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Question: Support for international students during COVID-19

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:33): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Trade and Investment on the subject of international students.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: As we know in Australia, and prior to the COVID-19 crisis, international education was Australia's third biggest export industry. Indeed, the minister boasted in local media late in 2019 that there were some 36,367 of these international students in South Australia. My questions to the minister are:

1. How many students who are in the category of international students are currently in South Australia?

2. How many arrived in South Australia this year?

3. How many were given subsidies to do so after the pandemic was known?

4. How many are now in a position where they are unable to return home despite the Prime Minister's advice that they do so?

5. How many of the students are tertiary and how many are secondary, and what has the government done to support them?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:34): I thank the honourable member for her long list of questions, a number of which I will have to take on notice as to the actual details of the numbers that are here. I can report that as at 29 March there were 6,733 international students offshore who were unable to travel to Australia and commence their studies, and a substantial number of these students have enrolled online and studied online. I do not have the figures available to me.

I will take on notice as to the actual number of those who have received subsidies or a position after the coronavirus pandemic was declared or announced. But it is important to note that the member opposite is very accurate: the universities are one of our biggest exports. There is a sort of combination in the university sector that accounts for about 50 per cent of our international students. We've got the VET sector, we've got the English learning colleges and we've got, of course, the secondary school sector.

These are challenging times. We know that the federal government has allowed these visa holders and students to access any superannuation that they may have and may have accrued during the time that they are there. The federal government has changed some of the visa settings so students can work from more than 20 hours to 40 hours. We are also working with the sector, and the University of South Australia has announced a $10 million package, Flinders University has announced a $12.5 million package, and I expect Adelaide University will be announcing something shortly. My understanding is that there is a federal government meeting this afternoon with federal minister Tehan discussing a broader national package to support the universities' international students, and the Marshall government will be making some announcements in the future in relation to supporting the sector.

The actual details that the member wants, I will have to take on notice. I think it is important to note that we do have a cohort of students who have lost their jobs, and that about 22 per cent of international students work in hospitality, and 11 per cent of them in retail, and a lot of them have lost their jobs, so there is some financial difficulty that they are facing. That is why I am pleased that the federal government has allowed them to access some of their superannuation, and it will be a matter of making sure that we look after those students. We have given their parents and their countries an undertaking that while they are here studying we will look after them and give them a good education, and certainly that will be the intention of the Marshall government to keep supporting a very important sector.

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