AUSTRALIAN opposition spokesman for Universities and Research Brett Mason says an uncertain economy means the Coalition will focus on domestic students if it came into power. Leon Saw reports.
Australian opposition spokesman for Universities and Research and Liberal Senator for Queensland Brett Mason last week told an international student conference his party will be “focusing on domestic students” should it form government.
Senator Mason was responding to a question from a delegate at the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) 2nd National Conference in Brisbane.
The student asked him what initiatives the opposition Coalition had planned to support international students in Australia, should it win power at the next election.
Senator Mason said the focus would be on local students, rather than international students, because of the uncertain global economic outlook.
“Europe and most of the Western world are currently going through a crisis and these issues affect services,” he explained.
He added Australia did not have a lot of money.
“We will only spend what we have,” he said.
“We do not want to borrow and then owe it to someone else.”
Earlier during his keynote speech, Senator Mason – a former international student himself – emphasised the importance of having international students, especially those from Asia, in Australia.
“Australia’s future lies in Asia and the Asia Pacific, not in Europe – that’s some ways away,” he said.
“Australia is not just a minerals and resources, and agricultural superpower. It is also an education superpower.
“We are seen as the world’s mine and food bowl, but we also want to be seen as the world’s lecture theatre.”
Senator Mason was also pressed on issues of concern to international students.
With regards to decreased funding for international student services such as the International Student Legal Advice Clinic, Senator Mason acknowledged the importance and the need for more such services.
“It is a clear job for governments both Federal and State,” he said.
He stressed the issue of transport concessions for international students in New South Wales and Victoria was also up to the respective state governments, when pressed on the issue.
Senator Mason did, however, comment on the safety of international students in Australia when asked about the attacks against Indians in Australia.
“International students provide Australia with a lot of economic benefits,” he said.
“We are commited to your safety.”