One Nation senator Pauline Hanson has suggested that overseas students should be banned from working to support themselves while studying in Australia, in a bid to shore up local employment.
Appearing on Sky News television, Ms Hanson hit out at the foreign student visa that allows students to work a certain number of hours while they are studying.
“Yes, it does prop up our economy. Yes, we do get a lot of money out of it. But what I have a concern about [is that] these people are supposed to be self-supporting when they come into Australia. But they are given the opportunity … to do 20 hours’ work a week, and they can actually have unlimited work when they are not studying,” she said.
“That is wrong, because that is impacting on the other Australians getting jobs.
Ms Hanson said she is not against foreign students coming to Australia to study, but that student visas should not be confused with working visas.
“Come out here, do your studies; but work visas, no,” she said.
“This is something that I am actually reviewing at the moment and I think that needs to be discussed.”
According to the Study in Australia website, most student visas permit holders to work up to 40 hours per fortnight while courses are in session, and unlimited hours at other times.
Any such ban could have a particular impact on businesses that operate on or near university campuses – such as shops, cafes, bars and tutoring services – as well as the agricultural sector which relies on students, as well as short-term holidaymakers from overseas, picking fruit while on study breaks.
The senator’s comments come at a time when immigration is a sensitive issue for the business community, given that the 457 temporary skills visa was recently phased out and replaced by a much stricter scheme.
Last month, Ryan Murtagh of Telstra-backed software company Neto hit out at the new Global Talent Scheme, claiming it ignores the needs of mid-sized firms.
“The beneficiaries will only be the larger tech companies or start-ups. The businesses stuck in between, what would be classified as small-to-medium (or SMBs), will likely struggle with the $180,000 threshold,” Mr Murtagh said.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.