Australian Embassy

Ambassador Bruce Miller's Speech to Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University: ‘Australia-Japan Collaboration in the Asian Century’

9 May 2013


Thank you, Professor Rothman.

My name is Bruce Miller and I am the Australian Ambassador to Japan.

It’s a great pleasure to join you today and I thank you all for coming along.

I’m only in Kyushu for a short time on this visit but it’s great to have the opportunity to speak to you today.

Today I will focus my comments on two related issues: one, the opportunities for Australia and Japan arising from the economic and strategic rise of the Asian region – that is often called the Asian Century.

And two, Australian and Japanese collaboration in education and science.

I’ll talk about the work Australia has been doing to internationalise its education system and some of our education goals in the years to come.

And I’ll talk about why this important: why an international education is more important now than ever before.

And at the end I’d be happy to take your questions.


Australia and Kyushu

But first, I want to tell you a little about the Australia-Kyushu relationship.

I hope it will become clear that the Australia-Japan relationship is not some vague or nebulous concept, something that matters only at the level of governments.
Rather, it’s something that every day has an impact on the lives of people here in Kyushu, far from the corridors of power in Tokyo or Canberra.

Kyushu – and the city of Fukuoka to be precise – is home to one of Australia’s four diplomatic posts in Japan . . . the others being the Embassy in Tokyo, a consulate-general in Osaka and a consulate in Sapporo.

There are active Japan-Australia Societies throughout the island, including in Sasebo, Kagoshima and Kumamoto.

There are 10 sister city and sister state relationships between Australia and Kyushu.

And two of those relationships involve cities in Oita Prefecture: Saiki-shi is the sister city of Gladstone in Queensland, and Hiji-machi is twinned with Noosa – also in Queensland.

Australian rugby players regularly come to play for Kyushu Electric’s rugby team, and Kyushu Electric is very supportive of the relationship with the town of Cowra in New South Wales.

For those who haven’t heard of Cowra, it was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp that housed many Japanese soldiers – as well as Italians – during the Second World War.

In 1944, the Japanese prisoners attempted a break-out.

It was doomed from the beginning and, in total, 231 Japanese soldiers and four Australian guards lost their lives.

Cowra now maintains Japanese war cemetery and a beautiful commemorative Japanese garden, and Kyushu Electric has played – and continues to play – an important role in maintaining these sites.

And Cowra has become a symbol of the postwar reconciliation between our two countries.

On trade, Australia is a very important supplier of energy and mineral resources to Kyushu – the same is true of Japan as a whole, but they are also a huge part of our trade with this region.

We provide coal to Kyushu Electric’s coal-fired power stations.

We also provide LNG – liquefied natural gas – to Kyushu Electric. Long-term contracts with Australian providers account for more than a quarter of Kyushu’s total LNG supply.

And we provide iron ore to Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metals Corporation.

But back to energy . . . it’s a line I use often, but it’s no exaggeration to say that when you switch on a light in Kyushu, you should think of Australia.

This is nowhere more true than right here in Oita Prefecture. Oita alone accounts for 8.2 per cent of all Japanese imports from Australia.

And those imports from Australia make up the largest proportion of Oita’s international trade. Twenty-five per cent.

Again, those imports mostly consist of iron ore, coal and LNG.

But copper is also a significant Australian export to Oita Prefecture – we are the second-largest provider of copper to Oita’s copper smelters.

In all of these ways, for workers at power plants, fans of rugby and anyone switching on a light, the Australia-Japan relationship is important to the lives of a great many people here in Kyushu.


The Asian Century

At the opening I mentioned the economic and strategic rise of Asia – the ‘Asian Century’.

This is a term that we are hearing used more and more.

It’s something to which the Australian Government is paying a great deal of attention.

The ‘Asian Century’ is shorthand for the economic and strategic rise of this entire region.

Of course, much of the focus is on China and its phenomenal levels of growth.

The rise of China, its re-emergence as a major world power, is having a profound effect on the region and beyond.

But China is only part of the story. There are many other characters playing important roles – South Korea, India and Thailand to name just three.

And as the world’s third-largest economy – and by far the largest rich economy in the region – Japan, too, is playing a key role.

It’s important to remember that the Asian Century has its very origins right here in Japan.

It began here in the 1950s, when Japan’s recovery from the devastation of the Second World War began to gather steam.

In the 1960s, the speed of that recovery, that growth, astounded the world. Japan became the main engine of growth for the entire region.

And that remained the case until very recently.

This decade has seen China overtake Japan in terms of sheer economic size, but Japan remains absolutely pivotal to the story of the Asian Century.

Late last year, in response to the many profound changes in our region, the Australian Government released a White Paper called Australia in the Asian Century.

This White Paper recognises the Asian Century as an opportunity for Australia.

It recognises not only that the region has a lot to offer Australia, but also that Australia has a lot to offer the region.

And the volume of exports to Oita Prefecture that I mentioned a little earlier are part of that opportunity.

To a large extent, Australian resources – and energy exports in particular – are fuelling the Asian Century.

In Australia, we used to talk about the ‘tyranny of distance’. It’s a phrase borrowed from the title of a well-known book, written in 1966, by a prominent Australian historian.

The book argued that geography was a main character in the story of Australia’s history.

It argued that our great distance from Britain, our former coloniser, as well as the centres of power in Europe and North America, were central to shaping the country’s history and identity.

And now, geography is once again a major character in Australia’s story.

But this time, no one is talking about the ‘tyranny of distance’.

Our proximity to Asia means Australia is well and truly in the right place at the right time.

But geography can only do so much.

So the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper recognises that we need to be active in our response to the rapid changes occurring in this region.

It sets out a series of policies to ensure that we make the most of this opportunity, that we work to engage ever more deeply and broadly with our neighbours in Asia.

And Japan features prominently.

The White Paper refers to Japan as Australia’s closest and most mature relationship in the region.

It makes clear that the Australia-Japan relationship is the template for our engagement with the rest of Asia – it’s the example that should be followed as we strengthen our ties to countries throughout the region.

And although the Australia-Japan relationship is close and mature, there is always scope to deepen it further.

One area in which is this is happening right now, is our collaboration in education and science.

But before I talk about that collaboration, I want to share with you my own experiences in education exchange with Japan, to give you an idea of why I think it’s so important.


My Story

I have been a student of Japan, and its history, literature and culture, for a long time.

In fact, I was 11 years old when I first developed an interest in Japan. I remember my father telling me that if I was to study a foreign language it should be an Asian one.

I took his advice to heart.

When I started studying Japanese, there were few others doing so – and few teachers of Japanese – in Australia.

That’s all changed now, of course, with Japanese being the most widely-studied foreign language in Australia.

But things were different back then.

When I was a senior high school student, I came to Japan for the first time on a study program funded by the Japan Foundation.

That was in 1978, which probably sounds like a very long time ago to you. You probably weren’t even born.

So after returning to Australia, I studied Japanese language, literature – both modern and classical – and history at the University of Sydney.

I then completed a law degree, also at the University of Sydney.

And I also studied at a Japanese university for a year, living with a Japanese family.

After graduating from university, I joined Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I then had the good fortune of working in Japan in the 1990s and 2000s as a diplomat and I am currently serving in my third posting in Japan – although it’s my first as Ambassador.

I feel very privileged to be able to represent Australia in Japan as the Australian Ambassador. Japan is a second home for me.

Directly experiencing and studying Japanese language and culture broadened my horizons as a student.

It was immensely rewarding and set the foundations for my own lifelong engagement with Japan.

It is not going too far to say that my experience of studying at a university in Japan played an important role in getting me where I am today.

More importantly, it provided the kind of opportunity I hope you are all having – an opportunity to form international friendships and relationships that are not only personally enriching, but by extension also enrich our societies, cultures and economies.

The international outlook and experience you acquire through studying abroad is an invaluable asset; something which I am sure the many students of international relations here today would appreciate.


Australia-Japan Education and Science Relationship

So that’s my experience in being an international student, and the way in which it has benefited my career.

That experience is part of the reason I’m passionate about ever-strengthening the ties between Australia and Japan in education and science.

Our relationship in those areas is formalised under a number of bilateral agreements – but it’s much more than documents that drives those links between our countries.

Australian and Japanese universities have a history of collaboration. There are more than 400 partnerships between universities and science institutes in Australia and Japan, many of which are of long standing.

These partnerships, this collaboration, has seen the sharing of knowledge, the creation of new learning and the exchange of academics and students between our countries.

Of course, Ritsumeikan APU is one of Japan’s leading universities for its focus on international collaboration.

There are a number of Australian students and faculty members here, and I met a few of them today.

Hearing about their experiences, I can see that Ritsumeikan APU is a terrific, practical example of that collaboration.

As you know, almost half of the student population here is made up of international students.

I’ve delivered a few speeches at universities around Japan, but this is the first time I’ve been able to do it in English – which, in itself, is a measure of the international nature of this campus.

So it was not surprising that Ritsumeikan APU was represented at the Australian Embassy last year, at the first Australia-Japan Roundtable on Internationalisation in Higher Education.

Your university has always been at the forefront of these sorts of discussions here in Japan.

And no doubt it’s this international focus that has attracted so many talented students from Japan and the region – and beyond.

This university has partnerships with universities around the world, and I am pleased to note that it counts 10 of Australia’s universities among them.

While smaller in scale, Australia’s higher education system is of a very high quality.

More than half of our universities are ranked in the world’s top 500.

And we have the third-highest number of universities in the global top 100 in the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities.


Why are we partnering in education?

Australia and Japan have two of the best higher education systems in the region, and this means we are natural partners for one another.

The connections we already share bring benefits to the institutions involved.

They offer students a richer learning environment and exposure to the global perspectives that international students bring.

These connections also provide academics and researchers with opportunities to share advanced thinking and develop new directions in their work.

I am encouraged by Japan’s tremendous reform agenda in many areas, and this includes education, where it is working to internationalise its universities and increase the number of overseas students in Japan.

It is also working to send more Japanese students abroad.

Ritusumeikan APU is very active in this already, and can lead the way for others in Japan.

As Japanese universities internationalise, Australia welcomes the opportunity to share its experiences in this area, and to work with Japan on issues that support student and academic mobility.

We are committed to finding ways to support exchange and cooperation between higher education systems in the region, and indeed globally.

Over the last two decades, Australia has become well regarded internationally for our expertise in international education, and for the numbers of international students we are fortunate to host.

At the moment, students from about 190 countries around the world are studying in Australia. One in five students at Australian universities is an international student.

We have benefited enormously from the social, cultural and economic contributions that international education has made to our nation’s development.

And just as importantly, it has supported our relations with Asia and countries around the world.

The strong quality assurance frameworks underpinning Australia’s education system are a part of the reason Australia has been so successful in attracting international students.

We can clearly demonstrate the quality of our courses and the quality of our institutions – so all students can be assured that their education, and the qualification they receive, are of a high quality.

This focus is not confined to university teaching activities.

Australia also aims to strengthen the quality of research in our universities.

We use international peer review in determining the quality of Australian university research, against international benchmarks.

The results have been very encouraging in highlighting the research strengths of each of our universities.

In this way, Australia has confidence in the research performance of our universities, as well as in their teaching strengths.

So to Ritsumeikan APU, I would say that in partnering with Australian universities you can have confidence that you are partnering with universities that are truly world class.


Asian Century

I’d like now to return to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper I spoke about earlier.

I mentioned that the White Paper is a blueprint for transforming Australia’s relations with Asia, and achieving a deeper and broader engagement.

I’d like now to share with you some of the ways we aim to achieve that transformation, and the role education and student mobility can play.

Among the reforms identified in the White Paper, building the understanding of Australia’s young people about Asia, about Japan, is critical.

Much in the same way that building the global human resource skills of Japan’s young people is a priority here.

And our education and science systems can contribute a great deal to such a change.

At the school level we will focus even more than we already do on Asian studies, to increase Australian students’ knowledge of the history and culture of Japan and other Asian nations.

This will be embedded in our national curriculum.

There is also a new commitment that all Australian students will have the opportunity to study – and be encouraged to study – Japanese or another of the four priority Asian languages, from the time they start school.

As I mentioned before, Japanese is the most popular language with Australian school students who study foreign languages and a new Japanese language curriculum is already being developed to help drive even more interest in the Japanese language.

And of particular interest for university collaboration between our countries is a new commitment that every Australian university will be encouraged to send students to universities in Asia.

This will help ensure that the next generation of Australian leaders has a better understanding of Asia.

Australian universities already have close working relationships with institutions in Japan and other parts of Asia, including with Ritsumeikan APU.

We aim to strengthen these relationships and to see more Australian students do short-term study in Japan and other Asian nations.

Currently about 13 per cent of Australian students have an experience studying overseas. We aim to increase this, and to see more Australian students studying in Asia.

For universities, internationalisation is critical. If their students do not participate in global learning, their reputations and standing may diminish.

And the Australian Government believes that we need Asia-capable leaders, and this requires our universities and their students to be well connected in Asia.

To help achieve this, the Australian Government is providing grants so that more than 10,000 Australian students can undertake short-term study in Asia.

Thousands more will have access to generous student loans to enable them to do the same.

This initiative, known as ‘AsiaBound’, has more than ¥3.5 billion to fund grants for Australian students undertaking short or semester-length study exchanges.

This is for Australian students to have a first-hand experience of living and studying in Asia.

It is a deliberate injection of funding designed to encourage our universities and their students to focus on Asia.

We know that universities are already supporting outbound mobility to Asia: the challenge is to expand this activity, and to make it a mainstream, desirable option for all students.

We hope to see more Australian students studying across the region, including Japan, perhaps with you right here.

We know students value the adventure, the transformative personal development, the relationships, cultural understanding and skills they get from an international study experience.

Those of you in the audience from overseas will already be aware of those benefits.

In addition to providing more Australian students with a first-hand study experience of Japan, of Asia, I hope to see even greater collaboration between Australian and Japanese universities.

The Australian higher education sector has changed enormously over the last two decades, in part through its focus on outward looking activities, and its global collaboration.

I would encourage you all to continue your interest in being be part of these international developments.

For those of you who are currently studying and may look to either a first or an additional international experience, I can assure you that Australian universities offer a world class study experience and research opportunities.


Why are we partnering in science and research?

Finally, I would like to touch on the important role universities play in science and research, and how Australia and Japan are already active partners in this area.

The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper also sets a goal for Australia’s innovation system to be amongst the 10 best in the world.

Again, international collaboration is vital for any country seeking to strengthen its innovation and research systems.

Australia collaborates closely with Japan in science and research, but we can always do more.

Japan is of course a major knowledge-producing nation and an important science partner for Australia.

Relative to the size of its economy and population, Japan is an international leader in the size of its research workforce, its public and private research investment levels and its high rate of patenting new developments.

Compared to Japan, Australia is a small global player in terms of research output but we perform very well despite our size.

Australia produces three per cent of global scientific publications – with only 0.3 per cent of the world’s population.

We also have the highest number of Nobel Laureates on a per capita basis, with 15.

Japan, of course, has 19 Nobel Laureates, including last year’s winner in Physiology or Medicine, Professor Shinya Yamanaka.

The Australian Government has made significant investments in research training, research centres and infrastructure.

At the same time, the number of Australian researchers has grown significantly. And Australia’s rate of investment in research is one of the fastest growing in the OECD.

I am pleased to say that over the last decade we have seen our research cooperation with Japan nearly double.

This has led to more joint research publications between Australian and Japanese researchers.

This is particularly encouraging because we know that when our researchers collaborate and publish together, the academic impact of their research is much higher than when Australian or Japanese researchers publish alone.

We know that Australia and Japan work closely in medical and health sciences, physical sciences and biological sciences.

Indeed, these fields account for over two-thirds of all joint publications between Australia and Japan.

Our governments are working to expand this further and later this year they will jointly host research workshops in both marine science and in nuclear and physical science.

Given Japan and Australia’s strong alignment of national research priorities, especially in the life sciences and physical science, we will continue to find new ways to collaborate.

Already we are seeing innovative collaboration in new areas of research, from systems biology in the biomedical sciences to earth observations systems and collaboration in satellite applications.

This is of huge benefit in generating new knowledge and also provides valuable opportunities for our young researchers in further expanding their networks and opportunities for international collaboration.

And on that note, I should say that for those of you who may wish to think about further international experiences and collaboration throughout your careers, I would encourage you to consider applying for an Australia Award – a fully-funded scholarship from the Australian Government, to undertake study, research or professional development in Australia.

I see much potential for young people like yourselves to continue to drive collaboration between Australia and Japan, and with other nations around the globe.

I can only add my voice to that of others in Japan at present in encouraging you to take advantage of those opportunities and reach out to new experiences, whether they may take you to Australia or elsewhere.



I’ve spoken quite a bit today about the Asian Century.

And there is perhaps no place where this topic is more relevant than here – not far from the shores of the Pacific Ocean, at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University.

Looking back at the founding of Ritsumeikan APU, it’s clear that the university was incredibly well-timed.

APU officially opened its doors on the first of April, 2000. At the very dawn of the Asian Century.

Looking back, the university’s goal to “nurture . . . young talent and to create a new academic discipline which will help shape the region’s future” was almost prescient.

Now, people who are familiar with Asia, who have studied in Asia or speak an Asian language, are more important than ever before.

And, on the other hand, Asians who are familiar with the rest of the world, who speak English, will find plenty of opportunities in the Asian Century.

I’ve spoken about the real, tangible effects of the Australia-Japan relationship, and those between Australia and Kyushu and Australia and Oita.

Those relationships are all driven by people who are internationally-minded.

Whether they are executives at Kyushu Electric or members of the Kumamoto Japan-Australia Society, the relationship between our two countries has at its very core people like you and me.

Australia has worked hard to open its education system up to the outside world, and I applaud Ritsumeikan APU for doing the same here in Japan.

The end result is stronger bonds at the people-to-people level between our countries and the countries of this region.

It’s also the sharing of knowledge and research, like that taking place between Australian and Japanese universities.

And it’s those things – led by students like yourselves – that will shape the future of the region in the Asian Century.

Thank you.