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The Coalition will establish a New Colombo Plan that will foster closer ties between Australia and the region and develop stronger people-to-people links” says John Alexander, Liberal candidate for Bennelong, Sydney, the electorate of former Prime Minster, John Howard said in an exclusive interview to Ada Derana.

John Alexander is recognised as one of Australia’s tennis greats, representing Australia in the Davis Cup 13 times from 1968 to 1983. He was elected Federal MP in August 2010.

The story of the original Colombo Plan is remarkable. Some 40,000 future leaders came to Australia from the 1950s to the mid-1980s and many of the changes that we have seen in our region over the decades have been influenced by those who – returning from this country – helped to lead others.

The New Colombo Plan will be different and better than the original, adding an outward-bound component to the original one-way street. This time it will include the young leaders of Australia going to our region because we must advance together. The New Colombo Plan will send Australia’s best and brightest young people to study in the Asia-Pacific region and brings the best and brightest talent from the region to Australia.

The program will start by 2015 and with a pilot program to commence in 2014. Over time, this will be a true two-way New Colombo Plan which takes Australian university students to Asian universities to learn more about our region and brings the best and brightest talent from the region to Australia.

In his interview with Lanka Vision, the Broadcaster of TV Derana and FM Derana in Australia/NZ , John also discussed the current refugee issue, a major political issue affecting both Australia and Sri Lanka. The Liberal party firmly believes that it is an organised people smuggling business and not a refugee issue, a point maintained by Sri Lankan Authorities.

If elected, the Coalition will establish a comprehensive Regional Deterrence Framework with its neighbors to stop asylum seekers transiting through its region in an attempt to gain illegal entry to Australia. According to the liberal policy document, if elected, the Coalition will provide $67 million to support joint operations with Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to disrupt people smuggling. John also outlined skilled immigration policies of Liberal party.

John is a keen supporter of Sri Lanka and described his links to Sri Lanka during the interview. His father-in-law was the Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka during the time of the implementation of the initial Colombo Plan.

John and his wife, who spent her childhood in Sri Lanka, are looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka in the near future. Like John, a number of strong supporters of Sri Lankans in Australia including Philip Ruddock, Member for Berowra, Craig Laundy, Candidate for Reid, Martin Zaiter, candidate Parramatta, Kent Johns Candidate for Werriwa and Joe Hockey, Candidate for North Sydney and Shadow Treasurer are contesting under Liberal banner in Saturdays’ Federal election in Australia.

Former Minister for Immigration and also the Federal Attorney General, Mr. Philip Ruddock is a keen supporter of Sri Lankans in Australia and has participated in many Sri Lankan events in NSW including the Lanka Vision/TV Derana 7 th anniversary celebration concert held in Sydney last year. Mr Joe Hockey, was the Minister for Human Services in 2004 to 2007, Howard government and supported at the Tsunami Fund Raising Concert for Sri Lanka at the Sydney Opera House.