Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Another 'Australia is Unlucky' Story

I did say Australia is an unlucky country, didn’t I? I even had a blog post published on January 21 about it. 

Well, whatever bountiful luck the country used to possess is dissipating. 

Now the Wuhan virus outbreak that is mostly infecting China is haunting Australia too. Financially, that is.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) on Saturday announced that non-citizens – excluding permanent residents and their immediate family members – who arrived from or passed through mainland China within the previous 14 days would be denied entry into the country as part of panicky efforts to halt the spread of 2019-nCoV in the country. 

So, China students who returned home for the Lunar New Year are now unable to return to Australia, with just weeks to go until the start of the new academic year. 

About 150,000 Chinese nationals are enrolled at Australian universities, making up around 11 percent of the student population – a far greater proportion than in Britain and the United States, which came in at 6 percent and 2 percent respectively, in a 2017 report from an Australian think tank. 

Australian universities, some of which rely on Chinese students for nearly one-quarter of their revenue, are bracing to take a major financial hit due to the ban. 

Phil Honeywood, the head of a government task force initially set up to manage the reputation of Australia’s international education sector in the wake of the country’s bush fires crisis, on Sunday warned the ban could cost universities A$8 billion ($5.34 billion) if Chinese students could not enroll for the first semester of the year. 

It is not just impinging on the education sector. 

The ban has sent jitters throughout the tourism industry, which relies on Chinese visitors for a quarter of international spending. Nearly 1.5 million Chinese nationals visited Australia in 2018-19, Australian Bureau of Statistics records show, accounting for about one in eight arrivals. With Chinese tourists spending about A$12 billion ($8 billion) in Australia each year, according to Tourism Research Australia, every month the travel ban remains in place could amount to billion-dollar losses for the sector. 

Tourism Tropical North Queensland on Monday said the outbreak had already cost operators for Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef 25,000 direct bookings worth A$10 million. 

Chief executive Mark Olsen said the situation constituted a crisis for the industry that called for “unprecedented action” by the government. 

David Beirman, senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Technology Sydney, said the ban was especially damaging for the industry as it came on the heels of devastating bush fires that had kept visitors away. 

The Chinese students and tourists are cash cows, period. 

Erin Chew, national convenor of the Asian Australian Alliance called Morrison’s decision an overreaction. He even suggested that it is a form of racial targeting. 

“When previous viruses happened such as mad cow disease or the swine flu, Australia didn’t ban non-citizens from Britain and the US. Nor was the blame placed on the people in [those countries]. Since the coronavirus outbreak it has been coined that this virus is the fault of Chinese people, not just in mainland China, but really all over the world”. 

I can hear tut-tuts of disapproval from the Chinese diaspora!

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