The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott MHR, this morning announced the Coalition's commitment to the New Colombo Plan to foster ties between Australia and the Asia-Pacific region and develop stronger people-to-people links.
The New Colombo Plan will encourage and support Australian undergraduate students to undertake study in universities in the Asia-Pacific region, wherever possible combined with an internship or mentorship in a business, NGO, or other organisation operating in that country.
The Menzies Research Centre has worked with Mr Abbott, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP (Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade), and Senator the Hon. Brett Mason (Shadow Minister for Universities and Research) to undertake a consultation process for developing the New Colombo Plan.
This has involved three roundtables, commencing at Parliament House in March (here); many submissions; and consultations by an expert Steering Group chaired by a senior business leader, Mr Kevin McCann AM, with Professor Sandra Harding (Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University and Chair of Universities Australia) as Deputy Chair. A report of the appointment of the Steering Group is here.
At a breakfast in Melbourne today for students focused on Asian studies and languages, Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop were formally presented with copies of the Steering Group’s report by Mr McCann. The report of the Steering Group can be downloaded here.
Mr Abbott said in response that he accepted the scheme proposed by the Steering Group, that if the Coalition won the election there would be a pilot program next year with the full scheme operating from 2015, and he committed $100 million in new money over the next five years for the New Colombo Plan. He highlighted the proposed scholarships under the Plan.
Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop warmly thanked the Steering Group and all who had contributed so enthusiastically and helpfully through the consultation process.
You can read a copy of Mr Abbott's and Ms Bishop's joint media release here and watch the footage of Mr Abbott's announcement here.