Address to the 50th Anniversary Australia Japan Foundation Joint Business Conference
MON 08 OCTOBER 2012
It's a great honour to celebrate the 50th Joint Business Committee meeting and deliver the Australia-Japan Foundation Annual Address.
Tonight I see so many friends.
I see members of the Australia-Japan Foundation Board who give such rich expression to the spirit of cooperation that has been forged between our two countries.
I see members of the Australia-Japan and Japan-Australia Business Cooperation Committees proudly celebrating half a century of success.
You've come so far since those early days when you flew over the Pilbara and saw such potential in the landscape and in each other.
I pay tribute to the eminent former Chairs of the JABCC - Hugh Morgan and Takashi Imai, who honour us with their presence tonight.
I see Ambassador Bruce Miller, a great servant of Australian diplomacy and his counterpart Ambassador Sato, whose outstanding work in this country is soon to end.
We are not just fulfilling a courtesy of protocol in bidding Your Excellency goodbye.
It is truly sad to see you go and leave so many friends behind.
There will always be a place of welcome for you in this open and generous land.
I see Mr Akio Mimura, one of Asia's most far-sighted business leaders, who has been honoured by an award in the Order of Australia.
Fittingly, this award has been made at the highest rank - Companion - because your contribution has been of the highest rank.
I'm also very proud to acknowledge Sir Rod Eddington who this week joins Mimura-san in receiving honorary doctorates from the Australian National University.
I can't think of a better way to mark this 50th anniversary than to celebrate those who have helped bring our relationship so far.
And in particular to recognise those truly pioneering senior business figures in Japan and Australia who, barely a decade after the end of the Pacific war, had the imagination to see what the economic relationship could become and the determination to realise that vision.
We can't gather tonight without remembering last year's terrible earthquake and tsunami and the difficulties many in Japan still endure.
Australians watched with horror as these events unfolded and we responded with our hearts, just as Japan did after our fires and floods.
My visit to the town of Minami Sanriku was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had as Prime Minister.
I will never forget the scenes of destruction I witnessed there, but nor will I forget the resilience shown by the survivors and their families as they set about rebuilding their lives.
I was deeply touched that the presence of a foreign leader could bring that small measure of comfort which comes from knowing you are not alone.
In turn, we are honoured tonight to have in our presence Mayor Sato from Minami Sanriku and Council President Sato from Iitatemura, another community Australia has been active in helping.
You represent the spirit of the survivors and their determination to ensure the earthquake and tsunami can never defeat their courage.
Natural disasters are a time of testing when the quality of people and relationships is revealed.
In this time of tragedy, we saw the endurance and strength of the Japanese people.
Just as in our response to tragedy, we saw the character of the bonds between our two countries.
Those bonds are warm and they are strong, so we gather here tonight to celebrate a relationship that is deeply valued and not ever taken for granted.
Our partnership has endured through changes of governments, economic cycles, circumstances and events.
It is an adaptable and enduring friendship, forged from the unlikely inheritance of a sorrowful past.
In the 1950s, Australians found the capacity to extend understanding.
At the same time, Japan has become a model liberal democracy, embracing human rights and the rules of the international community.
In this new Japan, Australians saw the emergence of values we had long prized.
So we forged a genuine friendship that has enriched the prosperity of our people, the strength of our economies and the security of our countries.
A friendship that provides a template for how countries with different histories and cultures can find agreement in unexpected ways.
This is not an instrumental or transactional relationship.
It is a sophisticated relationship based on rich personal connections built on the foundations of the trading relationship which the Business Cooperation Committees helped lay down, but now encompassing education, culture, science, sport and beyond.
And, of course, it is a strategic partnership built around common objectives and a shared view of the world and our region.
Our celebration of past achievements only has meaning if we draw inspiration from them to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.
So tonight we look to the future.
For us in this region, that future can be characterised as the 'Asian Century'.
In the next 30 years, one in two human beings born on this planet will be born in Asia.
And the Asian urban population will increase by over a billion.
Every year, the Asian middle-class will grow by 100 million.
That means opportunity for Australia and Japan, and change too.
It means looking at what more we can do together, even in such a long-standing and valued friendship.
The first thing we can do is get the Free Trade Agreement done.
Yes we've achieved a remarkable degree of economic complementarity over six decades.
At the end of 2011, the total stock of Japanese investment in Australia was over $123 billion and the pipeline remains strong.
For example, Japan’s INPEX has committed nearly $22 billion to the Ichthys LNG Project in the Northern Territory, whose construction I launched in May this year.
And In June, Mitsubishi Corporation bought a 24 per cent stake in milk processor Tasmanian Dairy Products.
Our trade with Japan continues to grow rapidly, more than doubling from $24 billion in 2001 to $52 billion last year.
Australia supplies the lion's share of the resources that have made Japan an industrial powerhouse, including 60 per cent of its iron ore and coal, and now an ever-growing proportion of its LNG.
We have developed a reputation in Japan as a reliable supplier of safe, high quality food.
If you eat a Macdonald's hamburger in Japan, it’s almost certain to contain Aussie beef.
If you eat Japan’s famous “Sanuki Udon” noodles, chances are they are made from custom-grown Australian wheat.
If you drink a Japanese beer, it's probably made with Australian barley.
And these things are only possible because over the years, Australian and Japanese companies have built close ties founded on trust and reliability.
Japan is a critically important economic partner for Australia and will remain so in the future.
But in a dynamic and changing region, it’s time to take the next step.
It’s time to seal the deal on a Free Trade Agreement.
Free and open trade is the cornerstone of Australia’s prosperity.
Opening markets and curbing protectionism increases prosperity and creates jobs all round.
Australia is working with regional partners to develop a high quality regional free trade agreement that advances the APEC vision for an economically integrated Asia-Pacific.
At the same time, we maintain a realistic focus on what can be achieved through bilateral free trade agreements.
No FTA should be more natural or logical than with Japan.
I recently spoke with my colleague, Prime Minister Noda, about this and I was encouraged by his response.
I am only too deeply aware that for 2011 Japan's focus was overwhelmingly on disaster recovery.
But in 2012 we have seen momentum gathering again in our FTA negotiations.
Perhaps now, as this special anniversary year enters its final months, we can find an opportune moment to finalise the FTA.
Such an agreement would be a fitting culmination of all our great work over the past fifty years. It would ensure Japan does not fall behind our other FTA partners.
An FTA would reduce the costs of inputs, encouraging previously protected Japanese industries to innovate and expand.
It would contribute to Japanese food security by making Japan an even more affordable export destination for Australian farmers.
It would help our bilateral trade reach its full potential in services.
And it would provide an achievable staging point on the way to Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement if they so wish.
Our FTA negotiations have come a long way in five years; only a few hurdles remain.
They are important hurdles, but they can be overcome with a concerted political will on both sides.
Together, we can get the job done.
At the same time, we need to keep our people-to-people links strong.
There are, for example, 47 Japan-Australia societies in Japan and 16 Australia-Japan societies in Australia.
We have 100 sister-city relationships and six sister-state relationships.
On my visit to Japan last year, I was honoured to be able to make a small contribution by supporting a two-way exchange for students and academics from prefectures hardest-hit by the earthquake and tsunami.
Nearly 60,000 young Japanese travel to Australia each year, to study, undertake school exchanges and learn English.
But only one-tenth of that number – about 6000 Australian students – go to Japan each year as part of their school or university studies, so I’d like to see us do better.
I also want to see Japanese language teaching in Australian schools and universities stay strong.
Japanese language remains the most studied foreign language in Australian schools and its teaching will be strengthened by the development of a new Japanese curriculum as part of our wider educational reforms.
In the Asian Century, Australians will need to be much more Asia-literate and Asia-capable than we ever have been before.
Indeed, this is one of the key themes I have asked the Asian Century White Paper team to examine.
Let us remember that all these things - trade and investment, student exchanges, tourism - are the works of peace.
All our achievements over the past 50 years have only been possible because of the long-term strategic stability in Asia.
Only if we maintain and enhance that framework of stability can the children of today grow up in a peaceful world like their parents have.
In this context, diplomatic and security cooperation between Australia and Japan has never been so important.
Australia and Japan must continue, and where possible strengthen, our cooperation in the G20, APEC, East Asia Summit and our other global and regional forums.
Australia is acutely aware of the important contribution that Japan makes to key decision-making bodies and global governance – to the rules-based international order that we both seek to promote.
So much so that Australia has long held the view that Japan ought to occupy a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Together we played a key role in the founding of APEC, and we have helped to expand and consolidate the role of the East Asia Summit and the G20.
Our partnership in the World Trade Organisation has served our shared interests in a global rules-based multilateral trading system.
Above all, we must work together on regional security.
As China and India and other large nations of Asia rise, our strategic landscape is becoming more crowded and complex.
Rising national wealth is allowing states to modernise their defence forces.
At the same time, economic growth is putting pressure on strategic resources, like energy, water and food.
And existing regional tensions remain, such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and unresolved territorial disputes.
We need not be pessimistic about the future for our region but nor should we be complacent.
New mindsets and creative approaches will be needed as we seek to build mutual trust and confidence between the countries of our region.
Australia and Japan must work together to this end, bilaterally and with all the countries of the region.
Our Alliance relationships with the United States contribute to stability in the region.
We are working to strengthen the East Asia Summit, a forum now with the right membership and mandate to cover political, security and economic issues in our region.
Our cooperation encompasses non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament as well as emerging issues such as space and cyber security.
Bilaterally, building on the 2007Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, we now conduct annual high-end military exercises, have negotiated an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement and an Information Security Agreement.
One of the key outcomes of the 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting in Sydney last month was a joint Vision Statement, which will guide our deepening defence and security cooperation in the years ahead.
We will play our part in keeping Asia stable, peaceful and cooperative.
These are years of destiny for our region.
If we get this right – as I believe we will – this will be looked upon as one of the most extraordinary periods in human history.
It will be seen as the period when we were able to bring billions out of poverty.
To recast our global and regional links through freer trade and stronger regional architecture.
To manage the challenge of food security and environmental sustainability in a growing world population facing the very real threat of climate change.
And to maintain the stability needed for economic growth as the strategic order changes in our region.
I believe all this can be accomplished in our time.
Indeed, it must be because the alternative cannot be contemplated.
The partnership between Australia and Japan shows it can be done.
Two countries that put old enmities aside and embraced a common purpose.
It has taken judgment and committed diplomacy.
It has taken wisdom and patience through the occasional low points.
And, perhaps most importantly, it has taken a strong human dimension – beginning with that early friendship between Prime Minister Kishi and Trade Minister John McEwen, and continuing to the warmth and generosity that exists in this room tonight.
The governments of both our countries have high hopes and great ambitions for the next 50 years, and so we should.
This is a time of opportunity for us both.
We rightly call it the ‘Asian Century’, and in creating that century, Japan led the way.
Japan was the first Asian country to modernise, providing an example and an inspiration to the other nations of the region.
The next 50 years will be harder.
The competition is steeper, and the low-hanging fruit has been long picked.
But if the energy and commitment shown by the organisations in this room over the past 50 years are anything to go by, we can have every confidence in the next 50 years.
Much will change in those decades.
But the friendship between Australia and Japan – warm, respectful and dependable – will endure.