MUNKHTSETSEG DASHZEVEG: I have learnt that you are paying close attention to the human rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean, Asia-Pacific region. On top of that, I found in the news that under your leadership Australia is changing approach towards its development cooperation. Particularly, I was interested at Australian aid that will promote the empowerment of women and girls in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region, especially it will support the women’s participation in the economy, and in community decision-making.
JULIE BISHOP: Australia has been a democracy for over 100 years and we’ve had a national government for over 100 years but I am the first female Foreign Minister that we have had in Australia, so perhaps it’s natural that I would turn much of my focus to the empowerment of women and girls in the lives of our societies in the Indian Ocean Asia-Pacific. The focus of our aid program is to empower women and girls at a leadership level – at a political, business, community level – but also to provide the economic empowerment of women to ensure that they take part in the formal labour economies of the countries in our region.
Our aid program also contains a significant focus on working with women to ensure that they can reach their full potential. I can’t imagine a world without women being given every opportunity to reach their full potential through participating in political life, in businesses, in communities, in families and so that is where much of the focus of our foreign and aid policy is at present. And, as we focus on the issue of economic diplomacy – just as traditional diplomacy seeks the goal of peace, economic diplomacy seeks the goal of prosperity – we believe that women are a vital factor in that economic diplomacy that we’ll practise throughout our region.
MUNKHTSETSEG DASHZEVEG: We heard that Australia has invited Mongolia to participate at the New Colombo Plan, which is your initiative. Since the New Colombo Plan was launched, you have visited several places in Asia. What are the early outcomes so far? We see this program as a bridge between Australia and the region. What are your expectations from the New Colombo Plan in general? and towards Mongolia in particular?
JULIE BISHOP: In relation to the New Colombo Plan, there are many thousands of students from the region that study in Australia and have over many years. Indeed, the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s and 1960s saw thousands of students from the region live and study in Australia. This Government has introduced a reverse plan, whereby young Australians are given an opportunity through scholarships and grants to study at universities in nations in our region. We have had a pilot program in 2014; and over 1300 students will have taken part in the pilot program to four separate locations in the Asia-Pacific. From 2015, we are inviting many more nations to be part of our New Colombo plan so that they can receive and host Australian students to study in their universities; and undertake internships or work experience with companies, businesses operating in the host country.
We are delighted that Mongolia wants to be part of the New Colombo plan, and we look forward to sending bright young Australian students to study and live in Mongolia. We hope that they will come back with new perspectives, new insights, new understanding, language skills; and not only have a wonderful educational experience, but also make friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.
MUNKHTSETSEG DASHZEVEG: Many Mongolians have studied in Australia, and they call themselves “the Mozzies”. We would be happy if Australians that would study in Mongolia could also have a brand nickname. What are your thoughts on that?
JULIE BISHOP: We are delighted that Mongolian students, who study in Australia, call themselves “Mozzies”. And I can’t see why, Australian students, who study in Mongolia, shouldn’t also be called “Mozzies”. After all they buzz back and forth between Australia and Mongolia, like mosquitos do. So perhaps, Mozzies is a good name. Otherwise, we have to think of something like the Koalas, or the Kangas, or the Wallabies, I don’t know if that works as well as Mozzies.
MUNKHTSETSEG DASHZEVEG: We heard that your Excellency is invited to visit Mongolia. On behalf of the women of Mongolia, we would be happy to see you visiting Mongolia; and we welcome you to learn more about Mongolian women of today.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.