Statement on New Colombo Plan

Parliament House, Canberra

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

12 February 2014

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) ( 14:44): I thank the member for Swan for his question and I note the great support that he gives to the students and staff at the Bentley campus of Curtin University.

I am delighted to confirm that the coalition government is delivering on its election promise to establish a student scholarship scheme, the New Colombo Plan, which will give undergraduate students an opportunity to study at universities in our region and undertake work placements and internships. This gives expression to our foreign policy focus on our region.

The pilot program for the New Colombo Plan was launched last December, and today the Minister for Education and I are announcing the first round of student grants for placements in the first semester of 2014. This year, more than 300 Australian undergraduates, from 24 universities across Australia, will be undertaking studies and work placements in the four pilot locations of Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan.

The member for Swan will be interested to know that 10 engineering students from Curtin University will be undertaking studies at universities in Indonesia and work placements with leading Indonesian companies and global companies operating in Indonesia in telecommunications, mining, engineering and geophysics. In fact I had a great conversation yesterday with Foreign Minister Natalegawa about the enhanced opportunities for student exchange between Indonesia and Australia. In fact we will also have students studying in the agricultural sector, particularly focussing on the beef sector which will be an important engagement with Indonesia.

There are other opportunities for the 300 students that will be in this first tranche. Australian medical students will be undertaking clinical placements in Singapore. In Japan there will be internships in state-of-the-art technology companies. In Hong Kong Australian students will be studying business and Chinese language at universities. Later this month the second tranche applications will open. The applications for the prestigious 12-month scholarships are already open.

In 2015 we hope to roll out the New Colombo Plan across the region. Our vision is for a two-way student exchange. Already the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is managing about 4,400 inbound scholarships. The New Colombo Plan will comprise the outbound component, and this will give rise to our vision for deeper engagement in the Asia-Pacific.

I want to place on record our thanks to: Her Excellency the Governor-General for agreeing to be the patron; the New Colombo Plan reference group, chaired by the Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; vice-chairs, Kevin McCann and Sandra Harding; Kate Duff and the team at DFAT; the NCP secretariat; the staff at the education ministry; and the opposition for their bipartisan support for ensuring that the New Colombo Plan is a success.

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