House debates

Wednesday, 3 August 2022


Abe, Mr Shinzo

10:24 am

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I join Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, in offering my sincere condolences and the condolences of all Australians to the late Shinzo Abe's family and to the people of Japan.

It's hard to fathom that a statesman of such stature, such conviction and such determination could be felled by one cowardly act of violence. Four days after his death, I visited the Consulate-General of Japan in Melbourne, where I signed Mr Abe's condolence book. The consul-general, Mr Junji Shimada, spoke movingly of the outpouring of grief from the people of Victoria and about the large number of people who had been visiting the consulate to pay their respects.

That flood of emotion demonstrates that the relationship between Australia and Japan is not simply one based on the practicalities of commerce or on mutual national security concerns. It's a true friendship. Japan is one of Australia's closest diplomatic, trade and security partners. Mr Abe's achievements in strengthening the relationship between Japan and Australia have been well documented in this parliament: the elevation of our bilateral relationship to a special strategic partnership, the ratification of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, the championing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In 2014, shortly after my arrival in this place, Mr Abe gave an address in this parliament. He spoke about the painful history of World War II and the thawing of hostilities between our two countries that led to what he called 'the second coming of Japan's industry'. He spoke about the economic and social reform within this country and about our shared ideals: peace, freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. His speech was received with great affection by members of this chamber, as Mr Abe's engagements with Australia so often were.

Mr Abe was a true leader and a statesman. He was wholly dedicated to his nation and was determined to use his influence to effect change. And so, as Prime Minister, he set to work 'like a drill bit'—he said in this parliament in 2014—'breaking through the vested interests and the norms that have deep roots'. Mr Abe's suite of economic policies, Abenomics, was bold. It had to be. And Mr Abe worked tirelessly to enact the reforms that would revitalise Japan. Indeed, at times, he was personally involved in discussions between employers and unions on wage increases.

Abenomics delivered success: record-low unemployment, an economic boom and more women in the workplace than ever before. Japan will still face many challenges in the future—below-target GDP growth, demographic pressures, and productivity and innovation concerns—but Mr Abe's vision and commitment saw Japan through a sluggish domestic economic environment and a volatile global context. He did not flinch, and he negotiated, compromised and fought to break through inertia and convention.

Importantly, Mr Abe opened Japan to the world. As Foreign Minister Penny Wong said, Mr Abe 'had a vision of a Japan that exercised a degree of influence in the world commensurate with its economic weight and cultural significance'. Mr Abe was a realist. He knew that Japan's national interest was in globalisation, and he pursued this. He opened Japan up to global capital, foreign goods and international visitors, and, as Japan's view of the world changed, so did Australia's view of Japan. I saw this in my own family. My grandparents' generation might have had cause for ongoing resentment against Japan in the wake of their experiences of the horrors of the Second World War. Shinzo Abe recognised this in his address to the parliament, when he told the House:

Our fathers and grandfathers lived in a time that saw Kokoda and Sandakan . How many young Australians, with bright futures to come, lost their lives? For those who made it through the war, how much trauma did they feel years and years later from these painful memories? I can find absolutely no words to say; I can only stay humble against the evils and horrors of history. May I most humbly speak for Japan and on behalf of the Japanese people here in sending my most sincere condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives.

After these humble words Mr Abe went on to quote Prime Minister Robert Menzies, who declared upon the recommencement of relations between Australia and Japan, 'Hostility to Japan must go. It is better to hope than always to remember.' Good words. Mr Menzies of course went on to welcome Shinzo Abe's grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, to Australia as the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the country after the war.

Thanks to the efforts of this generation, by the time that I was born, I recall my two grandfathers in particular always seeking to extend the hand of friendship to the Japanese people and to the nation that Japan had become. My grandparents regularly hosted Japanese exchange students in our small country Queensland family, and I fondly remembering listening agog as a small child about what life was like in Japan's modern new megacities, while also delighting in taking our young Japanese guests out of their comfort zones and directly exposing them to rural and regional Australia's unique flora and fauna.

As a child I had no conception of how far things had come for young people in Australia and Japan to be able to share these natural human cross-cultural exchanges. This kind of change only happens because of the work of individuals, across generations, who seek to build bridges of understanding and affection. Today, aided by cheap flights, great food and a welcoming culture, Aussies throng to Japan and our cultural relationship is on track to match our economic one; a relationship of affection set to last many more generations to come.

Every Japanese emperor's reign is given a name. On 1 April 2019 Emperor Naruhito's era in Japanese history was officially named the Reiwa era . Reiwa is taken from a verse in a collection of eighth-century Japanese poetry that refers to plum blossoms in spring. As Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe explained the naming of the era to the press that spring day. He said:

Just as the plum blossoms announce the arrival of spring after the harsh cold of winter and bloom splendidly in all their glory, all Japanese will be able to make their own blossoms come into full bloom, together with their hopes for tomorrow.

Shinzo Abe's career was dedicated to bringing Japan into full bloom. It is incomprehensible that his life was cut short, that he was not able to see the full flourishing of the spring that he envisaged for his nation. But the seeds that he planted and the reforms that he nurtured will continue to grow. As Prime Minister Albanese said, 'This low act of cruelty cannot be allowed to overshadow a life that was lived with such high purpose.' With the death of Shinzo Abe Australia has lost a great friend, Japan has lost a great leader and the world has lost a great statesman. May he rest in peace.

10:32 am

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I concur with the fine words of the member for Gellibrand about Shinzo Abe.

Anybody here seen our old friend Shinzo?

Can you tell me where he's gone?

He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good, they die young

You know, I just looked around and he's gone.

Of course, they are the words of the song written by Dick Holler and performed and first recorded by Dion. They refer to Martin, Abraham and John. We know that the good do die young. Bobby Kennedy in 1968 said, 'Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.' The same could definitely be uttered about Shinzo Abe. Bobby Kennedy's brother John was assassinated in 1963; for Abraham Lincoln, we go back to 1865; and of course Martin Luther King in 1968—all great leaders. They were all men who made a pivotal change, not just in their communities, their states, their countries; they had a global influence the likes of which we may never see again.

On 8 July the world was stunned by the assassination of the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a campaigning speech in Nara, two days before elections were to be held. While domestic debates about improved security for members of parliament continue in Japan, it's also very timely to think about, to consider, to reflect upon Shinzo Abe's wonderful achievements and the legacy of them, not only in terms of foreign policy but especially here in Australia—what he did, what he represented and what will continue as his legacy for many years to come in this country.

I come here as the member for Riverina in the Central West. The town of Cowra, this Friday, will commemorate 78 years since the famous—some might say infamous—breakout at the internment camp. Cowra lost its innocence on 5 August 1944 and was thrust into a war zone which, until that very moment, was confined to anywhere but Cowra. The prisoner of war camp custodians—members of the Australian militia's 22nd Garrison Battalion—were mostly older veterans and men who were deemed unfit for the front line. They faced a dire situation. They had Japanese internees holed up in this camp who—1,100 of them, prisoners of war—in three groups stormed the boundaries of their confines and broke out. In the ensuing calamity, 231 Japanese soldiers and four Australians were killed.

You might think that Cowra would be hostile for evermore about Japan relations. No, not at all. What they have done is that they have gone out of their way to forge ties between Cowra and Japan and between Cowra and Tokyo. The Japanese gardens—which are one of the finest gardens in the state, if not the country—are visited by many, many people. For those who haven't been there, I suggest you put it on your list of things to do. The relationship between Cowra and Japan, and the international peace and understanding that has followed that, has not been lost on citizens both here and in Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu.

I know that, when the late Japanese leader addressed the parliament on 8 July 2014, that was especially celebrated, commemorated and thought about in Cowra, because I know the close relationships they have with Japan. That speech that Shinzo Abe gave was so emblematic and reflective of the relationship that Cowra has with Japan—that Australians generally have with Japan. I go back to John 'Black Jack' McEwen and how he forged trade ties with Japan at a time when being friends with Japan was not popular at all because of what happened in World War II. But as Prime Minister Abe said himself:

Our fathers and grandfathers lived in a time that saw Kokoda and Sandakan. How many young Australians, with bright futures to come, lost their lives? For those who made it through the war, how much trauma did they feel years and years later from these painful memories? I can find absolutely no words to say; I can only stay humble against the evils and horrors of history. May I most humbly speak for Japan and on behalf of the Japanese people here in sending my most sincere condolences towards the many souls who lost their lives.

Of course, he was wonderfully thought of here in Australia, as he should be. His loss is mourned by peace-loving people right across this nation. He was a great man. He stood for great things, just like the Kennedys, just like Martin Luther King, just like Abraham Lincoln—good men gone too young, wonderful leaders shot down, one could say, in their prime. Whilst I appreciate that Shinzo Abe had had his terms at the top and had served his nation well, he still had much more to; he still had so much more to do.

He spoke of Australia and Japan's relationship of trust in that 2014 speech to our parliament. He spoke of standing up through the trials of history and the cooperation in the area of security and also trade. We've lost a great friend. We've lost a great partner. Certainly in my electorate I know Cowra felt his loss, as did good, peace-loving people right across this nation. I pass on my condolences to his family, to Japan, and certainly to those in Australia—all of us who mourn his passing. May he rest in peace.

10:39 am

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would also like to join my parliamentary colleagues in mourning the tragic death of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest serving Prime Minister and, of course, a long-time friend of Australia. For over a decade, Shinzo Abe was really a giant of international relations, not just in our region but, I think it would be accurate to say, across the globe. He can be really credited with evolving Japan's approach to foreign affairs and security policy, which was, of course, hardly an easy task.

After decades in the post-World War II period of what we could probably characterise as a reluctance to have a more forthright or forward-leading engagement in both the region and global affairs, Japan really re-emerged under Abe as a leader in regional and global affairs. And he made this goal clear. He was open about it. He spoke about how fundamental freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law were in developing his diplomatic relationships and bilateral relationships.

So much has been said—and will continue to be said and written—about Abe's legacy since his death. But I do, as we all do, want to particularly pay tribute to his immense contribution to the Indo-Pacific—even that phrase itself is something that has evolved and come from all of his tremendous work. He was the one who popularised the conception of our region as the Indo-Pacific and highlighted how important the region is to international affairs. Australia is no longer suffering, in some respects, the tyranny of distance as we had been earlier last century, on the other side of the world. Now we are front and centre in probably the most important region in global affairs. And Abe recognised that very, very clearly and very early.

He spoke in his tenure as Prime Minister about a confluence of the two seas—between the Pacific and Indian oceans—and the strategic importance of framing our region in this way, seeing it in that way, understanding it in that way. He not only recognised but embraced India as an important partner in our region—something that we, I think, learnt from, frankly, given what I have described in the past as a somewhat benign neglect of India. A lot of talk about cricket, curry and the Commonwealth, which is great, but the relationship is so much more than that, and it can be so much more than that. Abe, to his great credit, understood the importance of India as a rising power in the region.

He welcomed a common objective of a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific. He advanced that goal, leading through the creation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which continues today and is an increasingly important partnership between Australia, Japan, India and the United States, another great Pacific power. He can be given credit for not only the Quad's creation but its continued significance to our region, in many respects, to get the balance right.

He identified the need for a drastic reshaping, as he called it, in the areas of diplomacy and security. And he made a considered effort to build and develop bilateral and multilateral relationships that advance the security of the Indo-Pacific, as he conceived it. This included partnerships and work with ASEAN as part of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. He also helped save, to a certain extent, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement which former US President Trump had abandoned.

Australia often looks, in many respects, to our major partners, our major friends and allies, as part of our foreign affairs for leadership, support and coordination. I think it is probably true to say we need to be looking at Abe's legacy. Australia can really understand that he was such a good friend of ours. The values that we share, that Australia and Japan share—democracy, human rights, the shared interests that we have in bolstering and propping up the international rules based order—are something we can look to. We can look to that example of the work that Abe had done. He was actually the first Japanese leader to be invited to address this parliament, in 2007, and it was his vision that helped elevate our bilateral relationship to a special strategic partnership in 2014. Under his leadership, Japan emerged as one of our like-minded partners in Asia—a legacy that endures today.

On a bit of a tangent, I remember when I was in this place working as the national security adviser for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. There was a moment when we were looking at enhancing our defence relationship with Japan, and that involved Japanese forces doing exercises in Australia, on Australian territory. I was very alive to the sensitivities of a lot of our veterans, including a lot of the RSL, and all the other stakeholders. I remember calling up a lot of veterans and the RSL and talking them through the fact that we would be doing joint exercises with Japan in Queensland, for example. I called Tom Uren, the former Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. We know Tom was a POW in Burma, on the Burma Railway, and suffered horrifically during World War II. I said to Tom, 'Look, I get how this might be difficult for you as a veteran.' I think he was 90-something when I spoke to him. I'll never forget what he said to me. He said: 'Peter, first of all, I appreciate you calling to talk me through this. I will never forget what I went through in World War II and what suffering my comrades and I went through on the Burma Railway. It was horrific. Never forget—never forgive, to a certain extent, but never forget. But you've got to do what's in Australia's best national interests.' He was a big enough man, and such a great figure himself, that he was all about overcoming his own emotional hurt to say, 'Do what's important for Australia.' He understood that Japan was now a friend, even though he'd had that history during World War II.

In conclusion, I've got to say that Abe's death is actually a tragedy. It's senseless in so many respects, because of the brutal way he lost his life. It's really so odd, because of the relative lack of political violence in Japan. It's very uncharacteristic of modern Japan. It's also a tragedy in the randomness of the attack on the values and the ideals that he worked for decades to champion, those things that we've discussed in this motion. So, in a sense, it's an attack on all of us, and we need to stand firm on that—all of us who uphold, defend and promote the values that we cherish in our region and across the globe. It's the loss of a husband as well—the loss to his family—and the loss to his nation. I extend my deepest condolences to his partner, who had been his partner for decades, on the loss of a life that had so much more to contribute to affairs of the region. It's a loss for all of us who admired Abe and his leadership. It's a loss for Australia, which has lost a true friend. Vale, Shinzo Abe.

10:48 am

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today with a very sad heart following the death of Shinzo Abe. I must say I was absolutely shocked when I heard the news that he had been shot, and I was absolutely shocked and saddened when I heard the news that that shot ended up being fatal.

I say to the Japanese public: our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers are still with you following that awful, awful incident. I particularly say to the ambassador here in Australia from Japan, my good friend Shingo Yamagami: I offer my sincere condolences to you because, for you, your country has lost not only a great leader and warrior—in the best sense of the word—but also a dear, dear friend.

I think it is a call to all of us in every democracy that we have to always make sure that we're doing everything we can to safeguard democracy. That means we've also got to be doing everything we can to make sure we safeguard those who are prepared to put themselves forward as representatives of our countries, because, for those who do put themselves forward, if the price is going to be the price that Shinzo Abe paid, then that is too great a cost for anyone to bear—for any country to bear, for any family to bear. So we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect those who put themselves forward.

Shinzo Abe has left a remarkable legacy, not only for Japan but for the world. It is a legacy that I'm sure the Japanese people will seek to protect and to honour. But it is also one that Australia and all Australians must seek to protect and honour, because he had a vision for the type of region we want to live in, well ahead of its time. He had started to put important architecture in place to ensure that the Indo-Pacific would, as he said, be a region that was free and open—or, as I like to say, peaceful and prosperous. We have to ensure that that architecture that he was putting in place continues to grow so that the vision he had for a free and open Indo-Pacific will continue.

A lot's been spoken of the importance of the Quad in that architecture, and it is critically important architecture. All members of the Quad, particularly Australia, have to ensure that the Quad continues to grow and can continue to deliver on its raison d'etre, which is a free and open Indo-Pacific. Former Prime Minister Abe knew the importance of the Quad and in particular the importance of Japan and India developing, growing and enhancing their relationship. Australia can play its role in making sure that that crucial relationship continues to develop and continues to grow—and we must do so.

On the strategic front, in 2014 former Prime Minister Abe said this in our federal parliament:

In everything we say and do, we must follow the law and never fall back onto force or coercion.

That was 2014. Sadly, since then we have seen one particular country try to use force and coercion to dictate and determine what type of Indo-Pacific we should live in. Australia, with the strong support of Japan, has strongly fought back against that coercion and has shown the rest of the world that you don't have to be intimidated or cower when coercion is used against you. Now that we've done that and now that we've clearly demonstrated that coercion does not and will not work, we've got to make sure we continue to put the rules in place, that we send a clear message that coercion will not work into the future. To do that, it's incredibly important that we also recognise what Shinzo Abe had to say, not only on the security side but also on the trade side. That is equally as important as the Quad in making sure we've got the architecture right in the Indo-Pacific for that free and open, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific that we're all looking for

It was incredibly touching and I think incredibly moving for Shinzo Abe that he was able to sign the Australia-Japan FTA with our then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. It was incredibly important and moving, because his grandfather had signed the initial commerce agreement between Australia and Japan, which really was the first clear demonstration that both countries had, remarkably, in a very short period of time, forgiven and worked out and understood the importance of moving on. That was done under the leadership of the then Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies. Shinzo Abe also quoted Menzies in that speech, who said, 'It is better to hope than always to remember.' Those were incredibly important words at that time, and it really sowed the seeds of the development of a relationship, which I think now is incredibly unique, between countries in the Indo-Pacific, Australia and Japan. All that then led to the commerce agreement, which led to the Japan-Australia FTA, which has been incredibly significant, especially for developing investment between Australia and Japan and important investment by Japanese companies into Australia. I say this very much in a non-partisan way: making sure that no state or territory and no Commonwealth government makes investment decisions without having the decency to consult, especially with Japanese companies, who invest heavily here and provide jobs here, is critically important to the ongoing nature of that investment relationship. But we have to make sure that everything that has come as a result of that commerce agreement, as a result of the FTA, continues, especially when it comes to the Indo-Pacific.

I now come to another piece of important architecture that Shinzo Abe identified in 2014, and that was the then TPP. He knew that that was critically important to the ongoing peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. Sadly, the United States decided not to proceed with being at the heart of what was then called the TPP, and Japan and Australia, following on from the commerce agreement and from our FTA, then got together and led the way in ensuring that CPTPP could come into force. It is now an incredibly important part of the architecture of the Indo-Pacific. But Shinzo Abe's vision for what that economic architecture might look like would be under threat if we were to make the wrong decisions about CPTPP membership. We have to ensure that anyone who wants to join CPTPP understands the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific and, importantly, understands the rule of law and would never fall back into force or coercion to try and dictate their way in the Indo-Pacific.

We know what it's like to be on the receiving end of economic coercion, and it has hurt our industries for no good reason. But those industries have stood by the government to make sure that we didn't succumb to that coercion, because they understood how important sovereignty is to our nation. As we progress the CPTPP going forward, we have to make sure that we continue to listen to our key partners, in particular to Japan, as to what form and shape that CPTPP should take and who should be allowed to be a member and who shouldn't. And we both strongly agree that anyone who wants to use economic coercion should not be a member of CPTPP, and that should remain our position as a nation going forward. If not, the legacy that was put in place by Shinzo Abe will start to be eroded, and that is not in the interests of any of us.

Shinzo Abe lost his life far too early. He lost his life in the most tragic circumstances far too early. But, like any great leader, he has left a remarkable legacy. As we come together to remember a great life lived, we must all commit to ensuring that that legacy is not lost and that we continue to fight for it, because if we do we will live in the best region in the world, not the most dangerous region in the world.

11:00 am

Photo of Madeleine KingMadeleine King (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to join the Prime Minister and other honourable members in expressing my personal sadness and my deepest sympathies to the people of Japan at the passing, in such tragic circumstances, of Abe Shinzo, the former Prime Minister of Japan. The assassination of Mr Abe was an absolutely shocking event in a country that is very peaceful. I've had the great good fortune to visit Japan for work and on holidays many times. It is an extraordinarily peaceful and friendly country, and to see such violence put upon a former leader was a horrific thing to have witnessed.

Mr Abe was a catalyst for change in Japan and across the whole region. He was a true friend of Australia who was admired the world over for his leadership and diplomacy. Mr Abe has been a crucial player in the extraordinarily close bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan. Mr Abe visited Australia five times as Prime Minister. He was at the centre of delivering a number of historic agreements that brought our economies closer together, creating decades of resources trade and investment to the advancement and security of both nations. The friendship he offered Australia was immensely consequential. It helped shape, and continues to shape, our region as we understand it today. In no small way he also helped shape Australia's modern economic outlook.

Mr Abe, when he was Prime Minister of Japan, and the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott concluded negotiations for the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement in 2014. It was signed in the same year and came into force the year after in this country. The existing economic partnership between our two countries was cemented by this free trade agreement, and it ensured Japan and Australia's ongoing trading and economic relationship. Mr Abe also saw our bilateral relationship elevated to a special strategic partnership in 2014.

Mr Abe's four major visits to Australia have impacted our relationship and the relationship between Japan and our resources and energy sector. I was honoured to attend when he came to Darwin in 2018 for the official opening of the INPEX LNG facility, which is one of the world's most significant gas projects. It was driven by over $35 billion worth of investment from Japan. The Ichthys LNG project remains the largest-ever Japanese overseas investment, and Japan chose Australia; Japan chose Darwin. Mr Abe was very much aware of the significance of the Ichthys project for the energy security of his own country, as are we.

On the same visit, very significantly, Mr Abe attended a ceremony commemorating the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. In that ceremony he and our Prime Minister of the day, Scott Morrison, commemorated the hundreds of people killed in the bombing of Darwin so many years ago, and Mr Abe renewed his vow towards peace at that time. Reflecting on the significance of this moment, Mr Abe said:

Thanks to the devoted efforts of many, Japan and Australia have achieved reconciliation and have become special strategic partners driving regional peace and prosperity.

I was very privileged to attend that ceremony in Darwin. As many who were there have observed before, it was indeed very moving and an extraordinary display of how much the relationship between our two countries has changed over so many years.

On the same trip he attended the Australia-Japan Summit Meeting. During this visit a memorandum of understanding between CSIRO and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation was signed to increase cooperation and encourage joint research activities in support of the hydrogen value chain and unconventional resources for energy. This memorandum of understanding is paying off now, as we see continued investment from Japan into hydrogen activities and the development of that industry in Australia—again, like LNG, for our energy security but also, of course, for the energy security of Japan itself.

Very significantly, Mr Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to address both houses of parliament in Canberra. This added a new dimension to the Australia-Japan relationship, which is now a very deep friendship founded on mutual respect, trust and openness. Japan and Australia were the first countries to place the Indo-Pacific over and above their existing foreign policies at the time.

Like the member for Wannon, I want to acknowledge the work Mr Abe and the diplomatic heft of Japan did in relation to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Under his leadership, the CPTPP was progressed after the US, sadly, deserted this important multilateral trade agreement spanning the Indo-Pacific. Australia joined Japan in the challenge of reviving the CPTPP under the leadership, in Australia, of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The CPTPP, in its new form after America had left, ultimately came into force in this country in 2018. I want to acknowledge the economic magnitude of Mr Abe's role in ensuring Japan not only played a lead role but took it back up when the TPP was on the floor and nearly abandoned. The significance of the CPTPP cannot be overestimated. It accounts for 11 countries, representing 495 million people—nations with a combined GDP of over $13½ trillion. It is an agreement of vast significance, and I am proud that in opposition Labor supported this through the parliament, as it will be a key driver of economic growth in our region. It is a vital piece of trade and investment architecture for our region which will ensure peace and prosperity for many years to come.

The impact of the extraordinary partnership between Australia and Japan is plain for all to see. Last year, Japan was Australia's second-largest resource export trading partner, with $52 billion in export earnings. LNG exports earned Australia $17.2 billion. There was $12.8 billion derived from exporting coal to Japan, $11.3 billion in iron ore exports and $1.3 billion in aluminium exports.

Mr Abe's was a life of consequence. He made a difference. He changed things for the better, not just for Japan but for our region and around the world. He was a giant on the world stage, and his legacy was one of global impact and global leadership and a positive one in strengthening the relationship between Japan and Australia. Again, I express my sincere condolences to the people of Japan for the loss of such an exceptional leader as Mr Shinzo Abe. The world is all the worse for his passing. It was made much better by his life. I commend the motion to the House.

11:08 am

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this condolence motion on the shocking death by assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. I start by noting that one of his excellent legacies is that we appropriately refer to him as Abe Shinzo rather than, according to the previous Western custom, Shinzo Abe. It was under his prime ministership that Japanese custom changed when it came to referring to their names in the Latin alphabet. It had been the case going back more than a century—I think to the 1870s—that in the Latin alphabet and when interacting with Westerners, whether that be through diplomatic or commercial ties, the Japanese felt it would be easier for us to understand the concoction of their names if they expressed them the way we do. But, of course, it is the case in many East Asian cultures, and it's certainly the case in Japan, that the family name, the surname, is expressed first, and it was Mr Abe's government that made that change. It might not seem significant to us, but it's a very important one within Japanese culture. So I commend the wording of the motion, which appropriately expresses his name as Abe Shinzo, which is the correct Japanese expression of the name.

I grew up in a family very significantly influenced by the Second World War and, particularly, our conflict with Japan. My father's father served firstly in North Africa and then in the Pacific as an officer in the Royal Engineers. My mother's mother was a nurse in the Australian Army, and she served at the Heidelberg hospital caring for many returning Australian prisoners of war who had been subjected to enormous horrors through South-East Asia, particularly at the hands of Japanese forces, during the Second World War. Also, my father's uncle—my grandmother's brother—served in Papua New Guinea and received the Military Cross at Gona in the battle soon after the Kokoda Trail campaign in late 1942. It is fair to say that the attitude of that generation towards Japanese people was a very difficult one, and I did grow up in an environment—particularly as I started to engage with Japanese culture and Japanese people—with the shadow of those attitudes. I think many Australians had those shared experiences with that generation. Equally, that generation—particularly Weary Dunlop—was significant in leading a process of making Australians understand the need for us to forgive. It's very important to forgive, even where great evil has occurred.

Our relationship with Japan now in 2022 is unbelievable, and it would be unbelievable to some of those who served in the Second World War, when we were engaged against the Imperial Japanese forces. The life of Abe Shinzo has transcended the great maturity and depth of the relationship we now have today with the nation of Japan and the Japanese people. Previous speakers have talked about Abe Shinzo's grandfather and the very significant role he played with Sir Robert Menzies in first establishing economic ties through the commerce agreement between Japan and Australia. That agreement—and the economic trade relationship that we've had with Japan since then—has underpinned an enormous part of Australia's modern prosperity.

We have come to understand, going way back to the 1950s, how critical the Japanese market has been to us, but in more recent times we've also come to understand the significance of the security relationship. Abe Shinzo was absolutely central to the modern security relationship we have with Japan, to the status and the place that Japan has within the Indo-Pacific region and to many alliances—not just the relationship with Australia but those with many other fellow minded nations in the Indo-Pacific region. Of course, the Quad—the quadrilateral dialogue—is one of the greatest parts of his legacy, where our country, Japan, the United States and India have a process to cooperate on security issues to ensure that we are keeping our region safe and we are living in a free, open Indo-Pacific. I don't think we would have that process if it were not for Abe Shinzo and his leadership.

He was also a very significant economic leader within Japan. His approach to economics—Abenomics, as it is colloquially referred to—has made an enormous impact in shaking off what the Japanese people refer to as the 'lost decade' there. Before my career in politics, I spent almost a decade in the wool industry. I travelled to Japan very regularly in that capacity. I was involved in a joint venture with a Japanese company in Malaysia. They were an enormous market—they still are an enormous market—for Australian merino wool and textiles, and they were excellent partners in commerce. That was in the era of Abe Shinzo prior. In the early years of his time as Prime Minister, his impact on trade was very significant.

We've talked about the TPP and the direct free trade agreement. Free trade is a very fraught topic in any nation. Even in this country, where we have a lot of pride in our embracing of free trade, it's always much more straightforward in principle, but when it gets down to specifics and particular industries et cetera, it can be a challenge. In Japan, even to this day, they have been very deeply scarred from the blockade that was put in place prior to the two nuclear detonations and the peace in 1945, where the Japanese people were, in all respects, starved of key resources. It's been in the culture of Japan in the decades since to be self-sufficient in so many of those products that were denied to them during that blockade. Japanese farmers are no different to Australian farmers, or farmers anywhere on the planet, and they tend to have a lot of political influence and to like a fair bit of protection from their government.

The things that Abe Shinzo did in trade, which have presented opportunities for our country, were indeed courageous within his domestic politics. As a South Australian, I can say that Japan is a very significant market for us, as it is for the entire country, not just in resources but obviously in the seafood industry. Many other products from South Australia find a happy export home in Japan, and we're very lucky to have that market and that deep relationship.

I'll conclude by making a point about the tragic circumstances of Abe Shinzo's death by assassination. I think it is something that, for all of us who are representatives in a democratic process, shakes us to the core. Previous speakers have talked about the fact that political assassination is something we hope never to see occur. In Japan in particular, much like in this country, it is something extremely out of the ordinary. Coming on the back of similar incidents in the United Kingdom in recent years, it is a very concerning and surprising development that Abe Shinzo, as a former Prime Minister in Japan who was out campaigning for his democratic briefs in an election, was approached in the street and fatally shot.

It's something we need to remember as democratic representatives: that we've got to take that risk seriously but also ensure that we don't let it infringe on our democracy. I was with my good friend Senator Simon Birmingham when we heard the news of the shooting. At that stage we heard the fact that he'd been shot, not that he had succumbed to the wounds of that attack. Senator Birmingham had met Prime Minister Abe and been very engaged with his government on trade matters. We were reflecting on the fact that it is particularly shocking when someone you've met has been assassinated in this profession we have.

There will be many members in this House who served in the parliament when Prime Minister Abe gave that very famous address to a joint sitting of parliament and who would have met Prime Minister Abe. It is truly shocking that someone who has the same vocation as us has been shot dead in the street because he's engaged in the same profession that we are. That is something that, unfortunately, we have no choice but to come to terms with. Equally, it's something to be utterly condemned as part of our process of reflecting on his life and his contribution.

With that, I thank the Prime Minister and others who have provided the opportunity for us to pay tribute to such a great man, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Japan, who provided unbelievable leadership to his country. Equally important for us as Australians, he transformed our relationship with Japan, our place in the Indo-Pacific and Japan's place in the Indo-Pacific for the better.

11:19 am

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to extend my condolences to the family of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and to his party, his parliament and the people of Japan. I congratulate the member for Sturt on such a fine condolence speech.

Former Prime Minister Abe was a great friend to the people of Australia and a true statesman of Japan and of democracy in our region. Over nearly nine years as Prime Minister and nearly three decades as a member of Parliament, Abe Shinzo was single-minded in his pursuit of a stronger Japan, a more connected Indo-Pacific and a more peaceful world. Under his leadership, the friendship between Japan and Australia flourished, coinciding with the birth of the Quad alliance and the governments of John Howard, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

In fact, in 2014, he became the first Japanese Prime Minister to address the Australian parliament, using the occasion to highlight our shared values as two parliamentary democracies and constitutional monarchies, which extend beyond the fences between political parties. That speech that he gave to the Australian parliament really demonstrated the way—a long way—that our relationships have developed since the Second World War. It reminded me of my grandfather who had served in the Royal Australian Navy. He had very strong views, as many people of his generation did, towards the Japanese. I remember, as a young child, we'd sold the family Ford Fairlane and bought a Honda Accord, and I don't think my grandfather talked to my dad for a week afterwards, because he was so angry that we'd swapped from an Australian car to a Japanese car. I guess that was the culture of—I'm sure, being of a similar vintage—our grandparents, who had endured those war years. But fast-forward many decades, and our relationship between Australia and Japan is now, of course, on an extremely solid footing.

During his leadership, former Prime Minister Abe steered the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, launched by John Howard and concluded by Malcolm Turnbull. Sixty-five years after former Prime Minister Abe's grandfather concluded the Japan-Australia agreement on commerce with Robert Menzies, Japan remains Australia's third-largest trading partner, second-largest export market and second-largest source of foreign direct investment. This economic relationship, as well as our strong academic, sporting and cultural exchange, is testament to a deep and mature partnership which stands Australians and their businesses in good stead.

Prime Minister Abe was also instrumental in realising the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the wake of growing populism on the Left and the Right and in the face of protectionism. His approach to economic leadership in Japan and the global economy was so remarkable that Abenomics has joined Thatcherism and Reaganomics as a well-known political eponym. His three so-called arrows of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms—reflation, spending and growth—have widely been lauded as a stroke of economic genius in the face of global and domestic financial pressures. Prime Minister Abe believed: 'A robust economy is a source of national strength for Japan.' And a stronger Japan is very good news for democracies in the Indo-Pacific.

Former Prime Minister Abe joined the coalition in developing a more comprehensive strategic security partnership in complement to the work of the Quad alliance—cooperating on shared challenges, such as cybersecurity and emerging tech, terrorism and the threat of extremism, COVID-19 and regional health security, and conflict in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. He began to change the way Japan and its Self-Defense Forces engaged in collective security overseas and, in so doing, made clear that Japan would back her allies.

He didn't shy away from the mounting global pressures which threatened his pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific. He contended with an increasingly more belligerent China intent on impinging on Japanese territorial sovereignty. Former Prime Minister Abe called out the CCP's—the Chinese Communist Party's—aggression, their deathtrap diplomacy and their record on human rights when many others would not. He defended the rights of Tibetans and Hongkongers to self-determination, he grappled with a malicious dictator in North Korea, he resumed relations with Russia after centuries of conflict in the pursuit of a lasting peace, and he acknowledged the role of Japan as an economic power to assert its moral power as well in responding to regional health concerns like Ebola and COVID-19. Prime Minister Abe demonstrated that he was prepared to take up the fight to those who would threaten peace and stability in the region and Japan's territorial sovereignty. He also showed that, through strong economic leadership and a single-minded devotion to do what is right, a leader can transform a nation in the wake of all kinds of trials. Conviction like this is rare in politics in the modern era. But that conviction cost him his job in 2007, in a period of what Japan endured as a revolving door of politics. .And it means that he saw off his fair share of political, economic and, indeed, health challenges.

There's a famous Japanese proverb, nana korobi, ya oki, which means 'fall down seven times, get up eight'. Prime Minister Abe put it this way: 'Our predecessors overcame many troubles and much suffering, but each time got back up stronger than before.' Prime Minister Abe's story is one of conviction over convenience, of integrity over expedience and of resilience in the wake of grave and near insurmountable challenges. He was a thoroughly modern conservative leader who broke through the vested interests and norms that had such deep roots in his party and his country. In his own words, Prime Minister Abe was a patriot. He didn't back down when totalitarian dictators and idealogues challenged him one way or the other. He was a true conviction politician and a true friend and ally of the Australian people. May he rest in peace.

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand it is the wish of honourable members to signify at this stage their respect and sympathy by rising in their places, and I ask all present to do so.

Honourable members having stood in their places—

I thank the Federation Chamber.

11:27 am

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That further proceedings be conducted in the House.

Question agreed to.