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Govt considers extending China travel ban

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A travel ban preventing Chinese visitors and students from entering Australia may be extended as part of the government’s response to the coronavirus.

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“The current ban extends to this weekend and we will be consider those issues on the best medical advice,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, ahead of a meeting of the national security committee.

The virus, on top of this summer’s bushfires and a long-running drought, is having huge financial impact on the economy.

The ramifications are particularly bad for Australia’s university sector, which has 68,000 Chinese foreign students locked out because of the travel ban.

“The timing for Australia is unique as opposed to the US or Canada, because of course we are at the start of our (education) year, so the timing is probably the worst possible outcome,” Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight universities, told ABC radio.

National Australia Bank chief economist Alan Oster says nobody knows how long the virus will last.

“If you say it is going to finish in a month or so then you hopefully get a short, pretty significant impact,” he said.

If that proves the case, there will probably be a small hit to growth in the March quarter of this year.

“We are not talking about a recession,” he said, although growth will still be half a percentage point weaker over the year than earlier hoped.

“The government can fire-up fiscal policy, I don’t know whether it will, and at some stage the Reserve Bank will probably have to help a little bit as well.”

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Labor put forward a number of suggestions to lift growth before the bushfires and virus took hold – including infrastructure spending, incentives for business investment and an increase to Newstart.

“It has been very disappointing that the government, not only haven’t picked up and run with any of those ideas, but also they haven’t had any ideas or plans of their own,” Dr Chalmers told ABC radio.

-AAP

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