Tuesday, 16 June 2020
COVID-19: International Students; Order for the Production of Documents
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 674 standing in my name.
I move the motion as amended:
(1) There be laid on the table by 7.20 pm on 17 June 2020:
(a) by the Minister representing the Minister for Education: any documents created, sent or received by the office of the Minister for Education, and by the Department of Education, between and inclusive of 1 March 2020 and 1 May 2020, relating to a national hardship fund, or similar program, payment, or initiative to support international students during COVID-19.
(b) by the Minister representing the Treasurer: any documents created, sent or received by the office of the Treasurer, and by the Department of the Treasury, between and inclusive of 1 March 2020 and 1 May 2020, relating to a national hardship fund, or similar program, payment, or initiative to support international students during COVID-19.
(2) If either or both of the Ministers fail to table the documents required by paragraphs (1), the Minister representing the Minister for Education is required to attend the Senate on 18 June 2020 prior to government business being called on, to provide an explanation of no more than 10 minutes, also on behalf of the Minister representing the Treasurer, of the Government’s failure to table the documents.
(3) Any senator may move to take note of the explanation required by paragraph (2).
(4) Any such motion shall have precedence over all business until determined, and senators may speak to the motion for no more than 10 minutes each.
Australian governments and higher education providers are supporting international students through this pandemic. International students can access support initiatives worth over $1.3 billion from the federal and state and territory governments and universities. Students who have been in Australia longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation. States and territories will be able to put a six-month ban on evictions for both residential and commercial tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has worked with community organisations and providers to ensure students have ongoing access to mental health and welfare support.
I will be supporting the first part of the motion. I'm not supporting the second, third and fourth, because I think the government needs to be given an opportunity to return the documents. After that, whether we see a public interest immunity statement or they don't provide the documents, I might be inclined to support the latter parts.