Address to New Colombo Plan students

  • Speech, E&OE

Good morning friends of the University of Technology Sydney, His Excellency General Hurley, Mrs Hurley, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Milbourne, Ambassador Ma, Mr Frank Gehry, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, many Parliamentary colleagues and former colleagues including Dr Brendan Nelson who are here this evening and to all of you who are here to support this most remarkable event.

I specifically acknowledge Dr Chau Chak Wing, a significant benefactor whose generosity has made possible the addition of this remarkable building to the University of Technology Sydney, to the City of Sydney, to Australia and to the world.

It is little wonder that the architectural genius of Frank Gehry embodied in this remarkable building is internationally acclaimed. Mr Gehry once said; "architecture should speak of its time and place but should yearn for timelessness". I predict that he has achieved precisely that with this building. I cannot think of a more beautiful inspiring space with the light and the composition to nurture the minds of the students and the lecturers who will study and teach in the space that makes up this building.

I want to say a few words about the Australia-China relationship for Dr Chau's investment in Australia exemplifies the diversity of our relationship with China. It is broader, deeper and closer than ever before. Australia already counts China as our number one trading partner. Through our focus on 'economic diplomacy' we have now signed a Free Trade Agreement so that the economic opportunities for both our countries will be even further enhanced. But this kind of an investment from an Australian-Chinese benefactor show what possibilities lie ahead as we diversify our relationship even further.

The University of Technology Sydney, through this business school, will be adding to the economic prosperity of both our countries, through the students here who will be the business leaders of the future, and it won't be just Australian students studying here. Through the generosity of Dr Chau there is also a scholarship scheme which will bring Chinese students to Australia.

Chinese students already make up our largest source of international students. I know that, as a former Education Minister, and now in Australia we have a New Colombo Plan. Many of you will recall the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s and 60s brought young students from our region to study in our universities. Well we have now reversed that and we have a scheme that provides young undergraduates from Australia the opportunity to live and study, and indeed work, at universities and in countries in our region.

Last year we had a pilot program for the New Colombo Plan. We expected to be able to send about 700 students but 1300 students from universities across Australia studied at four locations in our region. When President Xi Jinping addressed a joint sitting of our Parliament in November he confirmed that China would from 2015 be a partner in the New Colombo Plan and over the next 12 months over 500 Australian students will study in China under the New Colombo Plan including 11 who will receive 12 month fellowships.

So this is an indication of the people-to-people links, the deep exchange that will take place via this University with China and other countries.

So I thank Mr Gehry for his vision for creating this extraordinary building. I thank Dr Chau for his incredible generosity. I congratulate the University of Technology Sydney, for it now has a truly world class building that will be a legacy for generations to come I feel so much for the students who will study here - I just have this inkling that if I had been in one of those classrooms I would have done so much better at law school!

Ladies and gentlemen, my congratulations to the University of Technology, Sydney.

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