There is nothing “normal” about Australia’s international student numbers


Last week, shadow Coalition immigration spokesperson, Dan Tehan, told Sky News that the Albanese government has driven international student numbers and ergo migration to absurd levels:

“What we’ve seen is a blowout in international student numbers that is putting pressure on the social licence that international students have in this country”.

“Obviously, there is a place for international students as well, but in the last 18 months under this Labor government, it’s got completely out of whack and that isn’t good for the international students in this country, it’s not good for our reputation … and it’s one of the messes that the Labor government have created”.

The AFR’s resident international education shill, Julie Hare, responded to Tehan with the below propaganda:

“In fact, the number of international students is only 2% higher than in 2019, before the pandemic brought arrivals to a halt overnight”.

“Although net overseas migration surged to 510,000 in 2022-23, that was largely a bounce back from the COVID-19 period where more people left the country than arrived”.

“The measure is forecast to return to normal pre-pandemic levels by 2024-25”.

What a load of bald-faced lies.

The latest Department of Home Affairs data shows that the number of student visas on issue in Australia is tracking more than 100,000 (circa 20%) above the 2019 peak:

Temporary student visas on issue

The number temporary graduate visas on issue are also tracking at nearly double their pre-covid issue:

Temporary graduate visas

Combined, there were around 865,000 people in the country in October with either one of these visas.


This means that around one in 30 people in Australia are holding either a student visa or a graduate visa – an extraordinary number.

Julie Hare’s claim that Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) is forecast to return to “normal” levels by 2024-25 is another lie.

Last week’s Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) forecast that NOM would be 250,000 in 2024-25, and would fall back to its long-run projection of 235,000 a year from 2026-27.


These levels of migration are so far above the historical average it is not funny. They are also materially above the 220,000 average NOM recorded during the 15 years of ‘Big Australia’ NOM pre-pandemic:

Projected NOM

There is nothing “normal” about Australia’s international student numbers nor the Albanese government’s immigration projections.

Australian population projection

Both are extreme and will see Australia’s population swell beyond 40 million people in less than 40 years.

At least be honest about the situation, Julie Hare, and stop trying to gaslight your readers.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.