Chief lobbyist for the international education industry, Phil Honeywood, has threatened the governments with “serious questions” if they refuse to open borders to international students:
International Education Association chief executive Phil Honeywood told The Australian that the states should agree on a uniform plan to bring foreign students in, or threaten the sector’s reputation with overseas families.
“Clearly it’s in the interest of Australia’s $40bn international education industry to have all states and territories supporting pilot intakes,” he told The Australian…
“Universities and private providers in states that have chosen not to bring forward proposals to the national cabinet have the right to ask their state governments serious questions.”
Why are we still listening to lobbyists like Phil Honeywood? Their behaviour leading up to the COVID-19 shutdown was quite frankly deplorable.
Recall that they demanded that Australia’s international border remain open as the pandemic was initially spreading like wildfire, thus placing at risk Australian’s health:
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…
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.
Phil Honeywood also campaigned alongside the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to keep Australia’s border open:
China has slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to extend the travel ban on all non-Australians arriving from China, urging the government to “respect” the World Health Organization’s recommendations…
Chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia and chair of the task force aimed at managing the effects of the ban on the education sector, Phil Honeywood, told ABC Radio on Friday that Australia would suffer the greatest effects of the coronavirus travel bans, compared to other international study destinations.
“China is very much our number one student source country,” Mr Honeywood said. “Unfortunately, we’ve got Canada and the United Kingdom very much competitors as study destination countries and they are still very happily taking Chinese students.”
Once those lobbying efforts failed, the university sector then helped spread the coronavirus by offering cash payments of up to $7,500 to help Chinese students circumvent Australia’s travel ban, which was labelled “morally indefensible” by Professor Salvatore Babones:
…it was “morally indefensible to encourage thousands of Chinese youngsters to travel at this difficult time, especially when they would be transiting through poor, vulnerable countries like Thailand”.
“It is thoroughly unethical for a university to encourage students to undertake risky, refugee-style travel in order to slip into Australia through a third country backdoor.”
Yet now the industry wants to get back to business as usual as if none of it happened.
This is despite a 192-page research report from Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) universities urging the federal government to keep Australia’s international border closed:
A “Roadmap to Recovery” report from the Group of Eight (Go8) universities urges the federal government to maintain border restrictions for at least another six months…
“Maintaining restrictions on incoming and outgoing travellers gives the Australian government flexibility to pursue either a full elimination strategy or suppression strategy.”
Let’s be honest for a moment. The economic benefits of Australia’s gargantuan international student industry are exaggerated and the costs ignored.
International students work here to sustain themselves and pay their fees. Thus, they are not a genuine “export” if their money is earned here. The fact that most now need financial assistance is evidence of this point.
Meanwhile, international students are ripe for exploitation and compete directly for jobs with young Australians. They drive down wages and arguably GDP per capita and tax revenue for the government.
They also send billions in remittance payments out of the country (an import), add to congestion in our major cities, increase competition for housing, are behind the drop in university entry and teaching standards, and in the case of mainland Chinese students, have eroded democratic values and freedom of speech (as witnessed at the University of Queensland).
While there are certainly economic benefits from the international student trade, there are also economic and social costs that must be considered.
Australia should, therefore, better balance these costs and benefits by aiming for a lower number of higher quality international students. This can be achieved by:
- Lifting financial requirements to ensure that international students can support themselves throughout their courses and are not dependent on working to pay their bills; and
- Raising English-language requirements.
Such reforms would:
- Reduce competition in the labour market, boosting opportunities for younger Australians;
- Reduce wage theft and exploitation, since international students would no longer need to work illegally in ‘cash in hand’ jobs;
- Maximise export revenues per student, since tuition fees and living expenses would be paid for by funds from abroad, rather than from money earned in Australia; and
- Lift the quality of student, since most would come to Australia for the primary purpose of studying, rather than to gain backdoor working rights and permanent residency.