Keynote address to the Japan National Press Club
FRI 22 APRIL 2011
Thank you, Chairman Saito, for your kind introduction.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman,
I am pleased to be back in Japan for my second visit in just ten months as Australia’s Prime Minister.
I return not only to underline the “enduring peace and friendship between our two countries and their peoples.”
[Article 1 - Basic Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation, 1976]
But to show Australia’s full support and confidence at this difficult time.
Yesterday I had the very great honour of an audience with the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
I expressed to Their Majesties how deeply I have been touched by the courage, dignity and unity of the Japanese people.
And I assured Their Majesties that Australia would continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Japan and work tirelessly to assist in its recovery.
Japan is Australia’s closest partner in Asia.
But it is more than that.
Japan is also a friend – a country and people for whom Australians today feel genuine affection and warmth.
Just as Japan and its people were there for Australia as we faced our floods and cyclone, Australia is with you now.
Not simply because Japan is such an important trade and strategic partner.
But because our countries have built up such close and trusted linkages that we can genuinely call each other friends.
And friends help each other.
That is why Australia moved quickly to help our friends in Japan when the tsunami struck.
The Australian Government donated 10 million Australian dollars to the Japan Red Cross and Pacific Disaster Appeal.
And this was matched by members of the Australian public and many major Australian corporations, who collectively donated millions more to charities for emergency relief.
The day after the tsunami we were preparing a team of 72 search and rescue specialists, including search dogs.
Within days, this team travelled to Minami Sanriku, where the damage was at its worst, and where I will travel tomorrow to see for myself the devastation they encountered.
There, this team worked side-by-side with Japanese colleagues in the hard task of looking for survivors, or providing some closure for families through locating victims.
The team included specialists who just weeks before had worked alongside Japan’s own Search and Rescue team in the rubble of Christchurch, New Zealand.
These specialists came to Japan on board an Australian C-17 aircraft, which subsequently flew round-the-clock missions in support of the recovery effort.
On 22 March, Australia committed two further C-17 aircraft to support Japan, diverting one of them from the Middle East.
These two aircraft delivered vital pumping equipment from Western Australia to help stabilise the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
So we had Australian aircraft, working with the Japan Self Defence Force, ferrying Japanese supplies, while using US bases in Japan and with the support of the United States.
We talk a lot about trilateral Australia-Japan-US cooperation.
But this was the talk put into action, reflecting the close and enduring relations between our three nations.
Friends, as Prime Minister, I am committed to this most important security relationship.
Japan and Australia are close strategic partners.
We are lively Asia-Pacific democracies committed to the universal values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
As active members of the United Nations we share a commitment to the peace, stability and prosperity that derives from a rules-based global order, in our region and across the world.
We face a number of shared security challenges, which we work closely together to address, such as our work to counter terrorism in South East Asia and against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, not least the DPRK nuclear problem.
Australia’s relationship with Japan on security and defence issues has grown to become one of the closest and most important that either of us has.
The historic 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation provides the foundation for our security cooperation.
Under this Joint Declaration, our Foreign Affairs and Defence ministers meet regularly for ‘2+2’ meetings.
This is the only ‘2+2’ meeting that Japan has with any country other than the United States, and one of only two ‘2+2’ meetings that Australia has in Asia.
The Joint Declaration has given rise to an increasingly active bilateral security agenda.
We have stepped up our participation in joint military exercises with one another.
And over the past year, Australia and Japan have worked closely together on peace-building activities in East Timor, humanitarian assistance in Pakistan, and counter-piracy surveillance in the Gulf of Aden.
Australia is keen to see new opportunities for co-operation.
The implementation of the Australia-Japan Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement, now endorsed by the Japanese Diet and the Australian Parliament, will enable mutual logistical support between our respective defence forces.
This Agreement marks the beginning of a new phase of more frequent, practical and ambitious bilateral security cooperation.
It will enable the Australian Defence Force and the Japan Self Defence Force to cooperate more quickly and easily with one another, such as by providing transport, supplies or support while on disaster-recovery or stabilisation operations.
Australia is only the second country after the United States to reach a treaty-level agreement of this type with Japan, and it reflects the importance of defence cooperation for both countries.
We are also working towards concluding an Information Security Agreement, which will help us share and protect classified information, so improving our inter-operability.
In our discussions yesterday, Prime Minister Kan and I agreed that, by the next ‘2+2’ meeting, our Defence Ministers will develop a new vision for defence cooperation between our two countries.
This will be designed to continue the evolution of Australia and Japan as partners in defence and security.
We also agreed to negotiate a new framework agreement on bilateral disaster relief cooperation.
This will improve our mechanisms for bilateral cooperation in the event of another crisis or emergency, either in Japan or Australia or in the region more broadly.
Australia and Japan’s economic relationship remains a fundamental plank of our partnership.
Japan is one of Australia’s most important economic partners.
The complementary nature of our economies is long-standing, recognised as long ago as 1957, when our bilateral Commerce Agreement was signed.
For decades now, Australia has been a safe, reliable and price-competitive supplier of the energy and raw materials Japan has needed to drive growth and exports.
Japan has also contributed enormously to Australia’s own prosperity over the past half-century, both through exports of its manufactures and through its extensive investments in Australia.
Those complementarities are not diminishing.
Indeed, yesterday I also discussed with Prime Minister Kan our shared interests in clean and renewable energy. We agreed to explore closer cooperation in this area.
Our economic relationship is also expanding into new areas such as financial services, infrastructure and education.
But as the world economic order changes, we need to move quickly if we are to embrace these new opportunities.
We must remain committed to the principles of free trade, which are the very foundation on which our prosperity rests.
That is why I was so encouraged by the Kan Government’s commitment to economic and trade policy reforms, as expressed in the Basic Policy on economic partnership agreements, issued last November.
In our discussions yesterday, Prime Minister Kan and I renewed our commitment to concluding a high-quality, comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Japan.
Such a Free Trade Agreement would contribute to Japan’s economic growth and could help pave the way for a new wave of Japanese integration into the regional and global economies.
A Free Trade Agreement would make us more prosperous.
It would make us more resilient to future shocks.
And it would bring our economies and our people closer together.
Australia understands that Japan’s focus right now is on managing the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami and on the nuclear disaster.
But, I also welcomed Prime Minister Kan’s statement yesterday that negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement should resume at the earliest possible date.
Beyond our bilateral ties, Australia and Japan share common views on global challenges.
At the United Nations, we are close partners.
Australia has been a long-standing supporter of Japan’s representation across the United Nations system.
We were firm supporters of Japan’s election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council
We have supported Japanese efforts to reform the Security Council to improve its effectiveness and legitimacy.
And Australia remains one of the most resolute supporters of Japan’s rightful aspirations for permanent membership of the Security Council.
On nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, Australia and Japan are jointly leading efforts in support of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, most notably through the work of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.
This body, chaired by former Australian Foreign Minister Evans and former Japanese Foreign Minister Kawaguchi, produced a report that revived debate ahead of the May 2010 NPT Review Conference.
This body of work has now evolved into joint Australia-Japan leadership of a cross-regional ministerial grouping that continues to provide impetus to nuclear arms control and non-proliferation.
Closer to home, Australia and Japan share the same vision for a stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific.
The Asia Pacific Region is the most economically dynamic in the world.
It is home to the world’s three largest economies and accounts for much of global trade and global growth.
The coming decades in the Asia-Pacific will hold for us great opportunities but also great challenges.
Australia approaches these opportunities and challenges with optimism.
Australia has a strong, flexible and open economy, well-positioned to benefit from the dramatic growth rates being seen across Asia.
We have good relations across Asia, an alliance relationship with the United States, and are contributing to the building of a regional community and norms.
We do not take continued regional stability and prosperity for granted. But we are optimistic in outlook.
Trade – across the Pacific and within Asia – has driven the region’s growth.
So too has foreign investment.
Domestically, Australia and Japan both face challenges in maintaining our competitiveness in an economically dynamic region.
To keep driving this growth we need to continue to bring down barriers to trade and investment, lowering tariffs and tackling behind the border barriers.
And, at home, Australia’s own competitiveness in this most competitive of regions must be assured through ongoing and ambitious economic reforms to keep our economy flexible and to raise our productivity.
As one of very few countries in the world to avoid recession during the global financial crisis, the Australian government well understands the need for continuous reform if economies are to grow and remain competitive.
The resilience of the Australian economy through the crisis was due to 25 years of challenging economic reforms.
But we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
To ensure our future competitiveness, further reform is necessary.
My Government has now put in place the major building blocks of a productivity agenda based on stability, flexibility and capability to position Australia for the future.
The Kan Government, I know, also has an ambitious economic agenda for Japan, and we welcome it.
Friends, our shared commitment to economic reform shapes our expectations for the wider region and the world.
Through the G20, Australia and Japan are working together to resist protectionism, support balanced and sustainable global growth, and strengthen the integrity of the global financial system.
These measures will have obvious flow-on benefits to the region.
In APEC, we are working together to reduce the barriers to trade, including ‘behind-the-border’ barriers.
In doing so, we build on more than 30 years of shared effort to create an economic community in the Asia-Pacific.
It was Japan and Australia who in 1980 convened the meeting which led to the creation of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council.
Nine years later, we were founding members of APEC.
We are also both strong supporters of a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade talks this year.
A successful Doha Round would be an important boost to the world trading system.
One way or other Doha should conclude in 2011.
Australia is working with Japan to try and get this done.
Friends, regional prosperity cannot be assured through a strong economic framework alone.
It also requires a robust security environment.
As staunch US allies, Japan and Australia are as one in welcoming a continued forward presence of the United States in the Asia-Pacific as an important contribution to regional stability.
Stability and security depend vitally on the integral role
of the United States and on developing the right regional architecture to encourage cooperation on security challenges and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
Working bilaterally and trilaterally, including through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, we are enhancing our own security and contribute more broadly to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
With Japan, we are also helping build and shape regional norms and institutions to ensure the long-term peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia and Japan are both founding members of the East Asia Summit.
We both welcomed its recent expansion to include the United States and Russia.
With the EAS, we now have an institution with the right membership and mandate to address the full range of security, political and economic issues facing the region.
The Asia-Pacific is a region in strategic flux, where changing power relativities are playing out against the backdrop of historical mistrust and conflict.
It is vital that we build a robust architecture of security and cooperation to guarantee the peace and prosperity of our people in the years ahead.
Yesterday I agreed with Prime Minister Kan to work closely together – and with the other members of the East Asia Summit - in managing regional challenges and promoting an inclusive community.
Australia believes it will be important to develop a practical security cooperation agenda in the East Asia Summit, including on issues like maritime security.
We would also like to see more direct links between the EAS and the ASEAN + 8 Defence Ministers meetings.
And a second Finance Ministers meeting under the EAS umbrella will be important, as will continued cooperation in education, including helping student mobility across the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We know that peace and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.
They are hard won and easily lost.
Today we reflect with gratitude on the history of reconciliation and understanding that has united our two nations and our two peoples.
We have achieved great things together that once would have seemed unimaginable.
We achieved them because we sought the best in each other, transcending the barriers of distance, culture and history to create something truly remarkable.
In the entry foyer of the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, there are tens of thousands of paper cranes.
These were folded by Japanese school students who have visited Australia on school trips and who wanted to show solidarity with those in Australia who have suffered in the floods.
Likewise, when the earthquake and tsunami struck, Australian students began making paper cranes to show their solidarity with Japan.
They didn’t need to be told.
They just starting folding them.
I’m not sure our students are as fast as Japanese students at origami.
But I know they the folded those paper cranes with the deepest and most heartfelt feelings of friendship and empathy.
All Australians share these feelings.
We have the utmost confidence that Japan will recover from this terrible tragedy, scarred but stronger.
And from these difficult days, our remarkable friendship will grow stronger too.
It is a friendship we prize like few others.
A friendship of equals.
A partnership of peoples.
And even stronger in the future.
A future of security, stability and prosperity that we will