Australia’s universities, which are reliant on international students for a significant chunk of their funding, and farms that use backpacker labour for their harvests have been desperate for the return of migrants and travellers.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the announcement was great news for more than 130,000 students locked out due to the more than 18-month long border closure.
“They want nothing more than to re-join their classmates in Australia,” she said. “We look forward to further detail so we can work quickly to get students back for first semester next year.”
Mr Morrison also announced that vaccinated travellers from Japan and Korea will be allowed to come into Australia quarantine-free into states that have abolished quarantine requirements, in an expansion the travel bubble program already established with Singapore. The first flights of Singaporean tourists, students, and relatives of Australian residents and citizens arrived in Sydney and Melbourne on Sunday.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the government was working on a figure of 200,000 arrivals in the coming months, adding: “it may well be more than that, but we will be actively looking to bring as many people into Australia as soon as we possibly can”.
She said the visa holders would be required to abide by the quarantine arrangements of the state or territory they enter or seek to move to, with those arriving in NSW, Victoria or the ACT allowed to enter without quarantining.
“Now at this point in time the arrangements for quarantine around Australia are very different,” Ms Andrews said.
Queensland, for example, intends to require international students to quarantine in small cabins at the state’s go-it-alone Wellcamp facility, currently being built by the Wagner Corporation outside Toowoomba.
Western Australia’s internal border remains closed to NSW and Victorian residents, with Premier Mark McGowan setting a 90 per cent vaccination rate before entry restrictions will be lifted, expected late January or February.