Julian Hill’s impassioned speech during debate on the amendments to the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Refunds of Charges and Other Measures) Bill 2020 has drawn praise from students and Australian citizens alike.
“We look forward to the day where students are able to come back onshore and study in our communities”
“Students enrich all of our cities, our regions. They enrich our communities and our campuses and places of study. They make our places more vibrant. [International education] is also our fourth biggest export sector worth more than $40 billion a year in export revenue to this country,” the Labor Party MP for Bruce in Melbourne said.
“The soft power though that we have accrued over decades to this nation as a result of international education is incalculable. We have educated onshore in their formative years more than one million people from South East Asia in our region. You could not put value on that if you tried.
“And of course, the human capital, the talent that Australia has retained over many decades from people who’ve come here and decided to fall in love, stay, build a life in our country is a wonderful thing for our country,” he told parliament.
Hill accused the government of failing international education and students, and singled out the prime minister for a ‘lack of empathy for international students’.
“Australians are a better people than we’ve been represented by our prime minister, who has not shown any care, any empathy, any recognition of the plight that you suffered, the destitution that students have faced, saying potentially life savings that their families threatened, being chucked out of work, being unable to pay their rent.
“They are literally starving and relying on food vouchers, and not one word of care from the prime minister… that embarrassed me and I was ashamed as an Australian at his lack of care.
“International students deserved a lot better than they’ve had from this mean, miserable government, and it does not represent the views of Australians. You are welcome here. And we look forward to the day where students are able to come back onshore and study in our communities.”
He reiterated calls from peak bodies which he says have continually fallen on “deaf ears” asking for measures including positive messaging from the government to students, an indicative return date, and targeted financial support for the sector.
“Imagine the plight of a fourth or fifth year dental student who’s invested hundreds of thousands of dollars – more than their entire family’s wealth in their future – [and it’s] their last year and they’re unable to come back onshore and complete it,” Hill added.
“They’re distraught. Students have told us ‘we’ve seen cases of literally attempting suicide’ because they feel they have no future left, a little empathy, a little hope at least to help people get through these circumstances.”
The video of Hill’s speech has been shared more than 2,000 times on social media and attracted in excess of 6,000 positive comments and ‘likes’.
The federal government did not respond to Hill’s comments.