Reception for ACIAR John Dillon Fellows

Parliament House, Canberra

Speech, E&OE, proof only

3 March 2014

I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet and speak with the John Dillon Fellows. The nine of you are very special to us. We value the contribution that you will make to the agricultural research sector more generally, but also to your various countries. I'm very pleased that the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research or ACIAR is able to provide these opportunities for you.

I am very supportive of ACIAR and its work. In fact I see it as the glittering star in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade universe and that's because ACIAR can share its expertise, its technologies, its management methods with developing countries and countries in our region – the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific.

This Fellowship was established back in 2002, the John Dillon Memorial Fellowship. And it recognises the great contribution that John Dillon, a leading agricultural economist, made to the area of agricultural research and we want to honour his memory by awarding these fellows every year.

I understand you come from a range of countries in the region, some of which I have visited recently – Papua New Guinea in recent days, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and China, so it's just wonderful to have you representing your country here and taking the opportunity to learn from Australian researchers through ACIAR.

I also understand that you visited my home state of South Australia. You have been to Mt Gambier to look at the forestry sector down there, Port Lincoln for the agricultural fisheries – beautiful parts of the earth. But you've also visited my now home state of Western Australia and that's also a wonderful part of the world, and a long way away from here. Nevertheless it's an opportunity for you to see quite a different agricultural sector again in the south. I know you went to Manjimup and Pemberton and saw the beautiful agricultural area in the south west of Western Australia.

We are really pleased you've had this opportunity to learn from our experience, to take the lessons you have learnt back to your countries, to involve yourself in the management of the agricultural sector in your country and hopefully keep a little bit of Australia in your heart as you go home.

As Nick mentioned, I have established a new policy called the New Colombo Plan. The original Colombo Plan, established in 1950, saw about 40,000 young people from the region over 30 years study in Australian universities, learn about Australia, new ideas, new perspectives from their time in Australia.

We think it's time we reversed the Colombo Plan and sent our best and brightest young people to study at your universities, at universities in the region. That way we'll have a whole generation of young Australians who have lived and studied in the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific region coming back to Australia with new ideas and new insights, adding to the productivity and prosperity of our country but also building those networks and connections that last a lifetime.

I hope that your experience here as a John Dillon Fellow will ensure that you have the opportunity to learn more, to meet new friends, to set up a network of people in your area that will be able to support you for the future. We're delighted that you've been able to have this opportunity and hope you enjoy every moment of your stay and keep in touch with each other, not only with your ACIAR friends, but also with each other because you've had this wonderful joint experience and hopefully you'll come back to Australia and be part of the alumni of the John Fellows.

So congratulations, delighted to meet you.

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