JULIE BISHOP: I’m absolutely delighted to confirm today that the pilot program for the New Colombo Plan in 2014 has been considered a success, so that we're now rolling out the New Colombo Plan in 2015 to over 35 countries in our region, the Indian Ocean Asia-Pacific.

This year, 1300 Australian undergraduates have been provided with funding from the Coalition Government to live and study and work at four locations in our region: Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan. And I've spoken to a number of the young people who have already returned from their experience and they all say it's been life-changing, it's made an incredible difference to the way they perceive Australia and the way they see our place in the region. And they've come home with new perspectives and new ideas and new skills, new languages and are looking forward to their careers with the backing of their experience as a New Colombo Plan scholar.

I want to thank the Education Department and particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, our higher education sector, the embassies and missions, both here in Canberra and in those four locations, to make this a success and I'm looking forward to rolling out the New Colombo Plan from 2015. I want to see students living and studying and working overseas, experiencing that opportunity in Asia and I want it to be seen as a ‘rite of passage’.

For young Australian undergraduates, if you're undertaking a university course in Australia, you can have the opportunity to spend some of your time studying overseas. I think it will broaden their experience and certainly enrich Australia in the long term. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just on another issue. Clive Palmer's written a grovelling apology to the Chinese Embassy this morning, apologising for his comments. Is that too long in coming, do you think that it's - do you think it's a good thing that he's done this?

JULIE BISHOP: I certainly welcome the apology. It would have been preferable had he done it earlier. I did suggest that he reflect on his words last week, because I knew it had the potential to cause harm to our relationship with China. It seemed to be an example of Mr Palmer confusing his private interests with his public duties as an elected representative, but I'm pleased that he's made an apology, I think it's quite appropriate in the circumstances, I wish he’d done it earlier.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Jacqui Lambie needs to apologise as well? Because his apology is for him.

JULIE BISHOP: That's a matter for Senator Lambie. The members of the Palmer United Party are elected representatives. They have responsibilities as members and senators in the National Parliament, not only to voice the views of their electorate but to take into account Australia's national interest and I would hope that Senator Lambie would likewise reflect on her words and see what an impact - negative impact it can have on our relationships with our major trading partners.

JOURNALIST: Do you know whether Mr Palmer received any advice from DFAT or your office the wording of that apology? Or, in fact - to just apologise?

JULIE BISHOP: It was a matter for Mr Palmer.

JOURNALIST: We had the Chinese Ambassador earlier, here, at the event. Did he have anything to say about Mr Palmer's apology?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that the Chinese Ambassador has put out a statement in relation to Mr Palmer's apology. I, at the time, contacted the Chinese Embassy - or my office contacted the Chinese Embassy to reaffirm our commitment to the relationship and to inform the Chinese Embassy - not that they needed it - but to inform the Chinese Embassy as a matter of courtesy that Mr Palmer's statements did not reflect the views of the Australian Government and certainly not the views of the majority of members of Parliament and I'm pleased that he's apologised and now we'll move on.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just on Iraq; is the Australian Government in any way dissatisfied with the level of decisive leadership being shown by Washington in fighting ISIL and trying to restore some security to Iraq and have you communicated this in any way to Washington?

JULIE BISHOP: I in fact have spoken with Secretary Kerry this morning and we welcome the United States' leadership in combatting this terrible phenomenon of foreign fighters, as well as this particularly virulent and barbaric form of extremism that we see with ISIL or ISIS.

The United States has been taking action in many parts of the world to combat terrorism, whether it's Yemen or the Middle East more broadly. The United States has been taking a leadership role and we support the United States in Iraq and we have been working closely with them to prevent a humanitarian crisis and Australia stands ready to continue to help avert a humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us anything about the nature of the conversation, did Secretary Kerry indicate any further involvement by the United States in Iraq?

JULIE BISHOP: We discussed the work that we’ve done to date and we discussed the matter more generally and we committed to keep in touch as we did during the AUSMIN meeting, when Secretaries Kerry and Hagel met with Senator Johnson and me. During the AUSMIN meetings, we discussed this issue of combatting the extremist terrorist elements that we're seeing emerging in Northern Iraq and also in Syria. So, it's a matter for countries around the world - not just the United States, not just Australia, but Arab states as well - to take action to prevent this kind of terrorism from spreading.

JOURNALIST: Just on that; what is your understanding of the air strikes that have been taken out by the UAE in Egypt and Libya. Did you have any knowledge of this action?

JULIE BISHOP: Well we are all aware that the United States has been taking action to prevent extremism and terrorist attacks in other parts of the world and this is public knowledge.

JOURNALIST: But specifically, sorry, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt taking action against Libya; the Islamic militants in Libya. Did you have any knowledge of this?

JULIE BISHOP: No, these are matters that go to the national security question, I'm not going into details now as to what Australia knew and when. But most certainly, we support action to prevent the spread of this barbaric form of terrorism and it does have domestic security implications for Australia, make no mistake. Having young Australian citizens attracted to the fighting on the side of ISIL or Al-Nusrah or any of these extremist terrorist organisations is a direct threat to Australia's national security. That is why we're taking action to enhance our laws so that we can meet these challenges, to work with communities so that they can help us combat this threat and it is a significant national security issue and we're taking it very seriously.

JOURNALIST: Australia has ruled out sending combat troops into Iraq; what other form of contribution is under consideration by the Government?

JULIE BISHOP: We've already committed to help avert a humanitarian disaster and we are continuing to do that. We have supplies at the air base in Al Minhad and we will continue to support humanitarian requirements as we're advised that they're needed. We've made a number of air drops…

JOURNALIST: [Interrupts] There's been several reports that we're considering sending jet fighters to take part in a coalition to take out air strikes. Is that something that's actually under consideration by the Government?

JULIE BISHOP: Our focus is on the humanitarian disaster and that's what we're seeking to do at present and we're working closely with our American friends as they seek to also avert what could be a shocking humanitarian disaster in Northern Iraq. So these are issues that we take very seriously, the National Security Committee has been meeting in relation to it, I've been talking to my counterpart foreign ministers and foreign secretaries in other countries.

This is not something that is unique to the United States or to Australia. My counterpart Foreign Minister in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in Philippines, in nations in Europe, in Great Britain, are all facing this same threat of citizens leaving and signing up as foreign fighters to fight with these extremist organisations in the Middle East and we must stamp it out. It's a threat to our standard of living and we treat it as a significant new security threat to our nation.

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