Good morning. I’m delighted to be in Japan. On this visit I met last night with Foreign Minister Kishida, and this afternoon I’m meeting with Prime Minister Abe. I’m also meeting with Defence Minister Nakatani. My two days here will have been most productive and fruitful as I meet with businesspeople, people from industry and my political counterparts and senior politicians in the Japanese political hierarchy.
That’s appropriate, given the nature of our bilateral relationship. We are longstanding friends and partners. Of course, our relationship, in contemporary terms, is based very much on our economic, trade and investment partnership. Next year it will be seventy years since the historic commerce agreement signed by Prime Ministers Kishi and Menzies was entered into, and when you think that we’ve had almost seven decades of economic, trade and investment ties, it is quite an extraordinary relationship.
Today we are also celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which took our relationship to another level. Today, Japan is our second largest trading partner, our second largest investor, and I note that Mr Takahashi is here today representing Japan Post. The recent acquisition of Toll Holdings in Australia demonstrates that there is so much to our bilateral relationship and so much more that we can do together.
In that regard I want to thank those involved in the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, but also the Japan-Australia Business Cooperation Committee, for you have been the vanguard of this economic relationship, and have been promoting and advocating greater economic ties between our two countries for such a very long time. So thank you for your efforts, your energy and your passion for this relationship.
Over more recent years, the relationship has grown even deeper in a strategic sense.
We now describe our relationship as a special strategic partnership. So often we have a similar world view on events that are swirling around us in our region, and globally. And as two democracies committed to freedoms, the rule of law, the international rules-based order and democratic institutions, it’s natural that Australia and Japan should partner in responses to some of the challenges we face.
It is a time of great global volatility.
In Europe there are signs of disunity and rising extremism; they are facing a humanitarian crisis from the Middle East that is impacting on Europe’s ability to cope with the mass of people coming to their shores. Russia is intent on trying to destabilise the unity in Europe and NATO. Economically, there are significant global challenges, as there is a major divergence amongst the global economies. For example, the United States Federal Reserve is tightening monetary policy; in Europe and in Japan the central banks are maintaining accommodative monetary policy. China – such a significant economy to so many countries around the globe, I think something like 120 countries nominate China as their number one trading partner – China is transitioning to a more sustainable economic growth model.
There are challenges in our region.
The tensions in the South China Sea, where the interests of great powers intersect; some of the random acts of destabilisation and volatility coming from North Korea with its recent ballistic missile launch; and the impact of all of these challenges on the economies of our region are challenges that Australia and Japan face together. During my discussion with Foreign Minister Kishida, we covered such a range of issues, and on virtually every issue we were aligned in our views and our outlook. So this is a special strategic partnership.
When you look at the global volatility, it is having an impact on Australia’s economy. We are transitioning from economic growth based on investment in the construction phase of the mining resource sector, and we are having to transition to a broader base and find other drivers of economic growth.
Australia is maintaining a very credible economic performance; after all, we are now in our twenty-fourth consecutive year of economic growth. That is a remarkable feat, if I might say, on the part of any country. Our growth is continuing at 2.5 per cent this year, and Australia will weather the global and regional volatility, but that means our relationship with trusted partners like Japan is even more important.
That’s why the signing of the Australia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement meant so much to Australia and, I believe, to Japan, for even though we were such strong trading partners, there was still so much more that we can do together in other areas, in services, in agriculture. And business is starting to see the benefit, both in Japan and in Australia, of this historic free trade agreement.
In fact, I believe that Australia and Japan set a standard that was followed in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This is an historic agreement – twelve member countries coming together in the name of trade liberalisation – and the Australia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement was the precursor to what is now, I believe, the gold standard for trade agreements in our region, and hopefully will set a standard for other agreements to meet.
There is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) that is currently under negotiation, and I believe that the TPP will be setting the bar for RCEP and any other agreements. Hopefully the aspiration of APEC for an Asia-Pacific free trade zone will become a reality, hopefully in my time as Foreign Minister but maybe just after!
And what Australia and Japan did in the TPP negotiations – working together and collaborating – I think will be of great benefit to our region. After all, from the United States’ perspective, having been the security guarantor of our region for so many decades, and embracing the rebalance policy to our region, the TPP represents the economic manifestation of the rebalance’s strategic and economic requirement for US leadership in our part of the world.
Back home in Australia, we are highly conscious of the fact that we need to diversify our economy. While we are renowned around the world for our mining, energy and resource sector, we have a much more sophisticated and diversified economy. In fact, I believe that our greatest natural resource is our people, and our greatest natural asset their creativity and ingenuity and talent and skills. With that in mind, we have embraced what we call a policy of “economic diplomacy” within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and hence part of the government’s foreign policy.
Economic diplomacy is about using our diplomatic networks, our assets, our policies, to drive deeper economic engagement between Australia and the other 100 or more countries where we have a diplomatic mission.
And it’s actually part of the KPIs – I hope this isn’t news to you, Bruce – part of the KPIs of our heads of mission that they enhance trade, investment and economic ties between the host country and Australia. Our missions are required to produce the equivalent of a corporate business plan to demonstrate how they would achieve that.
Now, that might make sense to you as businesspeople, but it’s something that our diplomatic network had not been asked to do before, and the results have been wonderful, as our ambassadors and our posts are focusing on other areas of engagement than perhaps the traditional areas of economic ties that had existed.
In this regard, we are embracing innovation at the heart of the Government’s economic agenda.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is the ideal Prime Minister to drive an agenda based on innovation. Many of you in this room will know his history, but for those who don’t, Prime Minister Turnbull in an earlier life was a very successful barrister. He then became a merchant banker, and back in the 90s he was one of the first people to realise the potential of the internet with an early online service provider. He established this long before even experienced tech companies had appreciated the impact of the internet and online activity, and he was very successful in that venture and he then went on into public life. So he has been a risk-taker, an innovator, a businessperson, and he has brought that enthusiasm and energy to our innovation agenda.
Last December he announced the National Science and Innovation Agenda, with backing of over a billion dollars, to place Australia at the forefront of innovation. It was timely, for he made a visit to Japan and met with Prime Minister Abe, and Australia and Japan have so much in common in this regard. Japan is an innovator par excellence. Japan leads the world in robotics and so many of the new, challenging industries and areas. We have much to learn from Japan and we hope that we will be able to partner in some of our more creative industries.
This is what we’re focusing upon; what we call our creative industries. Australia has world-class talent in design, in engineering, in fashion, in education, in tourism. There are a whole range of areas where we have so much to offer; we just need to unleash the talent.
We now have a Minister for Industry and Innovation. We have a junior minister for innovation; he’s 25 years old, and I think that’s quite appropriate, to have a minister who’s grown up with technology to be in charge of innovation, encouraging tech startups and various forms of funding, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and the like.
So it’s part of a much more outward-looking Australian economic view, and I believe that working with partners like Japan we will see a much more diversified Australian economy emerge. That’s good news, because it means we will continue to weather the global economic storms and the regional challenges, but we can’t do it alone; we must do it in partnership.
There have been some extraordinary success stories between Australia and Japan, and one of them is our education exchanges. For many years Japan has been sending young people to our country and we have been sending young Australians to Japan, but a couple of years ago we established what has become signature policy of the Coalition government: the New Colombo Plan. Based on the original Colombo Plan of the 1950s, when we brought to our shores people from countries that were struggling to develop their economies. We brought their bright young people to Australia to train in our universities, to gain Australian degrees and to go home and rebuild their countries.
So I decided it was time we reversed that, to send our bright young people into our region, to live here, to study and to have an internship or a mentorship or some kind of work experience, so that young Australians could get a greater understanding of where our future lies, and that is in our region.
Japan came on board as one of the first pilot countries, to test out our New Colombo Plan, back in 2014. It was a leap of faith in Japan’s part, because it meant we were sending young students to live here, they needed places at universities, they needed opportunities to carry out work experience in your businesses and your industries. It was pushing the student exchange envelope further than we had in the past, and yet Japan willingly embraced the concept.
And from a standing start, in the beginning of 2014, to the end of this year, 2016, one thousand Australian students will have lived, studied and worked in Japan under the New Colombo Plan.
I want to thank those businesses in the audience represented here today who have willingly taken young Australian students into their workplaces. I know Mitsui and Mitsubishi and others have been very generous in working with our universities, with the government, and with our business chambers and embassy to ensure that this extraordinary experience can continue.
The New Colombo Plan is now in thirty eight countries in our region, and by the end of this year 10,000 Australian students will have been involved in the New Colombo Plan. This is because the Australian government recognises where our future lies, and we want our young Australians to be innovative, creative, nimble, agile; to have experienced the culture, the politics, the life of the countries with whom we will be sharing our future. And Japan is absolutely pivotal to Australia’s future.
We are also developing an agenda for Northern Australia, and there’s a white paper out there in relation to the development of the north, across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. This will provide unprecedented opportunities for investment in our country, investments which will benefit the investor as much as it will benefit Australia. And I certainly encourage Japanese companies, as they have so often in the past, to consider ways that they can invest in Australia that will be of benefit to both our countries.
The development of northern Australia is a very exciting concept, and in so many areas, not just mining, resources and energy, but in health and education and medicines and a whole range of areas of excellence where we believe that joint collaborations will drive economic growth, job opportunities and of course benefits for the nations involved.
So I’m delighted to be back here again amongst friends, and this afternoon we will be celebrating that fortieth anniversary of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. I firmly believe that even though we have achieved so much together, the very best days of the Australia-Japan relationship lie ahead of us.
QUESTION My name’s Kay Stevenson, I’m a masters’ student at Tokyo University. I was on the precursor to the New Colombo Plan; I came over on the Prime Minister’s Australia in Asia Award, and I’m really glad that support from the Australian Government is continuing in the New Colombo Plan. I currently study international cooperation, in particular disaster relief, and from the viewpoints I’ve read and the people I’ve talked to, the cooperation between Australia and Japan in the area of humanitarian assistance has greatly developed since 2011. I’d like to ask for your insights into that.
JULIE BISHOP I spoke earlier about how our relationship is broadening way beyond the economic, trade and investment into a special strategic partnership, and the work that we’re doing jointly in the area of humanitarian relief and natural disaster relief has increased exponentially. I have experienced it first hand; during the typhoon in the Philippines, Typhoon Hainan, we worked closely with Japan in recovery efforts in the Philippines. In fact, our C130 arrived on the tarmac in Manila at the same time as the Japanese, and the Japanese defence minister and I compared notes on where we were heading and what we were doing, and it was a very similar approach.
Having worked so closely together in the Pacific, I’m in fact announcing today that Australia and Japan have established a Pacific Strategy where we will collaborate even further in the areas of development, defence and diplomacy in the Pacific, particular in the south-west Pacific.
But it goes way beyond our region. I was in London recently at the Syrian Humanitarian Donors Conference, and Australia has been supporting the humanitarian effort as a result of the civil war in Syria since 2011. Japan was present at this donors’ conference and made an extraordinary contribution to the humanitarian effort – I think it’s something like Japan has already committed something like $1.2 billion and an extra $350 million was announced at that conference – and this just underscores the global commitment to peace and stability that Japan has. Not only is it an extraordinary contributor to the UN peacekeeping effort – in fact I believe that Japan has been involved in about 27 peacekeeping operations, deploying about 10,000 personnel over the years, and the UN just could not be as effective as it is in peacekeeping without that contribution from Japan.
So we are working closely together on disaster relief in our region and also partnering in humanitarian efforts elsewhere in the world, and that’s part of the special friendship and relationship between Australia and Japan. We see the world from a very similar standpoint, and I think this area of humanitarian and natural disaster relief is a place where Australia and Japan can cooperate and collaborate even further.
QUESTION My name is Frank Noda, I’m a Japanese with an Australian accent because I grew up in Perth. Currently I’m a permanent resident in Melbourne.
JULIE BISHOP Why would you leave Perth?
QUESTION I want to go back! Fantastic place. My question is, how important do you think teaching Asian languages is for Australia’s future in Asia, and do you think enough is being done in Australian primary and secondary schools for the promotion of Asian languages?
JULIE BISHOP Most certainly the Government believes that our school curricula should have Asian languages as a core component. The New Colombo Plan is a manifestation of that. We have said often that we wanted to make young Australians more Asia-literate. That includes not just understanding the culture, the politics, the communities, but also being conversant in the languages of the region.
Japan has for a long time promoted the study of Japanese in Australia, I think it’s the third-largest cohort of foreign language speakers in our schools would be Japanese. And we are certainly encouraging the states, who are in charge of school curriculums, to embrace the study of Asian languages from the earliest age possible, and that means primary schools. There are some wonderful examples of Australian schools embracing Japanese at the earliest age.
I believe that it should be fundamental to the curriculum, a second language, not only for the engagement with that particular country or region, but also as an educative tool for young people to learn a second language.
We have in place a number of initiatives, but it really is focusing on ensuring that the states, who run the education systems, have enough teachers, and that’s where we need to look at more exchanges with countries like Japan to get Japanese speakers into our schools so they can educate the next generation who then go on to be Japanese teachers or language teachers.
So that’s one of the challenges, but hopefully that will be one of the benefits of the New Colombo Plan, that students coming to our region either have a second language or will be able to enhance their skills in that second language. And we are particularly promoting teachers and teaching, so that those students will come back and become the teachers we need for the future. There’s always so much more we can do, but I think there’s a much greater awareness about the benefits of a second language.
Might I say on the part of businesses, I remember way back when I was the managing partner of a major law firm in Perth and I would interview all the potential article clerks and carry out something like 200 interviews in the summer holidays. At that time, if somebody spoke a second language it was more of a curiosity than anything else; it didn’t actually impact on the person’s likely success as an articled clerk. These days, if they can speak a second language it puts them into the ‘yes, let’s consider this person’ pile, because so much of our business is done internationally in our globalised economy, if someone can converse in another language then that is a huge advantage for them. So I think that young people and businesses are recognising the importance of a second or third language and giving it due weight.
QUESTION Thanks very much for your speech today. I think it was great. It was very natural and, off the cuff rather than just sticking to the speech, it was very nice. I think it was the first time I have ever seen it, so well done.
I’m from Lend Lease. I just wanted to ask you about potential Japanese and Australian ventures in to third countries in Asia. We often find ourselves going head to head with Japanese organisations. More recently, we’ve been trying to create joint ventures and do a lot more. I think businesses from both countries would benefit far more if there was a more structured approach to potentially joining forces and collaborating with third countries in Asia. I was wondering if there were any thoughts you might have on how we could do that better going forward.
JULIE BISHOP Well actually that is happening now and this is one of the examples of how this relationship, seventy years old in terms of our contemporary, economic, and trade relationship, is transforming itself in so many ways. We are actually collaborating together, in joint ventures or other vehicles, to work in third countries and there are number of great examples of that. So that our companies are into the global and regional supply chains and there have been some terrific examples of Australia and Japan working together in third countries. Indeed that is where the Government is following business and industry in that regard.
This Pacific strategy, that we’ve announced today, is an initiative that I have announced, is a replication of that where the Australian, and Japanese, governments are working together in third countries. Normally we would be competing, if you like, in the development space whereas now we are aligning our interests and our work so that there is a better outcome for the recipient country, but also better value for the dollar invested from our respective countries and an alignment of what we are seeking to do. And it is one of the first examples I’ve seen of governments actually working together to deliver development assistance in third countries in the region.
So, it’s happening at the Government level, it’s happening at the business level and because there is so much trust between Australian and Japanese businesses – we’ve had a long history of working together – this will be a trend for the future so you have actually touched upon something that is already happening in so many ways. Particularly in our region with some of the economies, in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, where we can work together to gain a better outcome than if we had gone it alone, or had competed.
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