This follows the announcement by acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, that students who had been working in the country would be able to access up to AU$10,000 of savings via their superannuation (pension) scheme.
“[The] City of Melbourne is the first government in Australia to pledge support for a hardship fund for international students and we have asked officers for urgent advice on what form that takes,” said councillor Nicholas Reece.
Reece referred to prime minister Morrisson’s comments last week explaining that international students were not eligible for financial support.
“If most of these students went home, it could destroy a $41 billion dollar industry”
“They were a punch on a bruise for the international students of Melbourne,” he said.
Since Morrisson’s comments, Australia made the further concession to help cash-strapped students. Speaking with ABC News 24, Tudge said, “We’ll be working as quickly as possible for those residents to be able to get that [money].
“And again, it’s keeping with that principle of when they are here, they should be able to look after themselves,” he added.
Acknowledging that there were 185,000 people on temporary work visas with superannuation, Tudge said, “If you’ve been a skilled visa holder for a couple of years, you may well have $10,000 or $20,000 in superannuation which you’ve already accumulated.
That can help you get through to the other side, so that then you can be fully re-engaged again if, in fact, you have had your hours reduced or are being stood down.
IEAA’s chief executive, Phil Honeywood, commented that he had been in conversations with education minister Dan Tehan and Tudge and “I am confident that they strongly support our sector”.
But IEAA has written a letter to the PM requesting the establishment of a national hardship fund.
“Given the lack of any political appetite from the major parties to permit international students’ access to welfare programs currently available to Australian citizens, a National Hardship Fund appears to be our best way forward,” Honeywood wrote.
The Green party however did state they would back the country’s 500,000+ international student community “by introducing amendments to make temporary visa holders eligible for the JobKeeper scheme”.
CISA, the organisation representing international students across the country, is adding its voice to the chorus.
Kevin McKenna, president of the WA chapter, CISWA, told The PIE News he was very concerned about the situation.
“International students are very different from tourists and backpackers”
“Many [students] now have no means of support, no opportunity to return home and no assistance from our government.”
“It is understandable that the Prime Minister is putting Australians first when considering policies that help to keep people employed but international students are very different from tourists and backpackers,” stated CISWA.
“The international education industry is Australia’s largest export service industry and is responsible for supporting 260,000 jobs. If most of these students went home, it could destroy a $41 billion dollar industry.”
In other moves, Australia’s PM Scott Morrisson spoke with Indian PM Narendra Modi within 48 hours of news coverage of his response on financial support for international students in Australia.
“Prime Minister Morrison similarly assured [Modi] that the Indian community in Australia, including Indian students, would continue to be valued as a vibrant part of Australian society,” reported the government of India’s press bureau.
A “No worker left behind” campaign also gained traction, with a coalition of 124 unions, religious groups and charities calling on the federal government to include temporary migrant workers impacted by the coronavirus crisis in its JobKeeper program.