WA loses lucrative student cash
But Premier Mark McGowan insists his decision to crack down on migrants was not to blame.
Department of Immigration and Border Affairs figures reveal the number of student visas lodged in WA tumbled 12 per cent in 2016-17.
It was the only State to record a dip as national overseas student numbers grew 4.8 per cent in the same period, led by Tasmania (25.4 per cent), Queensland (12.9 per cent) and NSW (7.6 per cent).
On his first day in power after a thumping election victory, Mr McGowan wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to request WA be removed from the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS).
Then in June, the WA Skilled Migration Occupation List was slashed from 178 to just 18 occupations, the least in Australia.
Coupled with a Federal Government crackdown on 457 visas, they have made it much more difficult for foreigners to find work and apply for permanent residency in Perth.
In November, Mr McGowan led an education and tourism-focused delegation to China and Japan that aimed to bolster international student numbers — a futile exercise unless the visa settings are changed, according to Iscah migration agent Steven O’Neil.
“Someone coming from overseas doesn’t really care if they study in Perth or NSW, in the majority of cases eventually obtaining permanent residency is their primary concern,” he said.
Mr McGowan said the decline had begun under the former Barnett government and that while Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne were also excluded from the RSMS, all three remained popular destinations for foreign students.
“This suggests lower international students numbers in WA can’t simply be linked to Perth’s exclusion from the scheme,” he said. “Until we came into office, there was no international education strategy and this is reflected in the figures. The (new) State Government has committed $2 million over five years to implement a long-term international education strategy to grow WA’s market share.”
Opposition spokeswoman for tourism and small business Libby Mettam said the McGowan Government’s “populist but retrograde” WA Jobs First policy was causing students to bypass Perth.
“The other States recognise the value these students bring to their economies, which is why they all provide great incentives to attract them in terms of State sponsorship — unfortunately WA’s new policies are sending them elsewhere,” she said.
WA Private Education and Training Industry Association’s Robyn Walsh said she was encouraged by Mr McGowan’s efforts to market Perth but the sector was feeling the pinch.
“Across the board there has been a 12 to 15 per cent decline with some training providers down 30 per cent and others 5 per cent,” she said.
Curtin University reported a 3.9 per cent decline in international students in 2017.
UWA recorded an 8.7 per cent increase in overseas students last year.
Source: Perth NOW