SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks very much Macca, and ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming along today. Any time more than two or three people gather in a room with Christopher Pyne it is always a celebration of Christopher Pyne, but today he has thought kindly enough to invite 100 or so of his closest personal friends along for this birthday celebration, and to focus of course on the birthday present he really wants, which is to have an outstanding national strategy for international education.

Christopher and Julie and Macca have all obviously highlighted many of the great strengths in Australia's international education sector. I want to focus just very quickly on what we really need from this strategy, and what we hope to get from you during your attendance here today. Because what we need to get from this strategy is firstly very clearly a strategy that speaks to two markets. It has to speak to the Australian market, to the Australian people to make sure they understand and appreciate the enormity and the value of having a strong and robust international educational sector, and to industry and government to provide us with clarity and certainty around the directions that we need to take in that sector.

But it also needs to speak to an international market, to the countries that Julie spoke about to ensure that they understand that we don't just see this as a money-making exercise, that we actually are in this as well to provide capacity, skills, quality education, quality training, know-how, and opportunities that will help them to build their countries and to strengthen their countries. Because we know that, especially within our region, stronger countries, better skilled countries in our region will of course raise the tide for all nations, that we will have the opportunity to have stronger economies, bigger economies, and better standards of living for everybody within our region.

So it's important that this is a strategy document that does speak to both markets, in terms of the value and importance to Australia and to countries with whom we have relationships on international education about the mutual benefits and the mutual values that come from the strength of our international education sector.

It's important that it addresses and speaks to all four sectors of international education – for our universities, of course, for our schools, of course. As you would expect me to say, with particularly responsibilities, as Macca indicated, to vocational education and training, to our VET sector and to our English language providers. It needs to make sure that the strategy provides opportunities for all of them, because all of them make a very significant contribution already.

The VET sector's seen faster growth over the last year in terms of value and places than the university sector, and there are of course enormous opportunities as countries within our region look, in particular, at how they can better strengthen and structure the skill sets that they need for their economic growth in the future. 
It needs to work across the four different objectives that we seek to have realised from this strategy. Yes, we all identify and focus on, and the public debate particularly focuses on the need to grow numbers in terms of international students to Australia, and that's critically important that we maintain and grow that number.

But also enhancing the opportunity for Australian education and training institutions to provide services offshore, and to deliver places offshore. Because in many places that will be the real growth opportunity of the future, for our training bodies, for our education institutions to deliver in-country, in-market, the quality training that they provide. To make sure that we are supporting the development of these skills in a way that supports Australian businesses working overseas to be able to access the skills they need to grow. It's very important that international education is working in a complementary way to the rest of our industry and economic and growth objectives, and is supporting those Australian businesses to be able to access skills in the markets where they're working, that they need to succeed in growing their businesses.

And finally, to achieve our ambitions whereby Australian standards are accepted and adopted in many places of the world, and especially within our region, as trans-national standards. That we set benchmarks that will then make it easier for businesses to come in behind and provide training in those markets, that will make it easier for the mobility of labour between those markets. Because our standards are of course widely recognised, especially in the vocational sector, as being of high quality. As being of great relevance to job outcomes. We want to make sure that those qualifications and those standards are the ones that where people are building the architecture of their system, they embrace, use and use our standards wherever possible.

So ladies and gentlemen, I came back just recently from some time in China and Korea where I could see that we're taking great steps forward across all of those different objectives, and that we are delivering great things already. So we come with a wonderful base to start from, your input and the development of this strategy, and the sense of purpose that Christopher and Julie and Macca and Michaelia in Immigration, Andrew Robb and Steven Ciobo, and Scott Ryan and I in Education are all bringing across Government to make sure this is a united purpose objective to strengthen what's a critically important sector already, and make it even stronger in future, and I look forward to your views today to help us to do that. Thanks so very much, and with that, representing the Trade Portfolio, Steven Ciobo.


Senator Birmingham’s media contact: Caitlin Keage, 0427 729 987