Hon Judi Moylan

Australian National Internships Program

Mrs MOYLAN (Pearce) (13:55): Earlier this year I had the privilege of participating in the Australian National Internships Program and was assigned a student from ANU. I have previously participated in the program which provides the opportunity for a student to work in Parliament House with a member or senator and to undertake a research project. This counts towards their academic work, which is complemented by real life experience in a working office.

Brilliant young ANU student Eleni Stratton accepted the task of writing a research report for me on the topic of 'Our other ocean: The case for an Indian Ocean centre'. It is a matter that has interested me for over a decade. I do not believe that Australia has been as engaged as we should be with a region so important to our future—economically, strategically and culturally. It is a matter I have raised over these years with relevant ministers, shadow ministers and Austrade. I believe it is vital to ensuring that we have the knowledge and skills needed to understand the region and fully engage with our neighbours with whom we share the great Indian Ocean.

It was a privilege to guide Eleni's work with the help of my former adviser Simon Hall who assisted her during the non-sitting weeks. In the executive summary of the report, Eleni Stratton made the following observations:

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has attracted increasing strategic and political attention in recent years. It hosts a third of the world's population, a trillion dollar economy, and rapidly growing levels of consumerism and individual wealth. Much of the world's trade in energy crosses the Indian Ocean and flows through its choke points. Regional wars and crises have led to unprecedented levels of involvement, reinforced by strategic competition between India and China, energy politics, and issues of environmental and human security.

Australia's interests in the IOR are many and varied. Indian Ocean Trade routes are critical to the survival of all major world economies, and vital to Australia's import and export markets and sea-lines of communication. Fast growing populations and economies in IOR offer many opportunities for enhanced economic and trade cooperation with Australia. At the same time, uneven distribution of wealth, food and water shortages, and acute environmental stress may provoke political instability in the region. The IOR is the zone of Australia's interaction with most significant neighbours—including the People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, and others—many of which are presently undergoing major security, social and economic challenges.

Despite the strategic and economic importance of the IOR to Australia, the capacity of Australian graduates to interact effectively and sensitively with the countries of the region is stagnant or declining. Indonesian Studies and Indonesian language learning in Australian education is in crisis.

…   …   …

Australia can no longer afford to neglect the study of other regions, languages and cultures. Nor can it continue to shift focus from one country to the next. Selective and politicised funding does not make for sound scholarship or reliable analysis. In order to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, Australian students need to appreciate the diversity of the IOR and understand the issues central to the region as a whole.

I end part of the executive summary at that point, but in formulating this report I asked Eleni to keep an open mind as to whether there is a case for the establishment of an Indian Ocean centre. She carefully researched and analysed the issues and has produced what I think is an outstanding report, recommending the establishment of an Indian Ocean centre in Australia. On the completion of the report, Eleni Stratton left for Washington, and I wish her well for what I know will be a bright future. I am sure she will make a fine contribution to this nation in whatever field of endeavour she undertakes in the future. I seek leave to table the full report of Eleni Stratton's work as an intern.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is there any objection to leave being granted.

Leave granted.

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