There was a spring in Malcolm Turnbull’s step as he held talks with baristas and students rather than the world leaders he has been meeting at summits in China and Laos this week.
The Prime Minister was talking about entrepreneurship with angel investors and start-ups near the Mekong River in Vientiane rather than negotiating an “innovation blueprint” in an impenetrable G20 communiqué.
Yet the highlight of the morning, where Turnbull handed out scholarships to 31 university students to travel to Australia to do their postgraduate degrees, was only half as good as it could have been.
Turnbull’s first event was a visit to Naked Espresso, a cafe backed by the Laos chapter of the Mekong Angel Investors Network and run by Ariya ‘Pop’ Khamvongsa, pictured, who set up the business in his home country after working as a barista in western Sydney.
The second event was a speech at the Laos Australia Institute where Turnbull saw a new generation of Laos students preparing to follow about 1,200 others from their country who had been granted scholarships to study in Australia.
This was an example of the goodwill that Australia prides itself on building throughout Asia. The Laos education minister who presided over the ceremony, Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune, proved the value of the work by mentioning her time as student at Deakin University in Geelong.
As the 31 scholars were named, Turnbull heard of their plans to study engineering, mathematics, public policy and social work and then use those skills to help their country.
What he did not hear is that there could have been twice as many scholars. Two years ago there were about 60 scholarships of this kind – but the program was halved in the foreign aid cuts of the May 2014 federal budget.
Source: The Weekend Australian