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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2781

New Colombo Plan

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on progress of the government's New Colombo Plan? How has this initiative been received by Australian students, businesses and partner governments in the region?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:48): I thank the member for Macarthur for his question and I know how enthusiastic he is about the New Colombo Plan. Indeed, my colleagues know how enthusiastic I am for the New Colombo Plan. Already this flagship government initiative is succeeding in deepening our engagement with our region—the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific. Already it is ensuring that students are work ready and more Asia literate. This year the New Colombo Plan will support around 3,200 Australian students aged between 18 and 28 to live, study and work in 32 different destinations in our region. Indeed, over 35 countries have agreed to partner the Australian government in the New Colombo Plan.

In response to student demand, I can inform the House that in 2016 the New Colombo Plan will expand to around 100 scholarships of up to 12 months and at least 4,750 of the shorter mobility grants. This will take the total number of students who will receive support under the New Colombo Plan in the first three years of this program to over 9,300. I had higher expectations for the New Colombo Plan but this has even exceeded my expectations. I am delighted to confirm that the New Colombo Plan is receiving really strong regional support from governments, from all of our universities in Australia and also in the region, from businesses and, of course, from students.

I want to pay tribute to the New Colombo Plan team in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who have been indefatigable in that efforts to ensure that this program is a success.

Mr Pyne: And Education.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: And education—as the 'fixer' from education has just reminded me! Let me give you some cameos of some of our successes. Mitsui global chairman Masami Iijima pledged his support for the initiative when Prime Minister Abbott visited Japan last year. Mitsui, for example, has offered Patrick Gan, a commerce student at the University of Western Sydney, a tailored six-week internship in its global headquarters in Tokyo. During this time, Patrick will be mentored by a senior Mitsui executive who has previously worked in Western Australia. Already 12 students from the University of Technology Sydney majoring in business, construction and information technology have undertaken work experience or internships offered by Mitsui. Today Vietnamese Prime Minister Dung will meet with four New Colombo Plan students from the University of South Australia and RMIT. This year, 161 Australian students will study in Vietnam under the New Colombo Plan. The New Colombo Plan is an investment in our young people, an investment in our future, an investment in deeper engagement in our region.