Civil servants given ‘BBQ conversation’ talking points for Armidale relocation

Civil servants at the nation’s chemical regulator have been sent a series of glib “BBQ conversation” talking points to use when discussing the agency’s relocation to Northern NSW with friends and family.

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The government announced last year the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) would move from Canberra to Armidale in 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has championed the $25 million relocation, saying it would help decentralise metropolitan-based government agencies and boost jobs in the country.

But the authority has struggled to get staff onboard, with a relocation strategy published in November last year suggesting only 10-15 per cent of staff would move to the new hub. 

A senate estimates hearing heard in February that 20 out of 100 scientists have already left the agency.

Now, employees have been given official talking points to use in social settings when discussing the relocation.

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“My friends have asked me many questions about the relocation since the announcement was made last year, and I’m sure this is a similar experience for everyone in our agency,” chief operating officer Stefanie Janiec wrote in the email dated April 7.

“These talking points have been crafted to help you with something we all refer to as the BBQ conversation.”

She continued: “Easter is just around the corner and I’m sure there are many BBQ opportunities where you can use these points to practice and build confidence talking about our relocation.”

Under a section “scripts and standard words”, a series of bullet points offer conversation suggestions to use for “all audiences”.

One piece of BBQ banter includes: “It’s no secret that the agency is changing – and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

The talking points, which were first reported by the Canberra Times but have been seen by SBS News, also offer scripted lines for staff who are unsure if they’re relocating or staying put.

Employees unsure if they will make the move are advised to say, “I’m listening to what our executive have to say about the transition, but for the moment I’m getting on with the job.”

Call centre staff were also provided with talking points to help them inform and placate callers with enquiries.

APVMA chief executive Kareena Arthy sent an email to staff on Wednesday following the publication of the talking points. She said they were “more of a guide and not compulsory.”

“This is standard internal communication practice for organisations,” she said.

“This is just one of the ways ways the APVMA is keeping staff in the loop about changes and developments as the agency prepares for the relocation to Armidale by 2019.”

THE FEED: Could you move to Tamworth?

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New push to move more agencies to regions

The Turnbull government has launched a new push for government departments to move to the regions, with ministers to report back by August on which agencies would be suitable.

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As the controversial decision to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s electorate continues to create headlines, Fiona Nash has revealed more moves are in the coalition’s sights.

The regional development minister will by mid-year develop a template for ministers to assess which other public servants could also be relocated.

“All portfolio ministers will be required to report back to cabinet by August on which of their departments, functions or entities are suitable,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Business cases would have to follow by December.

The minister said there would be cost-benefit analyses conducted for all agencies involved, but she was hesitant to say whether the findings would be made public.

“My expectation is that it would be, but clearly that’s not a decision just for me,” she said.

Senator Nash insists moving government bodies to the regions means more people in regional towns, shops and more volunteers for the local fire brigade.

It is also a smart tactic in the housing affordability battle as it relieves pressure on capital cities and creates the lure of quality careers in the country, she said.

Asked what the government could do to ensure agency relocations weren’t dismantled by a future government, Senator Nash said she was hoping for a level of bipartisan support.

“We are not talking about doing radical things. We are talking about making sensible and balanced decisions about investing in regional Australia and decentralisation being part of that,” she said.

“I would hope all good and sensible colleagues in other parties would have that same view as well.”

The deputy Nationals leader also outlined how the government was working with business to discuss ways of encouraging companies to relocate.

Last week she talked to business groups about corporate decentralisation.

Ideas raised during the meeting included mapping out regional populations and what services are available to help employers find areas they could relocate to.

Salt makes you hungry not thirsty: study

Salt actually makes you hungrier not thirstier, according to a new study.

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German researchers at the Max Delburck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) studied two separate groups of 10 men during a simulation of a trip to Mars at the German Aerospace Center.

Over 200 days the “Cosmonauts” were given identical diets except for their salt intake.

Results of the investigations published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that a salty diet actually caused the men on the high salt diets to drink less.

The men who ate more salt, retained more water, weren’t as thirsty and needed more energy, according to the findings.

Scientists have known that increasing a person’s salt intake stimulates the production of urine and it has been assumed that the extra fluid comes from drinking more because they were thirsty.

But it now appears that salt triggers a mechanism in the kidney that causes the kidneys to hold onto water and produce urea – a process which consumes energy, causing hunger not thirst.

“Nature has apparently found a way to conserve water that would otherwise be carried away into the urine by salt,” said Professor Freidrich Luft from the MDC.

Studies in mice have previously hinted that the production of urea was responsible for this increased appetite, Prof Luft added.

Urea is a compound and is the end product of protein metabolism. It is formed in the liver and excreted by the kidneys in the urine.

It is generally thought of as a waste product but Prof Luft said that’s wrong.

“Instead it turns out to be a very important osmolyte, a compound that binds to water and helps transport it,” said Prof Luft.

“Its function is to keep water in when out bodies get rid of salt.”

England prevail in a second thriller against Pumas

For the second successive week, Eddie Jones’s tourists prevailed in a see-saw try-fest, crossing the line four times through Charlie Ewels, Piers Francis, Danny Care and Will Collier.

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The cool playmaking and kicking of flyhalf George Ford, who compiled 15 points capped by his decisive 74th-minute drop goal, was also instrumental as the match lay in the balance going into the last quarter.

Argentina, who lost a remarkable first test 38-34 in San Juan, again had their moments at the Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez, holding the initiative midway through the first half and scoring three tries themselves through Joaquin Tuculet, Pablo Matera and Emiliano Boffelli.

Yet after Ford’s drop goal at last gave the Six Nations champions breathing space, England repelled the Pumas’ final push as they sought in vain to become only the second team to beat Jones’s side in his 20-match reign.

“I think we found a way to score points. Today wasn’t a great performance but we maximised any errors Argentina made,” Jones said afterwards.

“It’s always good to win, especially against a tough opponent like Argentina. They should be congratulated for the rugby they play.”

The match proved as open, fast and as the first Test had been with the result still impossible to call after Boffelli’s converted try on the hour made it 25-25.

Yet a driven line-out, finished by replacement Collier, edged England ahead for the fifth and last time in the match, before Ford’s drop goal.

England’s youngsters — they blooded 11 new caps on this tour — then held firm to clinch only England’s second series win in Argentina.

Yet experience won the day too with Ford and Care both excellent at controlling affairs behind the scrum and fullback Mike Brown producing two pieces of counter-attacking brilliance to set up the tries for Francis and Care.

(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)

Scotland to leapfrog Wallabies in rankings

Tired of being Scotland the brave, now Gregor Townsend’s men are poised to be officially better than Australia for the first time after a stirring 24-19 win over the Wallabies in Sydney.

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In a redemption of sorts for a controversial one-point loss to the Wallabies in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, the Scots are set to climb to fourth in the world rankings on Monday, with Australia in danger of slipping from third to as low as sixth.

“We talk about how the Scots are brave and all that sort of stuff but I don’t think we speak enough about the skills that the guys have,” elated captain John Barclay said.

“Look at the tries we’re scoring and I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s underplayed sometimes.”

In reality, Scotland’s first two tries, coming from a sloppy intercept pass from Tatafu Polota-Nau and then a charged down kick from Will Genia, were first-half gifts at Allianz Stadium.

But Hamish Watson’s match-winner was a gem, the flanker finishing off some beautiful lead-up work and slight of hand from centre Duncan Taylor.

Barclay said the Scots, who also enjoyed an impressive Six Nations campaign, were benefiting from the painful experience of losing to the Wallabies at the death by a point twice in the past two years.

“You can’t deny the fact that we’ve been on the wrong side of a couple of these against the Aussies the last couple of years, so it’s nice to close one out,” he said.

“In the Six Nations we closed out a couple of really important games, tight games – the Ireland game, the Wales game – I think we’re getting better at closing out games.

“Today was tit for tat a little bit right til the end, but we take confidence from it.

“We’ve got a few guys missing and Gregor mentioned we feel like we’re just scratching the surface here.”

The Wallabies insisted pre-match there’d be no complacency and, despite accusing his players of lacking urgency on Saturday night, coach Michael Cheika bristled when asked by a Scottish journalist if he was “surprised by how well Scotland played given people have been talking them down?”

“We think Scotland are a top team,” Cheika snapped.

“We never said anything about that. You guys (the media) say it, and then you perpetuate the story through us somehow.

“The only people who are saying Scotland aren’t up to it is the Scottish media – definitely not ours.”

Mohammad Amir fit for Champs Trophy final

Pace bowler Mohammad Amir is fit and will play for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval on Sunday.

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A back spasm kept Amir out as Pakistan defeated hosts England on Wednesday but Arthur is now pinning his hopes on a full-strength attack to contain India’s batsmen better than most other sides have managed so far.

“If we can get amongst them with the new ball, we can expose the middle order that hasn’t batted much in this competition, so that’s pretty much our aim and focus,” Arthur said.

Arthur believes that the way his players recovered from a heavy defeat by India in the group stage with impressive victories over South Africa and England proves that it was merely “an aberration”.

“That was something we hadn’t prepared for,” he said.

“We knew how hard the guys had prepared. So what we’ve produced after that doesn’t come as any surprise because that’s how we trained, and that’s what we worked at.

“It was very disappointing to see that go wrong in the India game. But we’ve closed the chapter on that. We’re now moving forward. And the guys have played really well.”

With eight wins in the teams’ previous 10 World Cup and Champions Trophy meetings, India are firm favourites but Arthur has taken confidence from their defeat in the group stage by Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka batted exceptionally well there. They played fielders’ cricket. They took the game on. But we’ve got to look at our strengths, and our strength has been the fact that we’ve been able to take wickets consistently through the middle periods.

“We’ve got to play to our strengths, and our strength certainly is with the ball. I said it before the England game, if we put our ‘A’ game together and do the basics well, we can beat anybody.”

NSW a different team now: Hayne

A new-found confidence in the NSW team is the biggest difference between this year’s Blues outfit and the one Jarryd Hayne grew up in, according to the Gold Coast star.

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Hayne, in his return series from a two-year break has been impressed by a young group of up-and-comers in the NSW set up.

At 29, he is the third oldest player in the NSW side – a far cry from the team that included the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Greg Bird, Robbie Farah, Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Watmough, when Hayne last played in 2014.

The centre said the youthful exuberance of the current crop of Blues had helped them to back themselves in the Origin cauldron.

“You see when we run last option, you see when we see something we jump at it,” Hayne said.

“I think that’s the kind of attitude.

“Whereas back in the day I think it would be a bit old school where the old guys would do the talking and the pumping up.

“But in this day and age everyone is locked in and zoned in.”

Key to that confidence, said Hayne, is the fact 10 Blues players fall between the age of 24 and 27.

And despite their youth 11 of the men who will take to the field on Wednesday night are in at least their third series with NSW amid a generational overhaul from coach Laurie Daley.

“The average age is probably 25 or 26 – so I think everyone is in their prime,” Hayne said.

Hayne is trying to clinch just his second series win since his debut in 2007.

Along with Josh Dugan and Aaron Woods, Hayne is one of just three players left from the drought-breaking 2014 side.

Winger Brett Morris also took part in that series, but was injured after the opening game.

Hayne revealed the victory still rated as the highlight of his athletic career, but said he hadn’t felt the need to speak about it to the new crop of Blues ahead of Wednesday night.

“It’s up there as probably the highlight. With everything I’ve done and I’ve been able to achieve,” Hayne said of the 2014 success.

“I think those guys that have come in they still feel it.

“They still feel the pain (of the drought). And that’s great for us because everyone knows what it feels like to wear a Blues jersey.”

Percat back on Supercars track in Darwin

Holden’s Nick Percat is confident he can build on the Supercars momentum he gleaned from his first podium finish for Brad Jones Racing.

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The 28-year-old and his Holden have been through the ringer in his first season with BJR, but turned things around by finishing third in Darwin’s opening race on Saturday.

Crashes at the season-opening meet in Adelaide, Australian Grand Prix and Tasmania, as well as tyre failure at Phillip Island made for a chequered start to life with a new team.

But with relatively trouble-free rounds in Perth and Winton and a strong performance at Darwin, Percat said he was back on track.

“We went through two rounds without having written off cars and crazy things going on so we’ve actually been able to sit down and look at some data and go through the cars,” Percat said.

Changes implemented were directly behind his podium finish, he said.

“We didn’t test but had a lot of information and a direction we wanted to go in,” Percat said.

“I think we’re actually two rounds behind where we should be.”

Percat signalled more improvement to come as the season goes on after the boost at Hidden Valley Raceway.

“We’ve still got a few things on the drawing board that we want to get in the cars pretty soon but the first step was just to make sure the direction was correct,” he said.

But despite changes being made to his Commodore, Percat wasn’t expecting instant results at Darwin.

“We knew we had big work to do to get our cars back into that purple patch they were having when Fabian (Coulthard) was driving,” he said.

Percat will be aiming for further improvement during Sunday’s 70-lap race at Darwin, a track where he excelled in other disciplines before switching to Supercars full-time.

“I’ve had good results here and I enjoy the place. BJR cars traditionally go well.”

‘China must do what it takes on N. Korea’

Malcolm Turnbull wants China to do whatever it takes to bring North Korea back into line, or at least stop threatening its neighbours.

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The prime minister’s warning to the country with the biggest influence over North Korea comes as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the United States will find “new and creative” ways to deal with the rogue nation and a tough-talking Donald Trump warned Kim Jong Un has “gotta behave”.

North Korea has accused the US of pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war, but Ms Bishop says Pyongyang has only itself to blame.

“North Korea has vastly increased the threat that it poses to regional and global peace so any rise in tensions is entirely due to the provocative behaviour of North Korea,” she said on Tuesday.

The prime minister raised the issue of North Korea’s agitation during a recent meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as well as President Xi Jinping.

“It is a fact that China has the greatest influence over North Korea and the time has come for the Chinese government to exercise it,” Mr Turnbull said in Canberra.

“China should do whatever it takes. It has the ability … to pull North Korea back into at least the position where it is not threatening to rain down devastation on its neighbours.”

Australia had neither China’s leverage nor the military might of the US but would still do what it could in international forums.

The Turnbull government believes North Korea is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and has ambitions to develop missiles that could reach the US, which would also put Australia within range.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said “you’d have to be a fool” not to be worried about what was happening in North Korea, saying nobody could take a backward step in dealing with the rogue nation.

“They are a nation who operate outside the norms of what other countries do and they have nuclear arms, and they keep trying to expand the reach of their nuclear weaponry,” he said in Melbourne.

Both the US president and his deputy Mike Pence have issued stern warnings to North Korea as tensions between the countries continue to simmer.

Mr Trump insists all options, including military action, are on the table to prevent North Korea from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

Meanwhile, Mr Pence advised Pyongyang not to test America’s resolve, warning “the era of strategic patience is over” as he inspected the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

That statement should concentrate the minds of all involved, Mr Turnbull said.

“I believe now the conversations, the engagement between China and the United States, are such that I am optimistic, but not unduly so … that a resolution can be found,” he said.

North Korea’s latest missile test fizzled over the weekend, but it conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests last year.

Experts predict it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland within a few years.

Panthers urge protection for young halves

Penrith’s James Tamou insists Nathan Cleary and Te Maire Martin shouldn’t carry the burden for the side’s poor start to the season and urged his teammates to give the young playmakers more support.

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The Panthers’ early season woes were on show in their 28-2 NRL defeat to Cronulla on Sunday as they at times looked limited in their attacking scope.

Despite being pre-season title fancies, the mountain men have limped to 2-5 with Cleary and Martin finding life difficult going in their second year of first grade.

This year opposition sides have appeared increasingly clued into their structures and pet plays and have effectively nullified their influence, in particular the Sharks, who were successful in getting up in their faces and limiting their time.

While undoubtedly players of enormous potential, they are facing having to find a way around opposition plans for them – and that’s where Tamou insists the rest of the side needs to come in.

“Teams are looking at that, they’re shutting them down, they’re getting off the line,” Tamou said.

“We saw it with the Sharks, they read it really well. I think we need to change that.

“We need to do our job and give them more options. We have to stand either side of them – so if they see someone shooting out they can throw the inside ball or something like that. That’s up to us to help them out.”

Tamou was adamant it wouldn’t be a long-term problem for Cleary, 19, and Martin, 21, who are still finding their feet in the top flight.

Likewise, the NSW and Australian prop says there isn’t much wrong with the side – they’re still making good yardage and have their share of field position, they just haven’t learned how to be patient with the football.

“We don’t have trouble getting out of our own half,” Tamou said.

“But it’s just applying pressure or when we do apply pressure, we just let them off with some simple handling error or something like that.”

By their own admission, against the Sharks, they were guilty of playing too laterally and going wide too early.

Tamou said it was the responsibility of the the Panthers’ middle men to get them going and only then would their ability to apply pressure and trouble the scoreboard come.

“I think we just needed to go through the middle first and create our chances,” Tamou said.

“We were looking to build pressure but then we just let them off the hook with something silly.

“They (Cronulla) were really well drilled, they were reading our plays, running off the line and we need to start through the middle.”

FNQ councils call for more action on crocs

Fearful far north Queensland councils say tragedy is “entirely foreseeable” unless the state government does more to curb increasing numbers of crocodiles in populated areas.

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The Cassowary Coast, Mareeba and Douglas shire councils sent letters to Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles in the past month requesting the removal of some reptiles and changes to its new Crocodile Management Plan.

Douglas Shire Council mayor Julia Leu said residents felt “under threat and concerned about the unprecedented number of crocodile sightings” at previously popular beaches and boat ramps.

“It is understood that emergency services, when asked to undertake rescues, will now consider the safety of their officers in river systems where crocodiles are known to be present,” she said in a letter dated March 28.

Ms Leu called on the Labor government to reclassify some beaches, creeks and lakes in the region to zones where the risk of crocodiles was “moderate to high”.

The Cassowary Coast Regional Council has also requested it be rezoned from Category C to B, meaning the likely interaction of humans and crocodiles was high.

Cassowary Coast chief executive officer James Gott listed a series of “increased action or new initiatives” the council considered necessary to improve residents’ safety from crocodiles.

It included the need to track and count the number of reptiles in the Johnstone River region and “implement fully” the Management Plan, released on March 14.

Mr Gott said the community had become fearful following increased sightings of “several and large animals moving in populated areas”.

“Recent incidents have reinforced what would appear to be the overwhelming view of the public that real danger is associated with the use of aquatic and marine facilities and that tragedy is entirely foreseeable,” he said.

Mareeba Shire Council mayor Tom Gilmore also wanted crocodiles removed from nearby waterways, which were not a “natural habitat” for them.

Opposition frontbencher Scott Emerson said the government’s policy was too reactive and “not good enough” for far north residents.

But Dr Miles rejected claims its Crocodile Management Plan didn’t go far enough.

“This is the strongest crocodile management plan Queensland’s ever had and the proof of that is in the sheer number of crocodiles being removed,” he said on Tuesday.

Katter’s Australian Party has threatened to block the upcoming state budget unless the government supports its proposed crocodile culling and safari legislation.

Major amusement park accidents in Aust

MAJOR AMUSEMENT PARK ACCIDENTS IN AUSTRALIA SINCE 1968:

* April 17, 2017 – Primary school aged boy critically injured after being thrown from the Cha Cha ride at the Rye carnival on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

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* October 25, 2016 – Four adults die on the Thunder River Rapids ride after becoming trapped on a conveyor belt when their raft flipped at Dreamworld, Queensland.

* September 12, 2014 – Eight-year-old Adelene Leong dies after being thrown from a high-speed ride at the Royal Adelaide Show.

* May 18, 2013 – Five-year-old boy seriously injured after being flung from the Frizbee ride at a school fete in Highfields, Queensland.

* November 20, 2011 – Thirteen-year-old Brittany Clemente was thrown from the Cha Cha ride in Lilydale in Melbourne’s northeast. She still suffers migraines, anxiety and pain.

* March 11, 2001 – Eight-year-old girl dies and 11 people injured when an inflatable carriage breaks free from a ride at a carnival in Kapunda, South Australia.

* September 2, 2000 – Thirty-seven people hurt when the Spin Dragon ride collapses and drops a 4.3 tonne gondola onto queuing riders at the Royal Adelaide Show.

* February 22, 1997 – 11-year-old girl dies and two boys injured when a carriage on the Octopus ride breaks free and falls to the ground at the Rylstone Show near Mudgee, NSW.

* June 9, 1979 – Six children and one adult die when Sydney’s Luna Park’s Ghost Train catches fire. This occurred two months after 13 people were injured on the Big Dipper when a steel runner came loose on a rollercoaster train on April 16.

* October 24 1968 – High-wire stuntman Adrian Labans, 44, falls to his death during a high wire act at the Royal Hobart Show.

Students push foreign-born share of Australia’s residents to 122 year high

More than one in four people living in Australia today are born overseas – the highest level since 1894.

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The proportion reached 28.5 per cent in 2015-16, according to the latest migration data from the ABS released this month. The ABS classifies people who have lived in Australia for 12 months in a 16-month period as residents, an approach that captures the impact of migrants traditionally considered “temporary” but who may be here for many years.

The trend is being driven by growing numbers of foreign students, many of whom end up staying in Australia permanently. 

The number of student visa holders in Australia in September 2016 was 471,000, up from 426,000 in September 2015.

Professor Glenn Withers from Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University wrote an essay titled ‘Ensuring immigration benefits all’ in last year’s report on migration from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. 

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In it, he put forward how immigration policy can be enhanced to avoid population congestion, encourage greater immigration in smaller towns and regions, support those waiting for outcomes in Australia’s immigration process and keep Australia’s economy strong.

“I think migration has served Australia pretty well over 20 or 30 years, especially (as) we reformed it in the 1980s to have a strong skill focus,” he told SBS News.

He said policy around housing, infrastructure and the environment was important in ensuring the country could handle high immigration.

But he said there was also a role for government to counter a change in “atmosphere” around immigration. In recent months One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has followed the lead of US President Donald Trump in calling for a ban of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.

“To avoid some of the fears people can develop you need leadership in evidence, and morality – we (need to) emphasise the better angels (of our nature) that Australia has shown over its history,” he said.

Australia’s population born overseas.ABS

International students driving growth

Growth in international students is driving the increase of overseas-born residents.

Approximately one in five people who come from overseas to reside in Australia in 2015-16 were university students. The ratio is closer to one in four if other students are also included.

Prof Withers said students working in Australia end up creating jobs by earning – and spending – their income.

“They spend it all, and they get money from parents to spend as well, so they create jobs,” he said.

According to the first ever snapshot of the jobs worked by international students, released in March, as many as 40,000 are in the hospitality industry.

International students arrive in Australia on temporary visas, but approximately 20,000 each year transition onto permanent visas, according to figures in the Productivity Commission’s report into the migrant intake released last year.

According to Professor James Raymer from the School of Demography at Australian National University, there are some advantages for Australia provided by this pathway.

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“Rather than recruiting from abroad, we can recruit from foreign students already here,” he said.

“You can select the top students, you can identify the ones that have been more successful, who have already been here for a couple of years, have an Australian education.”

While international student numbers are rising, the number of temporary work visa holders (457s) in Australia dropped to 172,000 in September 2016, an 8 per cent decline in one year.

Although the number of 457 visas issued was falling ahead of the government’s announcement Tuesday to scrap the visa program, each year more than 40,000 people had been transitioning from the temporary work visa program to the permanent skill visa, and that number had doubled since 2008.

SBS Explains: Visas by the numbers

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