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Aus: Govt continues step back on regions

Australia’s immigration minister David Coleman has become the latest minister to distance international students from a potential regional migration push, after comments from prime minister Scott Morrison hinted at the possibility.

Coleman's speech is being interpreted as a victory by Australian education stakeholders. Photo: Tyler DustonColeman's speech is being interpreted as a victory by Australian education stakeholders. Photo: Tyler Duston

Honeywood asked partners to keep an open mind on Morrison's government

During a speech at the Migration Institute of Australia’s national conference in Sydney, Coleman spoke on the significant contribution migrants have had to nation building, adding potential changes to policy in the lead up to next year’s election “will have a sharp focus on the economic benefit”.

“The mere floating of a prime minister’s idea can cause media perceptions about any country”

In a move interpreted by stakeholders as evidence the government will not include students in the policy direction, Coleman focused briefly on the industry’s export revenue before reflecting on the “neutral fiscal impact” of migrants outside student and skilled categories.

“International students in Australia generate substantial economic benefits through tuition fees, accommodation and living expenses and expenditure on goods and services,” he said.

“Visits by family and friends of international students also contribute to our tourism, hospitality and retail sectors, both in metropolitan and regional Australia. In 2017, over 230,000 international visitors came to Australia to visit an international student, spending $994m,” he said.

Politically, it’s been an intriguing year for Australian international education, with the industry making headlines as politicians consider its sustainability and the availability of work rights, and concerns persist over tensions with China.

Coleman’s comments join those made by education minister Tehan, who told AIEC delegates he “[wanted] regional Australia to be a greater part of the international education story”.

IEAA chief executive Phil Honeywood said his organisation was delighted there were no changes marked for study visa conditions before the upcoming election.

“Clearly, there’s been a common sense prevail within the government after the recent thought bubble from the prime minister,” he told The PIE News.

As the Australian government continues to allay fears Morrison’s September rhetoric may affect students, however, external media coverage has picked up on the potential for caps and Honeywood asked partners to keep an open mind.

“The mere floating of a prime minister’s idea can cause media perceptions about any country, however, until such time as these policy ideas turn into action, we’re keeping an open mind on where he stands,” he said.

“A positive speech from the immigration minister… is more important than any other minister perhaps entering the prime minister’s thought bubbles.”

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