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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE Trade Subcommittee
22/05/2009
Australia's trade and investment relations with Asia, the Pacific and Latin America

ACTING CHAIR (Senator Forshaw) —I declare open the second day of our public hearing in Melbourne into Australia’s trade and investment relations with Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, which is being conducted by the Trade Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. We welcome our witnesses. I read out yesterday the requirements of the media, if they are here, to observe the various standing orders. We will get straight into evidence.

Gentlemen, thank you for coming along. The committee prefers that all evidence be given in public. However, if at any stage you wish to give evidence privately, you may ask to do so and the committee will consider that. We do not require evidence to be given on oath but you should still be aware that the hearings are legal proceedings of the parliament and therefore have the same standings as proceedings of the chambers. We have received a submission from you that already has been accepted for publication, and we thank you for that. I invite you to make brief opening statements, and then we will proceed to questions and discussions.

Mr Smith —Senator, thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to be here today to present. I will give just a little bit of background about our organisation. The council represents more than 1,100 members who are actively engaged in higher education, vocational education, English language and senior secondary education. We have members who range from large publicly listed companies to small businesses who operate to deliver training to as few as 20 to 30 people annually.

In terms of international education, more than 700 of our members are engaged in the delivery of international education. Roughly 170,000 students undertake education within those institutions and those 170,000 students are students from overseas who travel to Australia or are students who receive their delivery of education onshore, in their home country. Our members operate in a highly regulated business environment, and rightly so; it is a very important service that they provide to our domestic and international students. In fact, what we do as an industry association is broker the key underwriting service for consumer protection for students who undertake education in Australia from overseas. Roughly 170,000 students receive the education and every one of those students has the quality and continuity of their education underwritten by the industry itself. Our organisation brokers that arrangement.

As an organisation, we have a strategic plan that sets a very ambitious course for us in terms of being able to play a key role in both the quality of education that those students receive—because we believe that the reputation of Australian education overseas is paramount to the trade benefits that Australia receives—and we work very hard to profile the performance and profile the opportunities that our sector, the private sector, affords those students. Specifically on trade, we believe that there are a number of things that are required; we believe that an effective commitment to improving access is vital to the continuation of the industry. We believe that discipline domestic policy setting that looks at a whole range of portfolios is necessary for education, immigration, labour market and foreign affairs as well as trade.

We have some strong beliefs about the importance of transparency and decision making, both offshore and onshore, around regulatory regimes and ensuring that the barriers put in place around trade are transparent and appropriate, but are not detrimental to the performance of Australia as a trading partner. One of the key issues for us is the ability for overseas students to enter Australia to study. An example of a specific concern of ours is the processing of visas and the timeliness of that. We have a number of other countries who are seeking to enter the international education arena and compete directly with Australia. The pace of that increasing competition is growing and we think Australia needs to remain competitive in terms of how it deals with students wishing to come to Australia or to seek an education in Australia.

As I said earlier, we are also very committed to the issue of Australia’s reputation as a trading partner, particularly in our area of international education, and we are very concerned of the performance of a small number of providers around the country. We are doing all we can to address that and we believe that there are opportunities for us to work with others to address that. From our point of view, one of the specific things we have done—I know it is in your papers because it has been submitted—is an analysis of the impact of international education on the Australian economy. It is the first of its kind. It is the first time these figures have been brought together. We intend this to be the beginning of a series of reports that we will do around this area.

It really is about educating the Australian community about the importance of this industry as a trade industry and an export industry for Australia. There are a number of things that we are doing, that we are interested in and that we are concerned about. We are happy to have that conversation with the committee today.

ACTING CHAIR —Thank you. Mr Quirk, do you wish to add any comments?

Mr Quirk —Thank you, Senator. Perhaps I could speak to the report that we undertook with our partners, Access Economics. Andrew has indicated that, as the service underwriter, we understood the need for an evidence based approach to analyse this industry and to better design and manage the impact of this industry upon the economy. As the first of a series in analyses, it has developed an effective data set. I bring the committee’s attention the data collections that we used. Many of those are the Australian government’s own data sets. In using those data sets we have had to make some level of adaptation to generate answers to the questions that we asked. We think that points to an activity that needs to continue and be enhanced.

I also point out that we have drawn upon global data, such as that from UNESCO, to better analyse the position of this industry globally. I will point to some key indicators. The term that we would use for this committee is consumption abroad, which we understand is the common term in trade for students who travel from their home country to Australia. That industry, according to our analysis, is worth $12.6 billion to the Australian economy. There are other figures in circulation but I draw the committee’s attention to those figures incorporating both the onshore consumption abroad figure as well as offshore colleges.

It points to a very healthy industry. Again according to our figures, which are available for the first time as a result of this activity, the industry is responsible for contributing to 126,240 full-time jobs in Australia. I will repeat that: 126.240 full-time employment positions with Australia as a result of this industry. with private provider growth substantially contributing some $5 billion in trade over the period cited in the report. The report certainly points to a very high level of positive impact upon the Australian economy and, may I say, the local economies across Australian states and territories.

In concluding this opening comment, I also bring to the committee’s attention that in 2009 growth in the first quarter in this sector has been just a little above 20 per cent, indicating potentially a counter-cyclical trend in trade, and indicating that this industry is therefore perhaps more resilient in these economic times.

Senator FERGUSON —Could I clarify one figure?

Mr Quirk —Yes.

Senator FERGUSON —Did you say that the inbound education of international students is worth $1 billion to the Australian economy?

Mr Quirk —No, $12.6 billion.

Senator FERGUSON —That sounds better because the figures you have here are $13.7 billion.

Mr Quirk —I beg your pardon.

Senator FERGUSON —And $5.3 billion?

ACTING CHAIR —Which page are you referring to there?

Senator FERGUSON —Page 18 of the submission.

ACTING CHAIR —The report is quite detailed with lots of figures. I thought I heard you say $12.6 billion.

Mr Quirk —Yes, $12.6 billion. I am sorry if I said something different, but certainly it is not $1 billion.

Senator FERGUSON —No, no. I thought I heard you say $1 billion somewhere, and I could not work out where that came from. Sorry.

ACTING CHAIR —I have two quick questions about the organisation of the council. It says in your submission that you have over 1,200 member organisations. What is the size of the sector? Do you represent just about everybody?

Mr Smith —I think there are 4,500 registered training organisations in Australia, so there is quite a number registered and listed. Of those, it is hard to know just how many are still operational. The key point is that in the 1,200 we represent, there is no other organisation that represents more than about 15 or 20 organisations in the sector. We would characterise that we would represent the sector in a way that no organisations does. As I said earlier, adding to that is the key role that we play. We are the only organisation that provides that underwriting of consumer protection arrangements for overseas students.

ACTING CHAIR —Could you just expand on that?

Mr Smith —Sure. Any student coming from overseas to study in Australia is protected. The continuity of delivery is protected under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act. Essentially, it means that if a college is unable to continue to deliver a course for one reason or another, as an industry we take responsibility for those students. We place them in another member college where they can complete their studies and achieve the qualification that they have set out to achieve.

ACTING CHAIR —Right. The second question I wanted to ask is whether the council engages in promotional activity overseas? For instance, I am familiar with what the universities and the TAFE colleges do. In China they are regularly represented there and come together to put on education forums or promotional events on a regular basis. What is happening with your sector?

Mr Smith —I will allow Steve to give you a bit of the detail, but overall there are two things that the private sector does: we actively engage in both promotion of the sector as well as create opportunities for individual institutions to promote their own offerings, and then there are the individual institutions who will take advantage of those or will do their own thing as well, when they see opportunities. But Steve is better placed than I to give some detail about the activities that we undertake.

ACTING CHAIR —I am talking about overseas activities as distinct from in this country.

Mr Quirk —Sure. Thank you, Senator. The council certainly engages in considerable offshore presence and seeks to do so as far as is possible in partnership with government initiatives as well as our colleagues in higher education and other organisations. But we certainly engage in specific activities. Board members frequently lead delegations. We are in close contact with the trade commissioners and the trade commissioner network in the East Asia and Pacific region. We regularly address forums, although I am not sure if that is the right term, of those commissioners. We are well known to them and we engage in substantial exchange.

We engage with, and increasingly so, the education agent forums. We seek to influence the activities of education agents. We are considering a preferred supplier registration arrangement for education agents along with the peak body for that group. We have activities planned for Singapore and China. In fact, our chair is in China within the week and will be at the Sino-Australian joint consultative forum on education and he will be taking the opportunity to engage with authorities in China and with our diplomatic mission in China. We are considering activities at the world agent meeting in Berlin later this year, and we are also considering our presence at the APEC Women’s Leadership Forum. We certainly have a very active presence offshore.

Part of our strategic orientation over the next 12 months is to build brand recognition of the council, particularly its service guarantee as a statement of confidence to hopefully influence consumer behaviour.

Mr HAWKER —Thanks for the presentation. I must admit that those figures are fairly impressive. You mentioned, Mr Smith, that you are concerned about the performance of a small number of providers. Do you have some form of accreditation? Do you have some form of monitoring system so that if you find that someone is not doing the right thing, you can step on it quickly before it does any damage to our reputation?

Mr Smith —Minister, we do, yes.

Mr HAWKER —I must say I am not a minister.

Mr Smith —Sorry. Yes, we do. We have a code of ethics and a set of membership standards by which all members agree to abide. We have a monitoring mechanism internally through our national boards so that if there is any evidence presented to us or if we find that people are not abiding by that code of ethics, we have a range of sanctions we can apply right through to expulsion from membership. One thing that you will understand is that expulsion from membership is quite a serious matter because it no longer allows access to our consumer protection arrangements that we underwrite. It also means that the ability of people to continue to operate in the international education sector is put at risk.

The sanctions can be quite serious for a provider, giving us quite a bit of opportunity to be able to impact on the performance of people. Clearly there is a role for the regulators—a key role for the regulatory agencies at state and territory level. We work closely with those agencies as well as with the central agency, DEEWR, to ensure that it is not only us but a combined effort, if you like, across the three regulatory bodies. One of the threats to the industry is that if those cooperative arrangements are not strengthened, we risk allowing gaps for people to come through.

Mr HAWKER —Could you expand on that? Have you actually expelled anyone?

Mr Smith —We have, yes.

Mr HAWKER —Has that stopped them from continuing to provide a service?

Mr Smith —It has. That has happened in the past. More commonly, though, what we have been able to do is work closely with the providers to improve their performance. We and the regulators have been able to monitor, and we have seen improvements in performance. That is the more common outcome. But certainly we have expelled members. We also have rejected applications for membership from people who for various reasons we consider to be a higher risk category than we would like to see operating in this sector.

Mr HAWKER —You said there are still some gaps. What did you mean by that?

Mr Smith —The legislation that set up this area was set up in the year 2000. As recently as 2005 it was reviewed. A number of the recommendations from that review are yet to be taken up. We also think that the nature of the international education market has changed and that the growth in the last three years, which is almost a doubling, has been an indication of that change. We think that there needs to be a strategic look at tightening up some of the regulatory practices and some of the regulatory framework to recognise the current circumstances. We do not believe it needs wholesale change, but there are some things we have learned over recent years that we could use to strengthen the regime.

Mr HAWKER —Would you be able to give the committee some details of that?

Mr Smith —I certainly can. I can mention a couple of things now, if that will assist.

Mr HAWKER —Yes, please do, provided that the Chairman is happy.

ACTING CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Smith —An example would be the specific requirements around the requirement to refund the students fees. There is a specific requirement that asks a provider to provide a full refund for any fees paid. Even though the example might be somebody who has paid for six months of tuition, and four months into that the provider is unable to continue to deliver, the provider is required to repay the entire six months rather than recognise the work done and refund the two months that has not been paid for. The implication of that, because of the financial pressure on a business, is that in many cases the responsible thing for them to do is for them to go into receivership because they cannot meet that obligation.

In this day and age in which we have very strong recognition of prior learning arrangements, we believe that we can take responsibility for that student and place them elsewhere. They are learning that their value is recognised. The college is responsible for money it has collected but not delivered on. It is less risk of a college being forced into receivership and therefore undermining the reputation of the industry. Another specific example would be simply on the mutual recognition arrangements for students who find themselves wishing to transfer between one state and another. Quite often the arrangements between the states are not such that true mutual recognition occurs, and students find themselves caught out between one provider and another.

A specific example would be a student who studies hairdressing in Victoria in a private college and is 20 years old. They cannot practise in New South Wales until they turn 21, despite having the same qualification as anybody else. To add salt to the wound from our point of view, had that student studied in a public provider, as a 20 year old, they do not need to wait until they turn 21 in New South Wales. There are anomalies around licensing and multi-jurisdictional regulation that need tidying up. We talk a lot about a single national system in Australia with mutual recognition. We have it in writing; we do not necessarily have it in practice.

Mr HAWKER —Would you like to give us a list of this at some stage?

Mr Smith —We certainly can, yes.

Mr HAWKER —Okay.

Mr Smith —We have a number of documents that we can provide that I think we have submitted to a number of bodies, including the Productivity Commission, on this issue.

Mr HAWKER —Yes. Thank you.

ACTING CHAIR —The secretariat will speak to you about providing that. That is good.

Mr Smith —Thanks.

Senator O’BRIEN —I am just looking at the total on 6.6.5 in your submission. Looking at the non-government sector particularly for vocational education and training, you have seen 50 per cent year on year growth in that sector. Can you tell us what areas that growth is occurring in? It seems a phenomenal rate of growth compared to everything else in the table.

Mr Smith —It is growing a whole range of areas. It is fair to say that probably a significant amount of the growth has been driven by the immigration settings and policies of the Australian government that has allowed and encouraged people to come through and fill skilled shortage areas. A lot of that growth has been students coming to Australia and identifying the opportunity to undertake a qualification in a skills shortage area and going on to seek a residency outcome in Australia. Roughly one in five students who come to Australia to study seeks that outcome. That is certainly one of the key drivers. The other has been simply the increase in supply as well. The demand has been there for some time. The Australian government has invested heavily in promotion and increasing demand. What we have been able to see is the response of the private sector in meeting that demand by increasing supply.

The range of areas vary from high capital intensive areas, such as commercial cookery where you have the requirement for specific equipment, through to accounting, information technology and some of the more professional services that perhaps have a lower capital investment but have been very much in demand in Australia for some years now.

Senator O’BRIEN —Where can we get a breakdown of the figures that comprise these areas so that we can understand the growth.

Mr Quirk —Senator, certainly I can provide that. We will provide that breakdown for you.

Senator O’BRIEN —Thank you.

Mr Quirk —Could I add that the other drivers across the sector that we will submit to the committee for consideration include the growth in private markets with the emergence of the middle class, and therefore the purchase of services such as education; secondly, the emergence of a significant financial services hub in the region, prompting the requirement for skills and professionals in the finance industry as well as skills in terms of accounting; and, thirdly, the growth of service sector economies in the region, prompting skill shortages and skill demands for service sector related skills. That will be reflected in the data that we can present you with.

Senator O’BRIEN —The other thing you touched on was the issue of visa rights and access. Are there any particular areas or countries of origin where those issues are significant barriers to participation in our education sector? Do you have any comments about those barriers?

Mr Quirk —Thank you, Senator. I will respond, if I may. A specific example would be, for example, Nepal where the visa arrangements, which require bank guarantees, are restricted to two banks, effectively creating a backlog of intending students, but onshore in Nepal preventing their entry to Australia. That is a very good example, and it is an example of a covert regulatory practice.

Senator O’BRIEN —Do you mean that it is a barrier that is not supposed to be a barrier, according to the rules. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Quirk —Thank you, Senator. I think you have put that very well.

Senator O’BRIEN —That is what you are saying!

Mr Quirk —Senator, the other more general comment I would make is that there are delays in processing student visas. They have improved dramatically but still fall short of our competitors, particularly Canada. It makes interesting reading to read through Study Canada’s website, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the imagery, the emblems and the icons of the Study Australia website.

Senator O’BRIEN —The same consultant, perhaps?

Mr Quirk —Very possibly, Senator. But the lead time for the processing of students to come onshore and commence study is much shorter, and that is an opportunity. While I am talking about Canada, it is interesting that most of its provinces provide for health cover of students under the statutory health cover that is available in Canada. We are not proposing that for Australia, but it just gives an indication of the statutory arrangements that exist in countries who are our competitors for this space.

Senator O’BRIEN —I had a special interest in South America. Are there any particular issues there that you would highlight in terms of immigration or other barrier issues?

Mr Quirk —Thank you, Senator. South America represents a very significant opportunity for Australia. There is a significant capacity that is not yet exploited particularly with respect to English language development with a higher profile of English readiness. I am not suggesting high levels of English literature in South America, but I am suggesting a capacity to learn English in South America. Some economic indicators in South America would suggest that the Australian education system and capability are well poised to provide and therefore exploit.

There is also a cultural connection between the two countries and some shared cultural heritage that could be better exploited. With respect to specific opportunities, Senator, certainly in the growth areas of what is referred to in the data as community studies, which are the enabling professions and allied health, there are very significant opportunities in South America which we would be delighted to work with trade in developing.

Senator FERGUSON —Just following on from that, Senator O’Brien and I were part of a trade committee visit to South America nine years ago. They said exactly the same things to us then—you know, there were wonderful opportunities. One of the impediments, if I remember rightly and Senator O’Brien might be able to help me if I am wrong, was that in some countries in South America there were some difficulties in obtaining visas to study in Australia, partly because the countries had a poor record of overstay. I am wondering whether that is still an issue with some students who wish to come here from South America.

Mr Quirk —We have developed very close and positive working relationships with the senior officers of DIAC. We have data from them concerning at risk countries and overstay. We understand that while there may be issues within South America, they do not represent the major risks that keep DIAC busy, as they put it to us. If there have been issues in South America, we understand them to be more episodic than systemic.

Senator FERGUSON —You raised the issue of Canada, which is the area that I wanted to ask a question about because in your table 5.1 on page 15, where you give a table indicating where students are travelling overseas to study. I was quite staggered to see how few students go to Canada compared to other comparable countries. You see that they have the same website as us, or a similar advertising arrangement. Do you have any idea why Canada does not do as well as does Australia in attracting overseas students?

Mr Smith —Just as an initial comment, Senator, it would be that Canada is one of a small number of countries that has suffered some severe shocks to their market some recent years ago, but have now overcome those and are really starting to use every possible policy lever they can to recover their ground.

Senator FERGUSON —What were the shocks?

Mr Smith —Steve will know a lot more about what has happened in those particular markets.

Mr Quirk —I am sorry your question is?

Senator FERGUSON —Why do they do so poorly?

Mr Quirk —Why do they do so poorly, despite their policy setting?

Senator FERGUSON —Yes.

Mr Quirk —There is the dual society, the two languages. Therefore providers are having to manage that set of circumstances. Even though Canada is in the American continent, there is a question of location and isolation. Frankly, the student population movement, which we have identified in our report, is substantially from the East Asia region in particular, and there is a question of climate. There are structural issues that are impacting on Canada’s capacity, but the point I would want to make to this committee is that their numbers are turning around dramatically. There are incentives that are being offered by Canada that we would be wise to observe.

We have probably had the opportunity, as Andrew said, of creating considerable market share compared to much larger nations, such as the United States and the UK, but we have probably done so in an environment where foreign policy settings by those countries have had to contend with significant other issues. We have therefore secured market share in a space that has had less attention. That situation will not continue into the future. We will face considerably more pressure from particularly those larger nations, but we are already seeing it from Canada in our foreign activities.

Senator FERGUSON —I also notice that we have a fair percentage of intensive English language courses.

Mr Quirk —Yes, we do.

Senator FERGUSON —I guess the student are predominantly from Asia, but I think the Koreans in particular, if I remember rightly, have a significant number of people who are just here for 12 months intensive language study and then go back. Do other English-speaking countries like the UK or the United States have the same percentage of people who just want to do an intensive English language course instead of rather more lengthy tertiary study?

Mr Quirk —Senator, the answer to the question is that Australia has done very well in branding itself as an English development nation where people attend in large numbers. But the specific question you have asked is: do other countries perform as well? Certainly, the US and the UK do very well with English development, and, dare I say it at the risk of raising a smile, so does Malta. It is a very pleasant environment with very pleasant people, and it is a very youth oriented place. There are many attractions for those able to pay the cost to learn their English in Malta.

Senator FERGUSON —Has the financial downturn impacted greatly on people who are coming out here for short-term courses, like English language?

Mr Quirk —It does not appear to, Senator. The indicator is that Australia’s English language development branding is recognised. I will give you a figure of 40 per cent whereas comparative competitors are around 20 per cent. The English language development figures appear to be resilient and appear to be growing at the rate that we indicated generally in my opening comment, which is about 20 per cent growth.

Senator FERGUSON —Thanks, Chair.

ACTING CHAIR —Mr Murphy?

Mr MURPHY —Mr Smith, in your opening statement, you identified the problems in relation to improving access to the education sector in Australia. I presume when Mr Quirk identified the problems with visas and the Nepalese experience, that is probably one of the biggest impediments. Are there any other significant barriers to improving access to our education sector in Australia, apart from the problems with visas?

Mr Smith —I think there are some problems around being able to manage the supply and grow the supply onshore here in Australia. I come back to earlier comments around regulatory regimes and so on. We have a private sector that is actually quite nimble and able to move quickly in terms of their business models to be able to meet demand from overseas. That is often slowed down significantly by regulatory regimes and the time lines that are associated with seeking approvals to either increase numbers or increase the range of courses that colleges may offer. So we do slow our providers down quite significantly in being able to respond.

Another thing that we need to look at in terms of being able to respond more quickly to overseas markets is that our market information and our market data is sound, but it does not look closely enough at some specific issues, such as student engagement and student experience. What we are starting to see now is a range of anecdotal stories about student experience. The evidence that would suggest—and we are embarking on some work in this area—that the student experience is actually exceptionally positive. What we need to do is make sure that our students are well educated about the information they receive about coming to Australia, which leads me to a third issue—the way that education agents operate in this space.

There is very strong involvement of education agents who can recruit students to come to Australia. That is a key part of the sector. There are many people who do it exceptionally well. But there are some people whose information they provide to the students is not as extensive or accurate as we might like it to be. Certainly information availability to students who are seeking to study in Australia is an area in which I believe we could do some better work as a country.

Mr MURPHY —That is good. Your market data is sound, but that leads to another question I want to ask. Tourism Research Australia does international visitor surveys. I am wondering how sound its data is. When you look at table 2.3 on page five of the submission, it even drills down to how much our international student visitors spend on horse racing, gambling and entertainment. Being a punter and no always honest about one’s losses, I am wondering how sound that data is. It creates a significant contribution to the economy—$4.2 million, which is an extraordinary amount. I do not know whether that goes to Flemington or Crown Casino.

ACTING CHAIR —Turnover?

Mr MURPHY —That would be turnover. I would be interested to have a look at that international visitor survey and how they are ask those questions.

ACTING CHAIR —They own most of the Melbourne Cup, so it is probably the races.

Mr Smith —I think the point that we are trying to make to you is that it would be good to know a little more about what the specific questions are. Our intention here was to demonstrate just how broad the impact of this trade and export industry is across the Australian economy. My colleague, Mr Quirk, mentioned 126,000 jobs and there is a percentage of those, roughly 33,000, that are created within the education industry itself. Clearly the impact financially and in the employment sense across the entire community, including the horse racing and gambling industry, is significant.

Mr MURPHY —People probably indicate how much their turnover is, but not what the outcome is. Just one final question: this is a very good report because you give a lot of very valuable data about expenditure by the students and the contribution they make to the Australian economy while they are there. You also have tables about the flow-on effects from visits by family members and friends during the duration of their studies in Australia.

Do you have any further data down the track, for example, over five years or a decade or even longer? It is my experience from working in this area, and I was there recently, and from meeting a lot of people who have studied in Australia that they keep advertising our country. Moreover, they come back to Australia, even if it is five or 10 years down the track or even longer, and so perhaps do their family members and friends because of the promotion they do of our country, having had such a great experience in Australia. I wonder if there is any data on that as well. There is nothing like someone visiting a country and then talking about it for the next 50 years.

Mr Smith —There are a couple of important points there. One is that, as you say and as I mentioned earlier, roughly one in five students who come here to study seek to stay in Australia, but four out of five go back to their home country, enrich their own community and, I am sure, talk very positively about their experience in Australia. They are probably as powerful as any other marketing or branding that Australia might do overseas. It is fair to say that this is the first of these reports that has been done. We are looking at this being a starting point for a number of reports. Steve will know a lot more about what is already in the market, but I think the suggestion that find out what is the value of that export of knowledge and experience is certainly something that we should consider.

Mr MURPHY —It is my experience. I suggest that some further future follow-up surveys should be done of these students, say, 10 years after they have gone back to their country and find out what connection they have had with out country and with their family and friends.

Mr Smith —Thank you.

Mr MURPHY —Thank you.

Mr HAWKER —I am just following up some comments. You spoke earlier about Canada offering incentives. I think you mentioned health care, and I am wondering whether there are any others that you might be able to elaborate on.

Mr Quirk —Thank you, Mr Hawker. Your question is specific to Canada.

Mr HAWKER —Yes. You mentioned that.

Mr Quirk —Sure, okay. Thank you. Canada provides a suite of scholarships for international students that they can apply for and indeed scholarships that can be applied for, once resident in Canada. Depending on the set of criteria, there are discounts and fast-tracking of visas and entry requirements. There is a third visa scholarship practice—the facilitation of employment while they are students. It is seen as a positive and as an economic multiplier, whereas in Australia there is a tendency to think of such employment as taking jobs of Australians.

Mr HAWKER —Those scholarships are offered under their aid program?

Mr Quirk —No.

Mr HAWKER —They were government scholarships?

Mr Quirk —Certainly government scholarships and government incentives to providers to provide scholarships.

ACTING CHAIR —If there is any more information that comes to mind on that and other countries, that would be helpful because we are in a competitive market and it is handy to know what other countries are doing.

Senator FERGUSON —Thank you for an excellent submission.

ACTING CHAIR —Yes, it is very good, thank you. If there are no further questions, thank you also for coming along. It has been an interesting discussion. As we know and as Access Economics says, education services are now our third biggest export earner. I can recall a few years back that it was our fourth biggest, so it is improving. I should also seek a motion to be moved that the material from Access Economics and the two-page summary of the council be accepted as an exhibit.

Mr MURPHY —I so move.

ACTING CHAIR —I declare that carried. Thank you, gentlemen. If there are any further matters, the secretariat will speak to you about providing that additional information that we referred to earlier. You will receive a copy of the transcript, which you can check for corrections and errors of transcription, and please check with Hansard on whether there are any issues. The committee will adjourn for a short time.

[10.53 am]