The NSW Treasurer thinks more flight spots should go to international students, as the state’s uni sector continues to struggle

Investors are looking calm amid the coronavirus (Photo by Will Lester via Getty Images)
  • The NSW Treasurer wants to prioritise international students on the limited flights to Sydney, under a new proposal reported by the ABC.
  • Education is Australia’s fourth-largest export market, and NSW is particularly exposed to the coronavirus downturn.
  • Data published earlier this year shows that only 130 new and returning international students entered Australia in October 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Overseas Australians hoping to return home might be pushed even further down the queue if the NSW Treasurer has his way.

NSW Treasurer Dom Perrottet wants to prioritise international students on the limited flights to Sydney, under a new proposal first reported by the ABC.

Education for international students is the country’s 4th-largest export – worth more than even tourism. Perrottet pointed to that fact as reason for why international students should be prioritised.

“We understand the politics behind prioritising Australians returning home but there are our own people here who rely on education exports to provide for their family and make a living,” he told the ABC.

While Perrottet acknowledged the impact this would have on returning travellers — more than 39,000 Australians are still stranded overseas — but said he still wanted to amend who got a seat on the limited flights coming into Sydney.

“We believe it would make sense to use some of the cap to bring back international students,” he said, adding that it doesn’t have to be a huge amount and the numbers can be scaled up over time.

Not only is it imperative that NSW return international students to study in the state, the treasurer said matters were further complicated by the fact that NSW is still taking the “lion’s share” of returning Australians.

3,000 Australians from overseas are currently returning to NSW every week, while Victoria has cancelled all international arrivals and Queensland takes about 1,000.

He thinks the change will make a huge difference to the NSW economy, particularly after the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme drops off on March 31.

“What we would like to do is ensure we have international students forming a component of that so we can support that aspect of our economy … it is one that is very important for many people who rely on this aspect of the economy to make a living,” he said.

Desperately seeking solutions

The statement by the Treasurer follows NSW’s attempt on Tuesday to have Tasmania accept its returning international students in an attempt to sidestep NSW incoming travel caps.

The entreaty was rejected by Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein a mere two hours after the idea was floated publically in parliament, highlighting the increasingly diminishing options for state governments seeking to reinflate their flagging higher education sectors.

“At this time, however, we have advised this is not under consideration, with our priority remaining the safe management of seasonal workers entering the state and our own international students when public health advice is that it is safe to do so,” Gutwein said.

Data published earlier this year shows that only 130 new and returning international students entered Australia in October 2020, compared with 51,000 in October 2019.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.