Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Address by the Prime Minister of Japan
On this historic day I first acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the first law-givers of our nation, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Prime Minister Abe, on behalf of the opposition, it is my great pleasure to join with the Prime Minister in welcoming you, and your wife, Mrs Abe, to our parliament and our nation. You honour all of us with your presence here today. There is so much our two countries share: faith in democracy, deep respect for the rule of law, cooperation in peacekeeping missions and global leadership in nuclear nonproliferation—and I acknowledge today the work of our former foreign ministers Yoriko Kawaguchi and Gareth Evans. We share a steadfast commitment to a stable, prosperous and peaceful Asia-Pacific.
For more than a century, Japanese demand for Australian resources has helped build our nations' shared prosperity. Japan is an investor as well as a customer—a true trading partner. For more than 50 years Japanese investment has driven the development of northern Australia, from the iron ore fields of the Pilbara to the North West Shelf and Darwin Liquefied Natural Gas to coal mines in the east.
Japan has long been much more to Australia than a leader in technological innovation or a market for our resources. We have traded and shared our values and our ideas too. Australia's arts and our architecture, our food and philosophy and even the way we do business have been enhanced and enriched by the Japanese. All Australians are grateful for these gifts. We celebrate this diversity. We understand that it helps us gain and grow and learn—or, as the Japanese saying goes, juunintoiro: 10 people, 10 colours.
In embracing our differences, we are stronger, and ours is a friendship that shares hardship. When Fukushima was devastated by earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Australian hearts went out to our friends in Japan. Within days Australian search and rescue personnel, defence operations response officers and three C17 aircraft were on the scene helping with the clean-up, the search and the rescue effort. They were soon followed by donations and contributions from hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australians.
Prime Minister Gillard was the first world leader to visit the region following the disaster and personally conveyed our condolences for your loss, and our admiration for your resilience. In those tough times, Australia was indeed proud to stand by our friend. We gave our help gladly, knowing that Japan would not hesitate to respond with the same speed and generosity. This understanding, this respect and care for each other's welfare, lies at the heart of our friendship—a friendship that runs deeper than treaties or trade agreements, summits or state dinners, a friendship built on the open-hearted generosity and the wisdom of our two peoples.
It has long been this way. Three years after your grandfather's term as Prime Minister, Yamato Takada city and the town of Lismore in New South Wales became 'sister cities', the first such partnership between Australia and Japan. Today 109 communities across our nation and yours share this bond, joined together in the spirit of friendship, of understanding, of learning from one another. People from our two nations are building personal connections through the student exchanges, the cultural exchanges and the local government visits. Friendships are flourishing through the email and the Skype—the long-planned catch-ups, be it in Bundaberg and Settsu city, Inakawa town and Ballarat, Geraldton and Kosai city, and of course your ancient capital Nara and our capital, Canberra.
Every year in the Canberra-Nara Peace Park, a patch of Japanese maples and cherry blossoms amongst the gum trees, Australians and Japanese people gather together for a festival. Surrounded by Japanese sculpture, accompanied by Japanese music and delighting in Japanese food, festival-goers light 2,000 candles in celebration of peace and friendship. In that spirit, by those lights, today we say to you that Japan will always have a friend in Australia, a partner in prosperity and a partner in peace. Prime Minister Abe, you are most welcome in Australia—and the people of Japan always will be.