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23 June 2014


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:31): I commend my colleague the member for Cowan for this motion on Australia-Japanese relations. As a good friend of Japan and as Chair of the East Asia Parliamentary Network, I give my full support to this private member’s motion. Our nation’s relations with Japan are a modern miracle. Over the space of just two generations we have gone from opponents in a major conflict to the very best of trusted friends. The level of cooperation between our two governments, between businesses, through trade, and between people through tourism and sporting connections continues to grow. As midsize powers, we have much in common. We are both democracies committed to the rule of law and human rights.

Japan is part of our pilot scheme for the New Colombo Plan. This scheme will see Australian undergraduates studying and working in Japan, giving them unique experiences and establishing valuable friendships and networks that will have an enduring impact on relations between our two countries. This is a true testament of the maturity, practicality and professionalism with which our diplomatic relations have been conducted. No-one is a better example than our Minister for Trade who has led negotiations for the signing of a free trade agreement between our two countries. Minister Robb deserves the plaudits from every member of this chamber for his efforts. Similarly, the 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers Meeting in Tokyo earlier this month was an unprecedented opportunity to discuss practical ways to enhance our defence and security relationships and augment bilateral cooperation established under the 2007 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation.

Whilst in Tokyo, the defence minister announced the conclusion of negotiations on an agreement to share defence science technologies and equipment. This will deepen even further the strong security ties between our two nations. These great diplomatic achievements have built on outcomes from Prime Minister Abbott’s visit to Japan earlier this year, and looks forward toward Prime Minister Abe’s upcoming visit to Australia.

Next week I will be travelling to Japan on a personal visit. Whilst there I hope to meet with some members of the Japanese parliament and also to further my understanding about the Japanese high-speed rail system. The shinkansen celebrated its 50-year anniversary last year. Over this time this incredible rail infrastructure has not been responsible for one safety-related fatality. Japan has much they can teach us about the way that high-speed rail can open regional areas to development, thereby reducing levels of urban congestion. Japan Central Rail is currently trialling a maglev rail line, which uses magnetic levitation instead of traditional wheels on tracks. These trains can travel up to 550 kmh. I hope to meet with the Chairman of Japan Central Rail, Mr Kasai, next week to discuss their experiences and the opportunities for Australia to work cooperatively with Japan towards our own productive development.

As Chair of the East Asia Parliamentary Network and as a good friend to Ambassador Akimoto and Minister Imamura in the Japanese Embassy, I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Abe to Australia next month. This visit will further enhance our important bilateral strategic and economic partnership, as well as our unique strong friendship.

I also look forward to welcoming back the Japanese table tennis team to compete in this year’s Bennelong Cup competition in the Great Hall on 23 October. It is the highlight of our sporting calendar! The players and coaches were a real credit to the competition last year, competing with great heart and in the true spirit of the game. I hope this will become an enduring annual visit. Again, I applaud the member for Cowan for this timely motion, and also the members for Robertson and Canning, who are both longstanding and vocal advocates of Australia’s strong relations with Japan. I commend this motion to the House.