That's what they tell us. They said that the minister—you were the immigration minister. That's what the sector believes, that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were personally hostile to this sector, and any minister who took anything to cabinet to try and do something got thrown out: 'No, we're not interested. We're hostile to this sector.' The CEO of this accommodation provider told me very clearly that the day after the Prime Minister said, 'If you don't like it, go home,' he had students lining up at the front desk taking that literally, saying, 'I have to check out. The Prime Minister told me to go home.' Many of these students fall in love with Australia and Australians.
We should show more compassion and a bit of care and empathy. TEQSA has a role in this, but there are also whole-of-government considerations.
I've spoken in other forums and other places about the students stranded offshore, the billions of dollars lost and the lives destroyed, but I want also to place on the record that there's another group of students, not the current or prospective students but the students who've already made that investment in Australia and who, frankly, were sold a promise by the government that if they studied here for three years or four years or whatever the period was, they'd get a graduate 485 visa and be allowed to stay and work in Australia for one year or two years as the case might be.
The government should do the right thing by these students and actually commit that it will extend, renew or allow students to enter when the borders are open and it's safe to do so. We've got tens of thousands of students around the world trashing Australia's reputation. They feel misled. They feel abandoned by the government, which can't even extend them an olive branch and say, 'We know you've invested in Australia. We know we made you a promise. We will honour that promise. We may not be able to do it now, but we will honour it.' It's not a difficult thing to do, and it would help to restore some of our international reputation.
This is a sector that relies on word of mouth. I'm sure the minister would agree with that. This is a sector which relies overwhelmingly on word of mouth from former students who've studied here and from current students saying to their mates and their families back home: 'Australia's a good place to come and study. You should come here.' That's what marketing of international education is fundamentally about. But the word of mouth right now for Australia is being trashed.
A very small thing that the government could do is extend that olive branch to students who have a 485 visa or have post-study work rights and say that they will be allowed to come back.