lifted immediately, saying it was a “heavy handed, inconsistent and discriminatory decision” that had “disproportionately affected” international students…

“The travel ban has created a situation of uncertainty, which has heightened stress and anxiety with students,” Willmott said.

“Things like their education, visa, housing and work are all affected by this travel ban and the longer it is in place the more this uncertainty grows. There are obviously already issues with international student mental health and isolation, so this situation is just exacerbating these issues.”

As did the largest provider of student accommodation, Scape:

Scape executive chairman Craig Carracher said he hoped the federal government would “balance the chief medical officer’s advice with economic reality” and go ahead and “open the borders, with strict rules”…

About 85 per cent of its portfolio is booked. Around a quarter of those bookings are yet to arrive, mostly due to the travel ban…

Scape generates about $1 million a week in rents across its portfolio. Were the ban to extend into March, those students would most likely not take up those rooms.

In lobbying to lift the travel ban, some commentators cited that competitor nations like Canada and the UK had not taking such drastic measures:

Britain and Canada, both key competitors to Australia in the international student industry, have adopted far less stringent travel restrictions against the corona­virus, potentially giving them an advantage in attracting international students.

Neither country has closed its borders to people from China…

Canadian health officials have gauged the risk to the public as low…

Now, that argument has fallen by the wayside with Canada yesterday announcing that it too will ban entry to most non-citizens and non-residents:

Canada will bar entry to most non-citizens and non-permanent residents, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday. A”significant step” he said aims to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking from self-isolation outside his residence in Ottawa, the capital, Trudeau said his government was acting on the advice of public health officials…

Professor Salvatore Babones was among the first to ridicule the universities’ demands to lift Australia’s travel ban, claiming they were exhibiting classic ‘moral hazard’ behaviour:

The coronavirus epidemic, and the travel bans it prompted, threaten to derail that particular gravy train. So it comes as no surprise that university vice-chancellors have lobbied aggressively to have Australia’s travel ban lifted for Chinese students. This, despite the fact that most have prohibited their own staff and students from travelling to China — or even to Hong Kong. And despite the fact that university studies have been suspended in China and Hong Kong themselves.

How can it be that Hong Kong and Australian vice-chancellors have come to such radically different evaluations of their ability to safely manage coronavirus exposure? In another two words: moral hazard.

Moral hazard is the expectation that organisations (and their leaders) will reap the rewards of their successes while others will bear the burdens of their failures. If the government lifts its travel ban and 100,000 Chinese students fly into Australia, university revenues will continue the robust growth that has propelled Australia up the international rankings.

But if those students introduce coronavirus into the general population, Medicare — which means taxpayers — will pick up the bill.

Thank goodness the Morrison Government did not cede to the education sector’s pressure to lift the travel ban. Otherwise we could have an even bigger virus threat on our hands.

Leith van Onselen


  1. My Uber driver this afternoon was almost in despair at what lay ahead for him and his family. A decent fellow in his early 50s who had lost work in the mines, and has been driving for years as his sole income source. To date he has been managing, but his income has just fallen off a cliff, and there is no support for the many like him.

    These will be extremely grim months ahead for the casualised workforce, including those who feed off the university and tourism and property and finance sectors. The schadenfreude is understandable, but let’s not gloat too much about this. This is going to get very ugly for a lot of people through no fault of their own.

    I suspect the Govt will have no choice but to bail out the education sector eventually. Unless it wants social chaos, it will have to concede (much to its chagrin) that it is in fact the underwriter of uninsured risk.

      • A well designed negative income tax would achieve the same thing.

        Agree that a form of guaranteed income is required.

    • Don’t try to tell me when I can and when I can’t gloat.

      The Uber driver can offload an IP or two, if thing are that bloody die.

    • MountainGuinMEMBER

      Cleaners at work in despair as they dont have much savings dispite holding few such casual jobs and doing long hours. Wondering how long they can buy food and not confident of a rapid centerlink outcome if centerlink workers are stood down.
      Had a long chat including the govts focus on business in the recent stimulus. These are the aussies that will really be hurting soon.

      • Yep, the Govt have not given any proper (real world) thought to their stimulus package.

        Don’t over-complicate things, just send cheques. Even the Yanks are waking up to this.

        Meanwhile, Buffoonberg: increased asset write-offs, payroll tax holiday etc. OMFG, you dim bulb.

        • truthisfashionable

          Well they clearly need to support Australia’s wage theft engine room at this time when Australia’s need their wages the most. It’s the right thing to do (when punching down)

        • Narapoia451MEMBER

          To be honest, if you employ a handful of people and are a true small business the payroll tax will help you, it’ll help my business absolutely.

          But appreciate that it is not direct support for the people being discussed in this thread.

          • It sounds like your business will continue to thrive in this environment which is great to hear – but many will go to the wall. A payroll tax holiday doesn’t help businesses with little no revenues. The point I’m getting at is that there will be high unemployment soon and the Govt stimulus doesn’t take any of that into account – nor those who are working reduced weeks (they can’t claim Newstart).

          • Narapoia451MEMBER

            Agreed – we are lucky as well to be earning in USD, I still think we will be impacted without a doubt though. If people aren’t making money then they aren’t spending it – and there are large sections of the population without any direct support in these packages.

        • Gina and the IPA do not pay their “donations/bribes” to have Gov money being wasted on the plebs. Get real!

      • Only one or two of my mates have a salary, rest are all casuals. One makes airline meals. Down to 3 hours a day and dropping. Similarly painters, gardeners, cleaners, all of them saying how am I going to meet rent.

        The situation has been created by past and present governments, including all the under employment fall out. The Government must send everyone money now. If now is not the time for MMT when is?

        And, how good is the medical advice to keep schools open? I accept that many health workers would need to then stay at home. But, children can carry the virus and it then has the potential to really spread. It’s a dumb decision. I’d be taking my kids out now

        • The schools are being kept open at the behest of the Uni lobby. Guaranteed. Whats the bet he closes them after the census date and after an extra 50000 have caught the virus. Someone needs to sue the sh!t out of these lobbyists.

    • There will be social chaos if they get bailed out. Let them fold like a coffee shop, massage parlour, or retail store. They ceased being a temple of higher learning when they began trading like a bordello. Universities have been facilitating PR and selling degrees off the conveyor belt for years. Their time has come to an end. Someone give Clive the flamethrower.

      • I think bail out the top few unis contingent on dramatically reducing the percentage of foreign students admitted, as we can’t afford to lose the whole sector, and let the others sink or swim. There SHOULD be public, govt-funded universities in Australia, because the country’s future is development of high technology and biomedical advances, not building dogboxes or digging holes.

        But that is what they should focus on doing. Research, ideally research that can be commercialised. Not being PR factories.

        • I agree with that contingency – let’s see which unis are more exposed and which ones will disappear like a fart in the wind.

    • Never!! The university / education sector is already pre-bailed out. Think HELP/HECS and all the visas they hand out. That sector needs to cop it.

      Never forget the treasonous demands to open the borders!!

    • Vibrants must be struggling. Lunch time at my local shopping strip, there are 8 of them sitting around the park obviously waiting for the app to ding. Walking home and there is one subcontinental standing with his bike, bag on the back. Mrs subcontinental is trying and failing miserably to ride hers. Big ubereats bag on the back of her rig. I’m guessing they are getting desperate and now need 2x delivery fees being made. Poor fella who ordered via her is going to be getting his lunch around dinner time.

      The market for delivery riders must have been oversaturated to begin with, now it must be hell trying to find a $4 fee.

  2. About a week or two ago, Macrobusiness published a piece where the CEO of one of Australia’s largest private student accommodation providers was making similar cries of hardship and asking for the gates to be reopened.
    Can anyone provide the link or name the company? I’ve forgotten the name, cause I want to see if that CEO has pulled his LinkedIn post about the matter.

    • On a related subject: an interviewee on Alan Jones’s show this morning called out the Unis for ‘rampant greed’ this morning – putting lives at risk by wanting their hordes of foreign students back. Not sure AJ appreciated that and demanded that his guest get back to script and decry all the ‘hysteria’ – it’s #justtheflu etc. I didn’t listen any further as one and a half minutes of AJ is my limit, but good to see people waking up to the Uni greed-fest.

        • It’s declining by the day. You should experience AJ’s show sometime – then you’ll understand my POV.

      • Dom, my eldest attends Macquarie Uni and she got sick last week. We all thought it was the Wuflu but turned out to be the common cold and a case of just being soft. In any case Macq Uni was insisting on doctors certificates in complete contradiction to NSW and Fed Health directives to stay away from GPs etc unless necessary.
        The unis are just such ar$ehol3s!!

        • Education? Humanity? It’s all about numbers to them. They’ve morphed into an sunstoppable monster.

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      All the scum of Australia put our health last including LNP, Labor and media.

      They pretended it wasn’t happening for a month.

      • Thanks! found his Linkedin post, its still up, personally if I were in his shoes, I would have pulled it given current events!
        Craig Carracher “COVID-19: The issues confronting the government are complicated, but the sensitivity of Australia’s third largest export (education) and all the values attached to the quality of that export success story, requires a careful balance now. Education is the largest GDP contributor to the City of Melbourne (for example) and the flow on impacts for our national economy appear increasingly understood now by government and business. I hope this article adds to the perspectives for our entrusted representatives.”

  3. University leadership at many of our universities should be ignored. They are dangerous people. Many of these university leadership roles are now occupied by anti intellectual spin doctors. In normal times, having a university run (down) by these types is only frustrating and infuriating. In these turbulent times, however, their incompetence and over reliance on managing the message and distrust of data is deadly. Right now, their action and inaction will lead to death. We are quickly finding that when the SHTF, the emperors are naked. They have nothing to offer. Could apply that to Scotty from marketing and his kin too.

    • ” anti intellectual spin doctors”

      Don’t be sucked in by the ‘anti intellectual’ spin – many of our natural enemies are the intellectual ‘elites’ – just because they’re considered (or consider themselves) to be ‘intellectual’ doesn’t automatically place them on the side of the people. Intellectuals are typically the types who see themselves as superior to the plebs and very keen to tell them what to do and what to think – they generally have an authoritarian bent.

      • I mean what I mean. In this context it means those who are not interested in improvement through education or challenging ideas to uncover better ideas. If they were, they would know that this virus is not to be ignored and would have acted weeks ago instead of waiting to be told what to do like a child avoiding cleaning their room.

  4. Universities still encouraged them to jump on a plane to infect the people in Thailand on the way to Australia.

    • Dahls ChickensMEMBER

      That was the most shameful episode of all – risking deaths in the developing world for the sake of education dollars. The unis should be held to account after the dust has settled.

    • PalimpsestMEMBER

      That proved to be fairly sloppy thinking. Why would these other countries be safe once it started to spread. One person was probably infected in the UAE. The Middle East cases seem to be fed from the Iran cluster, and spread pretty fast. There have been some pretty surprising/disappointing assumptions made about how pandemics work.

  5. All this was obvious a month ago to blind Freddy. Why couldn’t the geniuses who run the universities and education “industry” see it coming? It’s very simple, in the spirit of modern Straya, the universities are run by greedy PIGS.

    • They got plenty of profit. 31,000 Chinese students arrived after the ban by coming in via third countries. 4.5% of people are still infectious after these 14 days. That means around 1300 students could have had the virus and infected Australians.

      It is no coincidence that the virus hotspot in Sydney is centered around Macquarie Uni with its 38% Mainland Chinese students.

      • With 3 diagnosed cases within a kilometer of UNSW in Randwick, I think it’s also in competition for the hotspot title. There has been no mention of whether these were foreign students who brought it in, kids of locals who’d travelled recently, or whether it was community transmission.

  6. Typical racialist fear mongering. Open teh gates and let em’ in! Oh sh!t, wait……

  7. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    99% of Australians wouldn’t have a clue what universities did in this sad episode of Australia and will meekly watch as uni elites are bailed out.

  8. Scomo just pleaded with people not to panic buy, went on about it for ages. Now the real panic will start.

  9. What have we learn so far from this pandemic, other then relearn the lessons from past pandemics. One lesson we have not learn is time, and the lost time in delayed action, Australians been witnesses and victims that over the last 12 months.

  10. They just said on ABC news24 that the ban on people who had been to China reduced cases in Australia by about 80%!

  11. Luca BiasonMEMBER

    “NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has said there are around 267 confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW, a rise of 50 cases in 24 hours, at a press conference in Sydney. She said the state was seeing an increasing pattern in coronavirus among overseas returning travellers and an increase in the number of cases where the source of infection has not been found.”
    ah but o/s student fees….

  12. Meanwhile our uni is still sending staff into high schools to recruit for next year. That is a vector in both directions into two super spreaders. FFS.

  13. Here in Sydney, UNSW has only 1/3 of its expected foreign student load, due to others being stuck overseas. Even still, it is responsible for three cases.

    I don’t know if that 1/3 ratio applies to other local universities.

    But seriously, imagine how much worse it could be if Scomo had done nothing at all. Of course, it would have been better if he’d gone harder, sooner.

  14. The number of students on the University of Melbourne campus in the last few days has been down by at least 60%.
    Most students are staying away and accessing lectures etc, online.