‘Betrayed’: Couple’s hopes dashed after forking out $10,000

Mitch Van Oosten is an aspiring engineer, married his n wife last year and looked forward to paying his way through n tax system. Now, the 24-year-old is looking down the barrel of taking his wife home to Canada after the Turnbull government’s visa changes for permanent residents.

He is one of 31,000 permanent residents at n universities who will have their benefits stripped and be slugged with thousands of dollars in extra fees under the federal government’s higher education reforms, leaving many considering their future, and businesses and universities fuming.

“We had some tears on budget night,” Mr Van Oosten said. “We feel betrayed.”

“I’m an immigrant and I understand that we don’t get the same rights as n citizens but it’s not as though it doesn’t affect ns. My wife is a proud n and now she has to think about moving out of the country.”

After forking out $10,000 in visa fees, the Canberra resident had planned on completing his engineering degree at the n National University.

Those hopes have now been dashed by the prospect of paying tens of thousands of dollars more for his education as part of a claw back that will see more than $1.5 billion in fees returned to government coffers.

Under changes from federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham permanent residents will no longer be able to access a subsided Commonwealth Supported Place, but will be able to defer the cost of their degree, worth up to $50,000 more, through a HECS loan.

“There is strong evidence that we need to get the costs of higher education under control, that universities are capable of making a contribution and that our student loans program must be made more sustainable,” Mr Birmingham said when he announced the budget measure.

But former Liberal leader John Hewson has labelled Mr Van Oosten “collateral damage”.

The economist has delivered a scathing assessment of the government’s policy, claiming the Coalition has bowed to anti-immigration sentiment and its determination to take money out of universities threatens our future economic prosperity.

“You get this complex mix of political considerations that end up with a decision that they haven’t thought through properly,” Dr Hewson told Mr Oosten at an ANU event in May. “You are the collateral damage of that decision.”

Businesses have lashed out at the changes. Accounting giant KPMG has pointed to a drought in highly skilled technical workers putting a drag on the economy that will only be exacerbated under the new measures, which include widespread changes to 457 visas for skilled workers.

The firm said the 457 changes would cause widespread uncertainty for business.

“This move does not align with ‘s stated commitment to increasing innovation and causes uncertainty for foreign companies considering investing or doing business here,” KPMG immigration practice national leader Michael Wall said following the announcement of the new scheme. !function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement(“script”);a.async=1,a.id=s,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”//e.infogr.am/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

Mr Van Oosten’s wife, who asked not to be named out of concern for her ongoing employment, said the restrictions would also drive away potential talented migrants who had yet to decide about coming to .

Last year took in more than 190,000 people through its permanent migration program.

“I know so many people who I have spoken to who wanted to contribute to the economy, who have decided it’s just too hard to move to together and now they are taking their skills, their work and their tax to another country,” she said.

The sentiment is echoed by Dr Hewson.

“One of the greatest assets we have is a genuine multicultural society,” he said.

“The government should be on the front foot to try to start defending it, rather than running back and trying to minimise damage.”

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