CANBERRA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has established a taskforce to protect the nation's international education sector following catastrophic bushfires.
The global reputation taskforce has been tasked with making policy suggestions to Dan Tehan, the Minister for Education, to protect Australia's reputation as an education provider for international students.
It will be funded under a 76-million-Australian-dollar (51.9 million U.S. dollars) tourism recovery package announced by Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on Sunday.
Australia's international education industry is worth 39 billion Australian dollars (26.6 billion U.S. dollars) to the economy every year.
As of October 2019 there were more than 720,000 international students in Australia -- 28 percent of who were from China.
Tehan said that while the bushfires were unlikely to have a short-term impact on the industry, fears over safety -- particularly over air quality -- from international students and their parents could be detrimental long-term.
Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra -- home to five of Australia's six best universities according to Times Higher Education's World University Rankings -- have been blanketed by smoke from the fires since December.
The new taskforce will be chaired by Phil Honeywood, the chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, and will consist of representatives from government and the higher education sector.
Tehan told News Corp Australia that there was a need to provide clear information regarding the status of the bushfires after universities in areas of Queensland and Western Australia that have not been affected received concerned queries from potential international students.