The Andrews Labor Government must finally put in place a plan for the safe return of international students to Victoria.

International students are vital for Victoria’s economy, sustaining 80,000 jobs, many in our decimated small business sector. The Victorian international education market – pre COVID – was worth $14 billion every year.

Many Victorians are unemployed today directly because of the absence of international students – 165,000 of whom are stranded overseas, desperate to return.

International students are also critical for the viability of our world-leading universities, which were hit with tens of millions of dollars of increased payroll tax in the recent State Budget.

The Liberal Nationals have been calling for a plan to see the safe return of international students since last November. At that time the Labor Government committed to their return “from early 2021”.

However, while other states – notably South Australia and New South Wales – have well-developed plans, the Andrews Labor Government has done nothing.

So, after consulting the tertiary sector and business groups, the Liberal Nationals are calling for a plan that would see:

  1. the establishment of a pilot program for small numbers of international students to safely return;
  2. scaling up of international student numbers to the extent that is safe;
  3. additional quarantine capacity for returning students – above that which is needed for returning Victorians.

A plan with these key elements should be submitted to Federal Minister for Education, Alan Tudge, as a matter of priority.

There is no reason why the recent announcements from the national cabinet, about reductions in the planned number of international arrivals, should further delay the submission of a Victorian plan to the Federal Government.

For the sake of our small businesses, which continue to suffer, and of our universities – which rely on international students – we must develop a plan for their return.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Training and Skills, Matt Bach:

“After many months of dithering, its high time for the Andrews Labor Government to put in place a plan for the safe return of international students.

“If they don’t, many more Victorian jobs will be lost, both at our universities and in small businesses.

“Victorians need a safe pair of hands and a post-COVID-19 plan rather than running Victoria’s finances on a wing and a prayer.”