The first major announcement by Julia Gillard during her China trip was a long overdue move to hand out several thousand scholarships to Australian students to study in Asia, with about 1,000 due to come to China.
The problem is the policy looks suspiciously like the “reverse Colombo Plan” that has been espoused by Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop over the past six months. Bishop has been talking up such as scheme for several years now and had put meat on the bones of her policy in recent months.
Confronted with the news of the Prime Ministers policy lift, Bishop said: “Well imitation is the biggest form of flattery” But she them bemoaned that the copycat efforts of the PM and her new tertiary education minister Craig Emerson were the very reason why Oppositions are loath to release any concrete policy details too far out from elections – all the good ideas get stolen.
China is the biggest source of students for Australia’s $16 billion a year international student industry, our second biggest export after resources. Yet the PM didn’t bother to visit during her years as Education Minister under Kevin Rudd. Her successor Chris Evans rectified this but only after Chinese student numbers began to collapse due to poor government policy making.
If the best original thought on education is to copy Opposition policies then its little wonder the government is where it is in the polls.
We’ll let the pollies speak for themselves, click on the links to compare a copy of a speech Julie Bishop gave a couple of weeks ago to the Colombo round table in Canberra, and a press release put out last Saturday outlining the government’s AsiaBound policy.