Foreign duties expected

Julie Bishop relishes victory. d407480
Julie Bishop relishes victory. d407480

‘First and foremost I want to thank the people of Curtin for electing me for the sixth time as the member for Curtin. Without being the member for Curtin I would have no parliamentary career,’ Ms Bishop, Liberal Party deputy leader and foreign affairs spokeswoman, told supporters at a packed Palms Community Centre in Subiaco on election night.

With 80 per cent of vote counted, a 1.28 per swing to Ms Bishop gave her 62.41 per cent of the blue-ribbon electorate’s overall vote.

Labor’s Daryl Tan had 17.69 per cent (down 1.58 per cent from 2007) and Greens WA Judith Cullity’s vote was 15.37 per cent (down 2.35 per cent), while the Palmer United Party was 2.57 per cent, Australian Christians 1.18 per cent and Rise Up Australia Party 0.78 per cent.

Ms Bishop’s first duties as incoming foreign minister could be Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) visits to discuss asylum seekers.

She said the pilot stage of her $100 million revamp of the post-WWII Colombo Scheme would be established in 2014 to send university students to Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong for study and internships, in answer to 350,000 foreign students in Australia.

‘When I became shadow foreign minister it occurred to me this could be a very significant soft-power diplomacy initiative as part of our engagement with Asia, rather than just a higher education policy,’ Mr Bishop said.

She has $61 million in forward estimates for the pilot, separate from a $4.5 billion reduction in foreign aid announced by the Liberals.

Asked why a PNG child should lose health support for mooted spending on Australian infrastructure, Ms Bishop said there were no cuts and instead the speed at which the aid budget was increasing would be reduced to the consumer price index each year.

She said ‘effective and efficient’ use of aid could be achieved by reducing duplication and using non-government agencies.