Australian Embassy

Ambassador Hayhurst Q&A Session at Hokkaido University

I would like to take some questions from within group and also from those who are joining us from Hakodate.

Question 1:

Thank you very much Your Excellency, Mr. Ambassador, for the wonderful talk. Japan and Australia have developed a special bond over the years and work together through the CPTPP and other groupings.

In your view, what kind of values make the relationship between Japan and Australia special? Also, I'd like to ask your view on other development of our relationship: What kind of areas require further improvement for our relationship to reach the next level? Thank you.


Thank you. I think there are two things that are causing our partnership to become closer and closer over time. One of them is what people often called shared values. I do think it makes a big difference that we're both open societies. We are both democracies, we support the rule of law, we're market economies, so we rely on trade and we rely on international rules.

So that shared interest, in living in a world that supports open exchange is very important. And it's become more important as those ideals and principles have been more contested. They're contested sometimes within other democracies, where people say, 'this is not working'. There's turmoil in some countries in Europe, and in America there's some disenchantment in the political system. But in Australia and Japan, we know the world works best in this way for us and for others.

The other thing is shared interests. We don't want to live in a region where one big country dominates everyone else. We want a strategic balance. Free and open Indo-Pacific is a neat Japanese slogan, a policy title, that captures everything about Australia's strategic policy. So, our interests converge.

The United States is important for both of us. How do we influence the United States? Southeast Asia is important. How do we keep that region open and secure? Not that it's our responsibility alone, but more, how do Japan and Australia contribute?

Japan is a very active player. We're very active. We share this idea that India is very important to the future of Asia and supporting India to connect with East Asia will serve our interests. And we also know that we have to coexist and live with a very big and influential China.

We want all of that to work in a way that avoids catastrophic conflict. So those interests, they really bring us together. Our values give our cooperation real purpose. And then because Japan is a very capable country, and Australia, is a very active country, we use our policies to push forward this shared agenda.

What can we do more on and what are the next areas? Japan's defence reforms are still at quite an early stage, so I think there's big room to grow our defence cooperation. This is not just about training. It might also be about defence industry and technology; to maintain a technological edge, to deter threats. It's not always about having more things, sometimes it's about having better things. So, defence technology is one big area.

I think clean energy is the hardest one, and also very important. If Australia and Japan can decarbonise, then the world can decarbonise. Your economy is very reliant on fossil fuels at the moment. So is Australia's. If we can do that in a way that protects our security as well as protecting the environment, that will be a model for the whole world. So, whether it's in critical minerals, whether it's in hydrogen trade, whether it's in carbon capture and storage, if we can master the technologies in these areas as partners, we will be the model to follow. There are many others, of course, but they're the two that spring to my mind. Thank you.

Question 2:

Thank you so much Ambassador Hayhurst. It was a really intriguing presentation. My name is Tadashi Yowami from the Modern Japanese Studies Program here in Hokkaido University. We were happy to have some students from Australia in the past, and we would like to have more. And you're eating scallops and stuff in Japan, and in exchange maybe we can drink more wine from you guys and also maybe a little bit of Vegemite.

My question actually relates to Professor Sasada's question on the security issue. There are a lot of issues in the Pacific region; the security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China, internal riots in Nouméa and in French Polynesia last month. To address them, obviously, Japan and Australia have established a really close relationship, almost an alliance relationship, and we also have multilateral collaboration, as you said, through the Quad, AUKUS, and next month we're having the PALM Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting Summit.

My question is how would you go about developing the bilateral relationship between these two countries to get much closer to each other? As you said, the Reciprocal Access Agreement, that's one. Other than that, would you like to see Japan joining AUKUS? Or for example, the Five Eyes intelligence community that Australia and some other countries are in? Would you like to see Japan getting more involved in this kind of security agreement in the region? How feasible is it in your opinion for Japan to be part of these security groupings, such as AUKUS and the Five Eyes?


Thank you. I've been working on policy issues for a long time, and I think sometimes we focus too much on the form, not so much on the substance. In the end, the critical advantage that Japan and Australia share is what I think of as the power of partnership.

Japan is quite a big country, but as the rest of the world grows, in relative terms it becomes smaller. Australia has 27 million people. So, the only way you can protect yourself and succeed and get advantage in a world where Russia invades another sovereign country or China ignores international rules, or there are other problems and issues in other parts of the world, is actually by working much more closely and effectively with your partners.

The Australia Japan relationship has gone through a stage where we focused mostly on economic issues, trade and investment, worked very well for both countries. Then we talked to each other a lot more about political and security issues, and we agreed on almost everything.

We were worried about the same things and we supported the same things. The harder part for governments is now to actually work together, to collaborate. Sometimes in a government, it's hard for agencies in the same government to work together. So, we have to do that and we have to work more closely. So, I think the RAA is important.

The way I think of it is that maybe Japan being involved in the AUKUS technology partnership is the right way, or maybe it'll be an intelligence partnership, or maybe it'll be the Quad. Many different ways. But the key challenge is integration. It's no good Japan designing a policy to do something over here, Australia doing it over here, America having one, New Zealand having one – all having slightly different ones that don't quite work together. So that's the real challenge in the way I see it.

How do we get there? Well, there are some there are some things you can do, and they're already happening in Japan. But the further those reforms go, the better it will be. One of them is cyber security reforms. You need, if you're a modern security power, you need highly effective, cutting-edge cyber security so you can share information. That’s one way.

Defence industry. If every democracy produces its own defence equipment, it's not enough when you have a country like Russia that can turn its whole economy into a war economy. Actually you need to design and produce defence technology together. That way you have confidence, but you also have scale. So, my answer to your question is really about that challenge: Integrating the efforts of governments.

That is the advantage we have. And if we are successful, then our agenda will be successful. But if we can't collaborate in that deeper way, it might actually be quite hard. And we're only at the, well we're not right at the start, but we were at the beginning, there is still a long way to go. Thank you.


Are there any other questions or comments? Particularly from the students.

Please let me ask a question. It is really interesting to hear that the relationship has developed from tourism and some economic beneficial areas to the two countries converging, and then ending up in a more mature stage. Do you think that we are still in the very beginning of that mature stage in our bilateral relationship?


Thank you. I think I actually think our cooperation is really quite advanced. I've been Ambassador of Australia to Japan for 18 months. That's not very long. But in some ways, the outside world feels like it's moving fast and because of these shared interests and confidence in each other and trust between governments, from the Prime Minister down to officials, there's actually really strong momentum.

Last year, Japan had its first ever reciprocal access agreement with another country. So, there's the very special, unique treaty with America, which has a very unique history. Then last year there was an agreement with Australia. First time ever. Only in August. But already we have used that agreement many times. Japan's Air Force flew the F-35s to Australia, and then the Australian Air Force flew back. There's a lot of intensive cooperation and collaboration. So, we're not at the mature stage, but we're definitely not at the beginning.

But all of these things are linked. Tourism seems like a very soft issue to talk about, but actually tourism is a way people start to understand each other and other places. Of course, people like to come to Japan for skiing, but then it turns out they're interested in Japanese culture and food and history. And so it grows. Same in reverse. When, Japanese people go to Australia. It's fantastic. Surfer's Paradise, you go to the beach. Terrific. Go to the zoo, see a koala. That's great. But then you learn other things over time.

Universities are very important because you bring together people and you bring together research. Trade and investment - so many Japanese companies invested in Australia. It used to be only coal mines and iron ore and wool. Now it's everything; real estate, infrastructure, cyber security, used cars, banking, life insurance.

Apparently, I'm told, Australians have a reputation for liking beer. Well, 90% of the beer in Australia is now owned by Japanese companies, directly or indirectly. So, across the economy, I think that's a good thing by the way, because Japanese beer is probably better than Australian beer. Particularly Sapporo beer, just like Hokkaido scallops: Unbelievably delicious.

So, you have an economic partnership, and when you trade and invest in another country, you have to trust it and understand it. And those things now have a long history.

And this comes after a process of reconciliation after World War Two. That was not easy in the beginning. But here we are. And now we share security interests. This is a map of Australia but if I had a map of Japan, it would show Russia, North Korea, China, Taiwan and the Philippines all very near-by. So, you're changing your policies because the world has changed. Not because Japan has changed, but the world around you has changed. And that's now the new dimension.

So, it's linked. We could not move as fast as we do on security if we didn't have economic, political and social connections. But we do. And this is one of my big points, is that our strategic and economic interests, they reinforce each other. And that gives me great optimism, actually, about how much further we can go, even if the world is getting more difficult and, in many ways more dangerous. The thing we have is our partners and Japan is a fantastic partner. So, I'm confident about the future. Thank you.


Thank you, sir. Well, unfortunately, I think we've run out of time. I would like to get a group photo quickly.