The list of things Rosan Bhattarai loves about his adopted home is long.
The Nepali national loves Australia’s education system, career opportunities and lifestyle, but chief among his reasons for living and working in the “lucky country” for the past seven years is that everyone is treated equally.
“My boss or my manager, I still can put my opinions to them, and that’s what really drove me to come to Australia,” Mr Bhattarai said.
From the end of this month, Mr Bhattarai will be without any source of income because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on his tourist-dependent job.
Mr Bhattarai is on a foreign visa, meaning he is ineligible for a share in the $130 billion in wage support that passed both houses of the Federal Parliament this week.
The Hobart resident applied for permanent residency two years ago but he is yet to learn whether he has been successful.
“There are people like me who want to contribute to the economy, who are looking forward to the development of themselves and the community as they have been here for so many years,” Mr Bhattarai said.
“We want to help Australia, we want to help create a good version of Australia … and I would request that the Government not put everyone in the same basket.”
The Tasmanian Government has worked hard to attract overseas residents to help boost the ageing population and fill gaps in the workforce.
The entire state is classed regional, which can help a person’s case in applying to become a permanent resident.
Politicians, community organisations push for more support
The Greens tried to amend the Federal Government’s JobKeeper package in Parliament on Wednesday to include income support for temporary migrants.
Tasmanian Senator Nick McKim said: “Tasmania has a significant number of foreign workers, particularly in the tourism, hospitality and cultural sectors.
“Some business owners are doing their best to look after temporary visa holders with no income, but that should be the Government’s job.”
People on temporary visas are also ineligible for the JobSeeker payment.
Tasmanian state MP Madeleine Ogilvie described the situation as a “crisis”, with staff in her office in Hobart’s northern suburbs working around the clock to provide support to people like Mr Bhattarai.
“The reality is that we’ve invited these people here to come study with us, come work with us, come help us and be part of the community, and now things have gotten to a very, very bad stage,” Ms Ogilvie said.
“At the moment, I don’t believe that we as a country and as a state are living up to what we’ve offered them.”
Unions Tasmania has been similarly flooded with calls from people on temporary visas unsure how they will survive without a stable income.
“They pay tax while they’re here, they make a contribution, and whilst many of them are not going to be here forever, lots are building their lives here, they’re building their home,” secretary Jessica Munday said.
“We’re literally talking about forcing people into destitution and homelessness at a time when we’re asking them to stay at home, isolate and stay safe.”
Tasmanian Council of Social Service acting chief executive Simone Zell said member organisations were supporting overseas workers with food and welfare checks.
“The Government is in a position to offer assistance to our migrant visa holders,” Ms Zell said.
“These people are contributing to our communities and our local economies.”
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said earlier this week the Government tried to create the broadest and fairest possible JobKeeker scheme but had to “draw the line somewhere”.
The Federal Government will allow migrant workers to access up to $10,000 from their superannuation funds.
Visa holder heartbroken by Minister’s ‘go home’ comment
Diem Doan has been in Tasmania for about six months, describing it as “one of the most beautiful states in Australia”.
“It’s peaceful, the people here are friendly and lovely and nice, and that drew me,” Ms Doan said from her Hobart home.
“Also, I want to get permanent residency for the long-term, and Tasmania offers state sponsorship.”
After being stood down from her restaurant job, Ms Doan is unsure how she will continue to live in Australia — her home for the past six years.
Her family in Vietnam will provide some financial support, and she will continue to hunt for a new job, she said.
“I still have to go get groceries, I still have to pay for all the bills every month,” Ms Doan said.
“Luckily my landlord reduced my rent for us, so that’s a little support but it really means a lot to us.”
Mr Bhattarai said Population Minister Alan Tudge’s comment that people who could not afford to stay in Australia should go home was “heartbreaking”.
He and Ms Doan said they were not sure how they would even return to Asia given widespread lockdowns and a lack of flights.
“Australia is one of the countries that has taught me more than my home because I basically did my first job here, I studied my bachelor’s here, I have my sisters and in-laws here,” Mr Bhattarai said.
“I don’t want to leave Australia because I still want to progress my career, and it’s home.”
Premier Peter Gutwein said the Tasmanian Government would provide support where it could.