The government is providing an aid program that Australia can afford and that makes us the 13th-largest donor in the OECD world. If the shadow minister for foreign affairs had done her job when she was the minister for finance, the Australian budget—and hence the Australian aid budget—would not be in the position it was in. You might recall that Senator Wong took a $23 billion forecast deficit in 2011-12 and turned it into a $43 billion deficit. She took a $1.5 billion forecast surplus in 2012-13 and turned it into a $19 billion deficit. That was Labor’s contribution to the aid budget. They took a $1.5 billion forecast surplus—remember the member for Lilley’s famous surplus—and turned it into a $19 billion deficit.

I do want to address the points raised by the member for Fairfax in relation to the New Colombo Plan because it is an extraordinary example of soft-power diplomacy at its best. These are not just my words—this has been reflected in our region as leader after leader has endorsed the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan as a magnificent example of international engagement and a vision for the future of our country and the region. As the member for Fairfax pointed out, so many young Australians are benefiting from it because we are investing in the future of young Australians. In the first four years of the program, 2014 to 2017, the New Colombo Plan has supported around 17½ thousand to 18,000 young Australian undergraduates to study and undertake work placements in our region.

This is an extraordinarily successful program. The take-up by students and universities and governments in the region has been phenomenal, and the number of businesses and entities that have come on board as sponsors and supporters has been remarkable. I will focus on Queensland because the member for Fairfax asked the question. Close to 3,000 of these students are from Queensland. They include 68 recipients of prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarships for 12 months. A further 2,900 Queensland students have been awarded mobility grants to undertake short-term or semester-length study programs in the region. This is a story that is being repeated across Australia. Over 230 business and community partners have signed up to support the program, offering internships, practicums and mentorships. For example, the National Australia Bank offices in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mumbai have welcomed New Colombo Plan students to undertake internships across multiple disciplines, including commerce, finance, marketing, human resources and law.

Queensland universities have also developed innovative partnerships with the private sector to expand the opportunities for their students, and this includes the University of Queensland’s partnering with China’s NewSoft Corporation to provide opportunities for students to gain practical experience developing an IT product, getting it market ready and distributing it to the global marketplace. It is in innovation writ large. The Queensland University of Technology is partnering with Mitsui & Co from Japan to provide students with an opportunity to explore Japanese and Australian industry relations in a business context, where students gain an insight into Japanese business etiquette, customs and the like.

And this is important: the New Colombo Plan is supporting students from a broad array of backgrounds—Indigenous students, students with disabilities, students from regional and remote areas, students who began their life in a refugee camp, students who are the first in their family to attend university or, indeed, the first in their family to have a passport or to travel overseas. Sixty per cent of New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipients are female, 30 per cent were born overseas, 21 per cent speak a language other than English at home and nine per cent have never travelled overseas before. But what I want to tell you is this: so short-sighted and so lacking in vision are Labor that, at the last election, they committed to slash funding for the New Colombo Plan program. Not only would this severely damage Australia’s ability to build deeper ties within our region; it would reduce a unique educational opportunity for young students. Labor’s policy will hurt thousands of students who cannot afford to participate in an overseas study experience without government support. It will hurt our relationship with countries who are now partnering with us on investing in our young people to ensure that our bilateral relationships and our relationships in the region continue to grow. Only the coalition understands that investing in young Australians is investing in our future.

Chamber Federation Chamber on 15/06/2017 Item
Federation Chamber – BILLS – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2017-2018 – Consideration in Detail Speaker: Bishop, Julie, MP Parliment of Australia Transcript used for reporting News