THE international student community has responded to a meeting organised by the Australia First Party that aims to put an end to the Federal Government’s Overseas Student Program. Darren Boon reports.
A public meeting organised by the Australia First Party (AFP) rallying Australian students and families to voice their opposition against the Government’s Overseas Student Program (OSP) has sparked an outcry amongst the international student community.
The meeting first drew criticism amongst present and former international students, as well as local Australians, after user Roy Liu shared a picture of the leaflet he reportedly received in his mailbox in Enmore. The photo has since been shared more than 440 times.
According to his Facebook profile, Mr Liu is from Tianjin, China, and studied at TAFE Sydney Institute, Australian College of Applied Psychology and Georges River College.
Most Facebook users have expressed dismay and anger at the event.
Van Pham, who shared the picture, said: “When I see this, I actually don’t think for myself. I feel extremely sorry [for] them. This still happens in this 21st century: narrow-minded people and small hearts.”
Melburnian Johnny McTiernan said on Facebook, “They demonstrate either an infantile misunderstanding of basic economics, or else outright dishonesty. Education is a major export earner for this country. With near record low unemployment, the additional labour supply has only one effect – to grow our economy and make every Australian more prosperous.”
International student peak body Council of International Students Australia (CISA) president Thomson Ch’ng has expressed his “shock” and “disappointment” at the AFP’s meeting.
“We don’t support these campaigns and we ask international students to stay united when it comes to this kind of challenges in society,” he told Meld.
“It is very important that international students do not overreact to this issue and at the same time look after their own well-being,” Mr Ch’ng added.
Mr Ch’ng also urged major political parties “to come up with a position regarding this issue and give assurance to international students that Australia is still a welcoming place to them”.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Education Christopher Pyne told Meld, “The Australian Government completely repudiates any racism, and any suggestion that international students are not welcome in Australia. They are tremendously welcome.”
The spokesperson added that interaction between international students and the Australian community allow for a deepened “international and intercultural understanding” that is “especially important today”.
Conversely, the AFP has stated that the public meeting is not meant to be offensive nor xenophobic.
Australia First Party’s president Dr Jim Saleam told Meld, “To argue for a future for our people and country is a justified act of self-defence. There is not slightest thought on my part, or our part, that racial hatred is any part of it.”
He also noted that the AFP is not concerned that education is one of Australia’s top export industries, and further warned that the Asian Century is a threat to the Australian identity.
Dr Saleam considers the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s – which allowed international students to study in Australia who will then return to their home countries to aid in their countries’ development – praiseworthy.
However, he also feels many international students “consider education here a ticket to migrate and take on a share of something that we say, isn’t theirs to have”.
Flagging this as a “crisis”, Dr Saleam said that “we Australians are obliged to do what we must”.
The Party eventually hopes to “undermine the credibility” of the OSP. It will coordinate with the Eureka Youth League to promote the Party’s ideology to students in the universities, he said.
The Party also calls for “free universal education with universities open to all based upon merit” and the abolishment of the HECS policy and debts, Dr Saleam said.
This is not the first time the AFP has organised such events. A search revealed that similar anti-overseas education events were held in 2010 and again in 2013.