2015 New Colombo Plan launch, DFAT - Doorstop interview

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: I'mabsolutely delighted to confirm today that the pilot program for the New ColomboPlan in 2014 has been considered a success, so that we're now rolling out theNew Colombo Plan in 2015 to over 35 countries in our region, the Indian OceanAsia-Pacific.

This year, 1300 Australian undergraduates have been provided with fundingfrom the Coalition Government to live and study and work at four locations inour region: Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan. And I've spoken to anumber of the young people who have already returned from their experience andthey all say it's been life-changing, it's made an incredible difference to theway they perceive Australia and the way they see our place in the region. Andthey've come home with new perspectives and new ideas and new skills, newlanguages and are looking forward to their careers with the backing of theirexperience as a New Colombo Plan scholar.

I want to thank the Education Department and particularly the Department ofForeign Affairs and Trade, our higher education sector, the embassies andmissions, both here in Canberra and in those four locations, to make this asuccess and I'm looking forward to rolling out the New Colombo Plan from 2015. Iwant to see students living and studying and working overseas, experiencing thatopportunity in Asia and I want it to be seen as a 'rite of passage'.

For young Australian undergraduates, if you're undertaking a universitycourse in Australia, you can have the opportunity to spend some of your timestudying overseas. I think it will broaden their experience and certainly enrichAustralia in the long term. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:Minister, just on another issue. Clive Palmer's written a grovelling apology tothe Chinese Embassy this morning, apologising for his comments. Is that too longin coming, do you think that it's - do you think it's a good thing that he'sdone this?

JULIE BISHOP: Icertainly welcome the apology. It would have been preferable had he done itearlier. I did suggest that he reflect on his words last week, because I knew ithad the potential to cause harm to our relationship with China. It seemed to bean example of Mr Palmer confusing his private interests with his public dutiesas an elected representative, but I'm pleased that he's made an apology, I thinkit's quite appropriate in the circumstances, I wish he'd done it earlier.

JOURNALIST:Do you think that Jacqui Lambie needs to apologise as well? Because his apologyis for him.

JULIE BISHOP: That's amatter for Senator Lambie. The members of the Palmer United Party are electedrepresentatives. They have responsibilities as members and senators in theNational Parliament, not only to voice the views of their electorate but to takeinto account Australia's national interest and I would hope that Senator Lambiewould likewise reflect on her words and see what an impact - negative impact itcan have on our relationships with our major trading partners.

JOURNALIST:Do you know whether Mr Palmer received any advice from DFAT or your office thewording of that apology? Or, in fact - to just apologise?

JULIE BISHOP: It was amatter for Mr Palmer.

JOURNALIST:We had the Chinese Ambassador earlier, here, at the event. Did he have anythingto say about Mr Palmer's apology?

JULIE BISHOP: Iunderstand that the Chinese Ambassador has put out a statement in relation to MrPalmer's apology. I, at the time, contacted the Chinese Embassy - or my officecontacted the Chinese Embassy to reaffirm our commitment to the relationship andto inform the Chinese Embassy - not that they needed it - but to inform theChinese Embassy as a matter of courtesy that Mr Palmer's statements did notreflect the views of the Australian Government and certainly not the views ofthe majority of members of Parliament and I'm pleased that he's apologised andnow we'll move on.

JOURNALIST:Minister, just on Iraq; is the Australian Government in any way dissatisfiedwith the level of decisive leadership being shown by Washington in fighting ISILand trying to restore some security to Iraq and have you communicated this inany way to Washington?

JULIE BISHOP: I in fact havespoken with Secretary Kerry this morning and we welcome the United States'leadership in combatting this terrible phenomenon of foreign fighters, as wellas this particularly virulent and barbaric form of extremism that we see withISIL or ISIS.

The United States has been taking action in many parts of the world to combatterrorism, whether it's Yemen or the Middle East more broadly. The United Stateshas been taking a leadership role and we support the United States in Iraq andwe have been working closely with them to prevent a humanitarian crisis andAustralia stands ready to continue to help avert a humanitarian crisis inNorthern Iraq.

JOURNALIST:Can you tell us anything about the nature of the conversation, did SecretaryKerry indicate any further involvement by the United States in Iraq?

JULIE BISHOP: Wediscussed the work that we've done to date and we discussed the matter moregenerally and we committed to keep in touch as we did during the AUSMIN meeting,when Secretaries Kerry and Hagel met with Senator Johnson and me. During theAUSMIN meetings, we discussed this issue of combatting the extremist terroristelements that we're seeing emerging in Northern Iraq and also in Syria. So, it'sa matter for countries around the world - not just the United States, not justAustralia, but Arab states as well - to take action to prevent this kind ofterrorism from spreading.

JOURNALIST:Just on that; what is your understanding of the air strikes that have been takenout by the UAE in Egypt and Libya. Did you have any knowledge of this action?

JULIE BISHOP: Well weare all aware that the United States has been taking action to prevent extremismand terrorist attacks in other parts of the world and this is public knowledge.

JOURNALIST:But specifically, sorry, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt taking actionagainst Libya; the Islamic militants in Libya. Did you have any knowledge ofthis?

JULIE BISHOP: No, theseare matters that go to the national security question, I'm not going intodetails now as to what Australia knew and when. But most certainly, we supportaction to prevent the spread of this barbaric form of terrorism and it does havedomestic security implications for Australia, make no mistake. Having youngAustralian citizens attracted to the fighting on the side of ISIL or Al-Nusrahor any of these extremist terrorist organisations is a direct threat toAustralia's national security. That is why we're taking action to enhance ourlaws so that we can meet these challenges, to work with communities so that theycan help us combat this threat and it is a significant national security issueand we're taking it very seriously.

JOURNALIST:Australia has ruled out sending combat troops into Iraq; what other form ofcontribution is under consideration by the Government?

JULIE BISHOP: We'vealready committed to help avert a humanitarian disaster and we are continuing todo that. We have supplies at the air base in Al Minhad and we will continue tosupport humanitarian requirements as we're advised that they're needed. We'vemade a number of air drops…

JOURNALIST:[Interrupts] There's been several reports that we're considering sending jetfighters to take part in a coalition to take out air strikes. Is that somethingthat's actually under consideration by the Government?

JULIE BISHOP: Our focusis on the humanitarian disaster and that's what we're seeking to do at presentand we're working closely with our American friends as they seek to also avertwhat could be a shocking humanitarian disaster in Northern Iraq. So these areissues that we take very seriously, the National Security Committee has beenmeeting in relation to it, I've been talking to my counterpart foreign ministersand foreign secretaries in other countries.

This is not something that is unique to the United States or to Australia. Mycounterpart Foreign Minister in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in Philippines, innations in Europe, in Great Britain, are all facing this same threat of citizensleaving and signing up as foreign fighters to fight with these extremistorganisations in the Middle East and we must stamp it out. It's a threat to ourstandard of living and we treat it as a significant new security threat to ournation.

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