“What I support is having our own homecoming first, before taking any student anywhere, that would be the right thing to do in Australia,” he told the media today.
“I don’t think we put international students before our own people here in the country.
“I find it quite disgusting.”
The students landed on a charter flight from Singapore in Darwin this morning and will undergo a two-week quarantine before classes are allowed to start.
They are the first cohort to arrive in the country since the borders were closed at the beginning of the pandemic.
That decision has caused the higher education and vocational training sectors to lose billions of dollars.
Charles Darwin University Vice Chancellor Simon Maddocks says negotiations with the Australian government for the program began seven months ago.
“This is a significant moment for Charles Darwin University as the first university … they (the students) are very important to the universities, they are very important to our local economy here in Darwin.”
Professor Maddocks also revealed that more students are being planned to fly to Australia in January and over the next six months.
He insists that flights have no priority over Australians returning home.
“I understand that supporting the arrival of students is over the line to keep Australians returning and I feel very comfortable that these students are not crowding out other opportunities for Australian returnees at this time,” he said.
The students, from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia, had to cover the cost of their flight and provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the flight, while the CDU will pay for the two weeks of quarantine at the Center for National Resilience on the outskirts of Darwin.
They will stay in the section normally reserved for domestic travelers entering the NT from declared access points.
However, as of noon on Monday, the NT was fully opened up to the rest of Australia when authorities revoked the final access point for Greater Melbourne.
It means that all domestic travelers in the NT will no longer have to complete the quarantine.
Debbie Bowd arrived in Darwin minutes before the rule change, excited to see the family.
“My grandson just turned one year old, my mother is in hospice, very excited,” he said.
“I used to live here as a child and I was very grateful to be back,” he said.
The NT has received a large increase in tourism due to its success in managing the virus and does not experience community transmission, but the NT government warns that a hotspot declaration can be requested at any time, prompting the return of mandatory national quarantine.