Remarks at 40th Anniversary of the Basic Treaty Of Friendship and Cooperation Between Australia and Japan

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Good afternoon. Friends of Australia. Friends of Japan. I am particularly delighted that Mr Masakazu is here, the Parliamentary Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and two of my Parliamentary colleagues Senator Bridget McKenzie, and Senator Dean Smith from my home state of Western Australia.

I'm delighted that my fifth visit to Japan has coincided with celebrations for the 40th Anniversary of the treaty signed by Australian Prime Minister Fraser and Japanese Prime Minister Kishi, the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Australia and Japan, a statement of our friendship and goodwill.

By 1976, our two nations had come a long way; our trading relationship began way back in the 1880s when Japanese pearling fleets reached northern Australia.

Economic relations gathered momentum when the Commerce Treaty was put in place in 1957, and have expanded enormously over the following decades.

What the basic treaty did was take this very successful trading relationship and provide a framework to promote understanding and cooperation on all matters of mutual interest.

At the time our two governments shared a remarkably optimistic vision for the future of the relationship. It has grown to exceed all expectations, resulting in the special friendship – indeed the special strategic partnership – that our countries enjoy today.

Economics and trade are about more than business transactions. Economic relationships rely heavily on trust and understanding – qualities that take years to develop.

Companies such as Rio Tinto – which this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first iron ore shipment from the Pilbara to Nippon Steel's Yawata steelworks are exemplars.

Credit must also go to the thousands of individuals and organisations that have worked tirelessly to build this most special of relationships, and I'm delighted that so many of the key players are represented here today.

In particular, I acknowledge Dr Mimura AC, Honorary Chairman, Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation, and Chair of the Japan Australia Business Cooperation Committee and Vice Chair Mr Kojima AC, for their leadership of this relationship.

I would also like to note the contribution of Mr Aisawa, Mr Naoshima and members of the Japan-Australia Diet Members League to the relationship, and personally thank them for their support.They have been champions of the relationship over many years.

The Australia Japan Foundation was also established in 1976 to expand contact and exchange between the peoples of Australia and Japan. It has provided over $40 million in grants to over 3,000 projects over the past 40 years. Projects that help build positive images of both countries, and create enduring friendships.

We also support each other in times of need. Our response to the Tohoku disaster, in addition to the initial search and rescue operation, has been ongoing. For example for the last four years, we have been welcoming school children from Tohoku to Australia on homestays and study tours.

Friendship and exchange is also demonstrated through the network of 108 sister cities and states that criss-crosses Australia and Japan. I am delighted that the first sister state relationship was that between my home state of Western Australia and the prefecture of Hyogo. Likewise one of the most active sister-city relationships exists between Kagoshima and Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, and I acknowledge the members of some of the 32 Japan Australia Societies in Japan who are here today.

Several notable individuals have been honoured for their contributions to our relationship, and I see Club Australia's President, Mr Shiba AM here today. And also Mr Takaku AM, great friends of Australia over many years.

Friendships often begin in one of our 650 schools that have sister-school relationships, and when Australians learn Japanese – and I can report that over 300,000 Australians are currently doing so.Our New Colombo Plan, based on the original Colombo Plan but in reverse, supports young Australians to live, study and work overseas and Japan has been a great supporter of the New Colombo Plan since 2014 when it was established. We have several of the New Colombo Plan scholars here with us today and by the end of this year, within two years of the establishment of the New Colombo Plan, around 1,000 Australian students will have lived and studied and had work experience or internships here in Japan under the New Colombo Plan.

As these New Colombo Plan students so often tell me, the experience of living and studying in Japan has transformed their lives – particularly those who have also undertaken the work experience here in Japan.

Of course companies like Mitsui and Toyota have offered work experience opportunities to Japanese language students since as early as the 1980s. I am delighted that Mitsui and Mitsubishi and others has also become major supporters of the New Colombo Plan, and I thank the businesses that have hosted New Colombo Plan students already and I encourage those who have not yet done so, to consider it.

The basic treaty is a testament to the role that leadership, vision, ambition, goodwill and innovation can play in a bilateral relationship. What has been achieved reminds us that our relationship is not abstract. It is a living reality, based on innumerable personal friendships, both old and new.

Reflecting on the breadth and depth of the relations represented here today, I have great faith that the next forty years will be even more productive and fruitful. Our relationship is already at an unprecedented high, but I'm sure there is much more that we can do together.

Finally, I would like to share some more good news with you about the Australia Japan relationship. Each year we focus our public diplomacy efforts on a particular country, and I'm pleased to announce that Japan has been selected as Australia's Focus Country for 2018. Japan will be given our public diplomacy priority in the year of 2018.

Australia and Japan: natural partners, dear friends. Long may our relationship endure.

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