MORE than 3,000 students from 37 universities will live, study and work in the Indo-Pacific region during the second year of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Education Minister Christopher Pyne recently announced around 3,150 undergraduate students would be supported by the New Colombo Plan mobility round for 2015. 

“New Colombo Plan mobility grants will support these students to study in 32 locations across the Indo-Pacific from India in the west, to Mongolia in the north and the Cook Islands in the east,” Ms Bishop said.

“The expansion of the New Colombo Plan in 2015 reflects the strong support of partner governments for the plan’s aims of lifting knowledge of the region in Australia and for the Plan to become a ‘rite of passage’ for Australian undergraduate students.

“The continued strong interest of students in gaining first-hand experience of business in the region will ensure they are well placed to make a valuable contribution to the regional engagement of our business community and to driving economic growth in Australia and our region in the years ahead.”

Mr Pyne said New Colombo Plan mobility grants are awarded to Australian universities to support their students to undertake semester or short-term study in the region.

“These grants will support students to study at a university overseas for anywhere from a few weeks to a full semester,” Mr Pyne said.

“The grants cover study, practicums, clinical placements, internships and mentorships, and short-term research across a broad array of disciplines.

“The flexibility of this approach ensures that the program can support a wide range of students to experience the benefits of studying and living in the region.

The government has committed $100 million in new funding over five years to implement the New Colombo Plan. The New Colombo Plan pilot year of 2014 supported 40 scholars and more than 1300 mobility students to live, study and undertake a work placement in the four pilot locations of Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.

The program recalls the 1949-1957 Colombo Plan which transformed Australia’s relations with Asia, sponsoring thousands of Asian students to study or train in Australian tertiary institutions



AUSTRALIA has formed a new partnership with the World Bank to enhance women’s economic empowerment in South East Asia over the next four years.

The announcement by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of the $15 million investment coincided with International Women’s Day in early March and the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for gender equality. 

“Increasing women’s participation is one of the most powerful ways to improve economic and development outcomes,” Ms Bishop said. “Goldman Sachs estimates that closing the employment gender gap in countries in our region, including Vietnam and the Philippines, could push per-capita incomes 14 percent higher than current projections by 2020 and 20 percent higher by 2030.

“Through this partnership we will work with the World Bank and private sector to support women entrepreneurs to access financial services and build their business skills.”

Ms Bishop said a key element of the strategy was to work with large companies to improve employment opportunities for women, improve their workplace policies, and increase the use of services provided by women entrepreneurs in their supply chains. 

“The partnership will focus on improving knowledge of how to increase women’s economic opportunities and applying those lessons to the design of programs and policies,” she said.

“This will be done through creation of a South East Asia Gender Lab to undertake data collection, analysis and impact evaluations.

“Australia’s investment in women’s empowerment through practical programs such as this partnership with the World Bank supports our international commitments, including at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women(CSW59).

Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja accompanied the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash to CSW59 in New York in early March to advocate for renewed international commitment and momentum toward gender equality.


MORETON Hire, one of Australia’s largest business events providers, has announced the opening of a branch in Singapore branch, targeting expansion into the Asia Pacific region.

Moreton Hire director Peter Morahan said with the ever expanding international meetings and business events industry, the Singapore branch would become Moreton Hire’s Asian hub for customers. 

Mr Morahan said the decision to expand into Singapore reflected the firm’s long-term growth plan and strategic objective to offer an international contact for Moreton Hire customers.

“Singapore is a key MICE (meetings, incentives conventions and exhibitions) hub in Asia Pacific and we are excited to offer this unique opportunity for our customers to support their portfolio across the region,” Mr Morahan said.

He said the branch would act as a gateway for Moreton Hire’s international meetings and corporate customers coming into the Asia Pacific region and requiring local knowledge and experience.

“Customers looking to gain exposure in the fast growing market of the Asia Pacific, can now rely on having one team to deliver for them across the region,” Mr Morahan said.

Moreton Hire’s Singapore branch is the company’s sixth office after Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Cairns.

Moreton Hire has been servicing the events industry for more than 45 years, starting with marquee and furniture hire in Brisbane and has developed into one of the country’s most innovative business event specialists.



AUSTRALIAN Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) scientists are researching the environmental effects of agriculture in the Asia Pacific region, as a way of helping to maximise sustainability.

ANSTO’s Professor Henk Heijnis has assembled a team to lead the Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) project on land degradation,  a multinational research effort that could lead to improvements in the way scarce environmental resources, like soil and water, are managed. 

Prof. Heijnis said the Asia Pacific region was enduring “severe pressure on limited soil and water resources” due to a rapidly expanding population and economic development. Recent decades have seen rapid deforestation and clearing of lands for agricultural cultivation. 

In soil and land use studies, isotopic techniques play a crucial role in studying natural and anthropogenic soil erosion processes, Prof. Heijnis said.

“These studies will result in outcomes at a number of levels, from providing individual farmers with insights on more effective and efficient livestock, to improved crop, soil and agricultural water management, as well as giving political decision-makers the background to enable informed decisions to be made at national and regional levels,” he said.

Prof. Heijnis said ANSTO was strongly committed to nuclear technical cooperation in the Asia-Pacific through its membership and active participation in the RCA.

The RCA is an intergovernmental agreement of 20 IAEA member states in the East Asia and Pacific region. ANSTO supports the program through essential in-kind support such as the provision of experts at training courses and at meetings; hosting workshops and technical meetings; and hosting IAEA fellows and scientific visitors.

Australia’s participation in RCA is widely seen as prolific, with experts across all four thematic areas – health, environment, agriculture and industry – involved in 18 of the 22 active projects.

ANSTO scientists such as Prof. Heijnis lend their expertise in technical cooperation projects on water resource sustainability, air particulate pollution, and measuring the impact on the marine environment from nuclear power in the region. 

With the expertise of Heijnis and his team in IER in collaboration with Dr Tim Ralph of Macquarie University, ANSTO is well placed to lead the land degradation project, with extensive experience and expertise in the use of radioisotopes in soil erosion and accumulation studies.

The next review meeting of the project takes place in Kathmandu, Nepal, with Prof. Heijnis officiating for the first time as project leader.





IN THE WAKE of the Federal Budget, it is unclear what will become of the planned link-up between ABC International and its Australia Network with China’s media powerhouse, the Shanghai Media Group.

The proposed arrangement was reportedly supported by media authorities of the Chinese Government in Shanghai. Yet the cuts to the ABC, SBS and the reported withdrawal of funding for the Australia Network will negatively impact the proposed arrangements.

On the back of the recent Australian Government-backed Australia Week in China trade mission, ABC International and the Australia Network struck an international multi-platform media cooperation arrangement supported by the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and TV.

The detailed agreement to formalize the arrangement were to be signed in Shanghai on May 4. Through the cooperation, ABC International was set to establish an online portal in China through which a range of ABC and other Australian media content and services could be offered and presented to partner Chinese media organisations. 

The arrangement also enabled the ABC to establish a base in Shanghai with official approval to represent and sell media content across China, enter into international co-productions, and generate international sponsorship and promotional opportunities.

“This historic agreement opens up a whole new world of television and online cooperation between Australia and China,” ABC managing director Mark Scott said. “It provides a truly unique window for all Australian media to build a friendly and mutually cooperative relationship with China.”

It is ironic that so much of the media cooperation had been driven by the Australian Government, with the ABC extensively covering Prime Minister Abbott’s visit and early steps for a free trade agreement – yet the Federal Budget now appears to place the deal in jeopardy.

“International Channel Shanghai last week broadcast a week of Australian TV programs provided by the ABC and Australia Network to coincide with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s visit,” Mr Scott said when announcing the cooperation deal. It was also a time when Australia’s profile was high in China from leading the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

“Q&A’s live broadcast in China was the first open interactive public comment style program broadcast live from China to Australia,” he said. “The success of last week and the future under this agreement will help build understanding between China and Australia.”

Shanghai Media Group’s International Channel Shanghai executive director, Sun Wei said, “The Shanghai Media Group is China’s second largest media organization and its recent restructure ensures we are looking to further build our international media partnerships.

“Ground breaking international broadcasts such as Q&A, which was produced as a collaboration between Australian and Chinese television crews, pave the way for bigger and better international media cooperation and cultural connections in the future.”

ABC International CEO Lynley Marshall commented at the time: “This agreement will enable us to put the full range of Australia Network programming and content from other Australian media into China and for China to connect more closely with our media.

“Most importantly, the agreement will provide opportunities for promotion of Australian business, tourism, entertainment, culture and education.”

The eventual shape of any cooperation will play out in the next few months as the ABC is expected to re-organise its budgets in the wake of the funding cuts.


POSTED MAY 16, 2014.

THE Queensland Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QJCCI) and Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Brisbane (JCCIB) will jointly host a seminar on August 20 at Queensland Parliament House on the future of the Japan-Australia and Japan-Queensland business relationship.

The seminar aims to accelerate business between the countries in response to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent signing of the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). 

The JAEPA agreement has been hailed as introducing a new era in the bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan that is expected to stimulate two-way trade between both countries – and QJCCI and JCCIB are working with of Trade and Investment Queensland, the Embassy of Japan in Canberra and the Consulate-General of Japan in Brisbane to help drive the opportunities forward for business.

Japan is Queensland’s second largest trading partner after China and the new agreement offers significant potential to expand the commercial links between the state and Japan.

The JAEPA seminar will feature keynote speakers, a panel discussion and networking.

Responses are due on August 11 for a limited number of seminar places through the booking form here.



THE central banks of Australia and China are working together on potential future clearing and settlement arrangements in Sydney, as Australia helps China to develop its international currency, the renminbi.

One of the most significant outcomes of the recent Australia Open For Business delegation to China, led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was the agreement to enhance offshore market development of the renminbi (RMB).

Australia is at the forefront of countries working with China to support international use of the RMB, according to statements made by Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

“Australian banks and their Chinese counterparts have worked hard to promote direct trading of the two currencies,” Mr Hockey said. He said monthly trading volumes had increased more than seven-fold in the past year to US$2.4 billion from US$324 million equivalent before direct trading.

In fact, Mr Hockey said, the Australian dollar had become the fourth most traded currency on China’s Foreign Exchange Trading System and there was significant potential for this market to grow.

“China’s leaders have sent a strong signal of their commitment to a comprehensive program of economic reform. Financial sector reform will be central to achieving this,” Mr Hockey said.

“These reforms will better integrate China into the global economy by breaking down the walls that prevent the free flow of capital to the rest of the world.  It will see China further liberalise its exchange rate and promote the international use of its currency.”

Mr Hockey confirmed that Australia’s Reserve Bank was working with China’s central bank,  the People’s Bank of China, on future clearing and settlement arrangements in Sydney.

“When I travel to China for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue later in the year, I will explore further steps to promote economic and financial cooperation between Australia and China,” Mr Hockey said.

“Australia’s business delegation to the inaugural Australia Week in China demonstrated a high level of interest in the economic relationship between our two countries.  Banks, fund managers, farmers and miners all stand to benefit from Australia's positioning as an offshore RMB centre.

“2014 is a year of opportunity for China and Australia to deepen financial ties.”



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