Coalition plans to send uni students for a year's study in Asia
Thousands of university students would spend at least one year of their degree on an exchange program at an Asian university under a new Coalition plan to cement Australia's place in Asia.
The opposition spokeswoman for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, has held high-level talks with her counterparts in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Singapore, including the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, to develop the policy.
Ms Bishop, an education minister in the former Howard government, said the exchange program would become ''the norm, and not the exception'' under a Coalition government.
A study has shown a pilot scheme would cost the taxpayer about $9.3 million in the first year, providing 250 Asian and Australian students the chance to study abroad.
If successful the scheme would be increased, with a goal of 20,000 students a year studying across Asia.
A plan to introduce mandatory Asian language courses into schools has won bipartisan support.
Before MPs return to Canberra on Monday for the last parliamentary sitting of the year, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has warned the Coalition will use the four days to grill the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, over her integrity as a Slater & Gordon solicitor in the 1990s.
Mr Abbott said on Saturday he was prepared to give Ms Gillard the benefit of the doubt but it was time she gave a ''candid explanation''.