Australian MP to international students: 'You are welcome here’
Australian MP Julian Hill did not mince his words over the Morrison government's handling of international students amid COVID-19 in parliament recently. Thousands are still unable to return to Australia. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

Australian MP Julian Hill has fired salvos at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government for its handling of international students and not allowing them to return to Australia amid the pandemic, with his remarks drawing support from affected students on social media. Speaking in parliament on Thursday (Feb.18, 2021), Hill had sympathetic words for both students stranded offshore as well those who are still in the country and struggling.

“We have hundreds of thousands of students offshore right now, unable to come into this country, who are still paying those fees, studying offshore and online. I want to say very clearly to those students and to the international students who are here right now, paying top dollar: Thank you,” he said

“Australians are a better people than the way we’ve been represented by our Prime Minister, who has not shown any care, any empathy, any recognition of the plight that you have suffered, the destitution that you have faced, seeing, potentially, the life savings of your families threatened, being chucked out of work, being unable to pay rent, literally starving and relying on food vouchers.”

International students deserve “a lot” better from “this mean, miserable government,” Hill added. “There has been not one word of care from the Prime Minister, just a dismissive, arrogant, narcissistic ‘Go home!’ That embarrassed me and I was ashamed as an Australian at his lack of care,” he said. “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.”

Return to Australia: Students cheer Hill

return to Australia

International students “are paying top dollar” for Australia’s high-quality education but are unable to return to Australia. Source: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

Support has been pouring in on both Facebook and Twitter over Hill’s remarks. On Hill’s Facebook page, user Rezanur Rahman said, “Thank you Hon. Julian Hill for your kind consideration and speech. It is a fantastic speech, and we are very grateful to you. At least one of the Australian politicians has shown some empathy and compassion and respect forward international students’ emotions! Could you please keep trying to get us into Australia to resume our studies?”

Another Facebook user Mark Thomson said, “Julian Hill, you hit any subject on the head with accuracy … well spoken … you are a force and a voice desperately needed in our Parliament right now … keep up speaking the truth … The Australian public is in desperate need of the truth..” Sandeep Kaushik said: “I don’t know why but when you were telling our truth in your speech I was crying. Each and every word is true. I’m stuck overseas for the last year, struggling with finances and depression. The way this government treated us is not good for the PM who represents a country. I really appreciate your efforts Mr. Julian Hill MP for being our voice.”

On Twitter, user lol said, “In fairness, he can’t do much. He has zero control over the borders nor any control over visa extensions. I’m just happy that he’s spoken for us because almost no other politician has done that yet. Him spreading awareness could change the government’s minds (hopefully).”

Andrew Symonds said, “International Students are raising serious concerns. Don’t ignore them and their requests about international borders. You have to give this matter your sympathetic considerations. As a developed nation we should bring our students back.” Another user, Muhammad Shahzaib, said: “Thanks, sir, for your voice in favour of all depressed international students. We hope this will start something positive in Australia’s decisions for international students. More powerful people should help to raise the voice of students.”

Previously, international students petitioned the Australian government for travel exemptions. According to the petition, many university students are struggling with the “bad quality” of online lessons. The petition added, “Lots of students do not have online classes and they have to be exempted to enter Australia to schools as soon as possible.” Australia closed its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents on March 20, 2020. The first flight carrying 63 international students to return to Australia landed in Darwin on Nov. 30, 2020.