Australian Embassy

Ambassador Hayhurst's remarks at Hokkaido University

Thank you for the invitation to Hokkaido University. I am Justin Hayhurst, Australia’s Ambassador to Japan.

Thank Professor Iwashita for his kind introduction. I can tell him that I have been in Hokkaido for less than 24 hours, but I have already eaten scallops three times!

I acknowledge the presence of the President of Hokkaido University.

And thank you to Uemura-san for organising the event.

Today I’ll talk about the three pillars in the partnership between Australia and Japan:

  1. The connection between our societies
  2. Our coordination on strategic partnership;
  3. And Australia-Japan collaboration on trade, investment and decarbonisation.

I will finish with a special message directed at you, the students of Hokkaido University.  

I’ll talk for about 20 minutes followed by a question-and-answer session.

First, let me give you a sense of the bonds between our people and our societies.

Australia has no closer friend in Asia than Japan. This at both the government level and personal level.

Australians love Japan….especially beautiful Hokkaido….especially in winter!

Australian visitors to Japan increased year-on-year until 2019, peaking at just under 600,000.

Since COVID, record numbers of Australians have returned with over 600,000 Australians visiting Japan in 2023.

In 2024 the record is again expected to be broken with over 100,000 Australians visiting in January alone. Many of these came to Hokkaido for winter sport.

I hope my fellow Australians were not too boisterous. We can be energetic and loud at times.

We also want to see more Japanese, including Hokkaido University students, in Australia.

We also share strong ties in academia and research.

We have similar research priority areas, including cyber security, health, food/agriculture, clean energy, space, AI, and quantum.

Research cooperation between our two countries, as measured by co-authored publications, has more than doubled over the last decade.

The quality of these publications is significantly higher than the Australian and Japanese averages in all fields, meaning that both countries receive a boost to university rankings from working together.

That’s a good example of the mutual benefit of our cooperation.

Australian Universities have around 700 formal partnerships with Japan –this includes development of joint or double degree programs and research collaboration.

Your university has partnership agreements with many Australian Universities including the University of Melbourne, where I and my colleague Madeline Ito graduated many years ago.

Australian universities provide quality education. There are six Australian universities ranked in the top 100 world university ranking, and the University of Melbourne is one of the top universities in Australia.

There were over 11,600 Japanese students on student visa in Australia in 2023. And we would love to welcome more students from Hokkaido University.

Student mobility is increasing with new scholarships provided by both governments.

Since 2014, Australia’s New Colombo Plan has awarded almost 5,200 scholarships and mobility grants for Australian undergraduates to undertake study and work-based experiences in Japan.

For the NCP program in 2024, Japan was the most popular destination for NCP scholars - 20 NCP scholarships and 481 mobility grants were provided in 2024.

We know, in reverse, Australia is one of the most popular destinations for study tours from Japan.

This bodes well for strengthening people-to-people ties as former students draw on their knowledge, friendships and networks developed by studying abroad.

Australia is also keen to strengthen the ties between our First Nations peoples.

The National Ainu Museum and Park in Hokkaido is one key institution. We have already seen several Australian First Nations delegations come to Upopoy and we are keen to encourage more.

The Australian Government puts First Nations perspectives front and centre of policy making, including foreign policy.

Last year, we facilitated the return to communities in Japan of Ainu ancestral remains which had been held in Australian institutions for many years.

We are thankful for the assistance provided by Hokkaido University and Upopoy.

Just as in academia and between our First Nations people, there is real momentum across the board in our engagement and a stronger-than-ever commitment in Japan to partnership with Australia.

This is evident under the second pillar of our partnership: strategic coordination.

The strategic partnership comes from having many things in alignment.

We are both democracies.

We worry about the same security risks (although some security risks may seem more immediate to Japan).

And we care deeply about the international framework of rules and institutions that has underpinned regional peace and stability.

For example, by guaranteeing freedom of navigation.

But – our world is being reshaped, and the stability of the Indo-Pacific region can no longer be assumed.

This stability had for many years been based on a combination of unchallenged American power, the growing integration of market-based economies, and a broad consensus that globalisation reinforced security interests.

That picture has changed.

China’s growing power, weight and reach is the biggest and most consequential change, and it is still unfolding, despite an unavoidable structural slowdown in that country’s economy.

Russia is continuing its illegal military aggression in Ukraine. This has clear implications for the Indo-Pacific.

DPRK persists with its unlawful missile launches, nuclear weapons development, and violation of UNSC resolutions.

We need new thinking, and joint action, to influence a changing world.

Democracies like Japan and Australia must work together, and with others, to promote an alternative vision of the regional and global order to that pursued by China and its closest partner, Russia.

A regional order in which openness, transparency and the rule of law support all countries to forge their own destinies, free from coercion and subversion.

Our environment will also be influenced by the upcoming US election – ‘moshitora’ as I hear people calling it in Japan.

Just as China is a key issue for governments, so is America.

When global powers compete over power, values, rules, data, supply chains and technologies – how should we respond?

How do we strengthen and protect the international system in our interests?

This is our shared challenge.

Australia’s approach is active and ambitious.

Our Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, has said,

We can’t just leave it to the big powers to decide our fates.

It is up to all countries to ask ourselves - how can we each use our national power, our influence, our networks, our capabilities to avert catastrophic conflict.

A similar description of the ambitious and active use of power, networks and influence is true for Japan.

We need to integrate systems and approaches.

To protect our sovereignty, we have to share it with those we trust.

Our Reciprocal Access Agreement is the best but not the only example.

It helps our militaries to work together.

One local example is that in December 2023, Australia participated in the US-Japan military exercise Yama Sakura at Camp Higashi-Chitose for the first time.

Almost 200 Australian soldiers deployed to Hokkaido for the exercise.

Similar levels of cooperation will be needed on Pacific policy, cyber security, in defence capability development and in other areas.

Even as we strengthen our partnership, bilaterally, and through the Quad, we both maintain a strategy of open communication with China while building deterrence and resilience.

Our goal is to ensure peace and stability, and support and protect the open, rules-based system that supports all countries, large and small.

This brings me to the third pillar of collaboration on trade, investment, and decarbonisation, where resilience and rules are also important.

Our trade and economic relationship is already strong.

Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner ($143.4 billion), second largest export destination ($115 billion) and ranks fourth in terms of FDI stock into Australia ($265 billion).

With 13 percent energy and 38 percent food self-sufficiency, Japan relies on the outside world to meet its energy and food needs.

As one of the most energy and food self-sufficient nations in the world, Australia is a crucial and trusted partner.

Japan relies on Australian agricultural inputs for some critical foodstuffs.

Energy and resources form the backbone of our bilateral trade.

Long before ‘economic security and ‘supply chain resilience’ became common terms, the Australia-Japan energy partnership was delivering strategic dividends.

Australia understands the strategic dimensions of the bilateral energy agenda.

We also know that our partnership in energy security will need to evolve to become a strategic partnership on decarbonisation and clean energy, given our respective net zero commitments.

A couple of weeks ago, the Australian Government announced new budget measures and policies to support our net zero transformation.

We will invest $22.7 billion (2.4 trillion yen) over the next decade in a Future Made in Australia strategy, focusing on:

  • renewable hydrogen
  • critical minerals processing
  • green metals
  • low carbon liquid fuels and
  • clean energy manufacturing, including battery and solar panel supply chains.

Our strategy will guide future investments and direct money towards projects that either make a significant contribution towards reaching net-zero emissions, or help to shore up Australia against supply chain disruptions.

As we ride through the disruption the energy transition entails, we will be assisted by the strategic trust both governments share.

Australia will continue to support Japan’s energy security, though we know the energy mix – what Japan imports and consumes – will change.

Australia’s recently announced Future Gas Strategy explicitly recognises the important role gas will play in the energy transition.

Remaining a stable partner for our key partners is one of the Strategy’s core principles.

Just last week the Australian company Santos signed an agreement with Hokkaido Gas to supply 400,000 tons of LNG per annum for 10 years.

Japan has also implemented a suite of policies to enable its transition to net zero, including Prime Minister Kishida’s Asia Zero Emissions Community and GX Green Transformation Policy.

Tomorrow morning, I will visit Ishikari Bay Wind Farm, Japan’s largest offshore wind farm, to see Hokkaido’s part in that transition.

Japan’s policies are designed differently to Australia’s - to cater for different requirements and environments.

The challenge for us is to integrate our manufacturing and supply chains and help us meet our broader geostrategic goals.

Hydrogen and other clean energy technologies present other exciting opportunities for both countries. 

Australia has the ambition to become a renewable energy superpower.

We have new funding for renewable hydrogen projects, building on a $150 million Australia-Japan Clean Hydrogen Trade Program.

A Hydrogen Production Tax Incentive will provide incentives of $2 per kilogram of renewable hydrogen.

An expanded Hydrogen Headstart program will support early movers to invest in the industry’s development.

For Australia and Japan, the supply of critical minerals - to support, among other things, battery-making for electric vehicles and for other green and defence technologies – is key.

And we are ideal, complementary partners.

Japan has capital, technology and demand.

Australia has vast natural endowments, and proven mining and processing expertise.

We need to combine these elements to develop the resilient supply chains that our economic and security interests demand.

Australia’s new initiatives include new funding and support for critical minerals projects, helping reduce risks for Japanese investors.

This includes an extra $1.2 billion to priority critical minerals projects.

Approximately half a billion dollars will be allocated to map Australia and identify potential new critical mineral sites.

On Wednesday, I will visit the Rapidus semi-conductor facility in Chitose to see how Japan is developing its own high-tech production capability to strengthen economic security.

We also welcome Japanese investment in Australia. We are adjusting our foreign investment settings in Australia.

For Japanese investors, this will mean faster approvals and reduced wait times and compliance costs.

The economic dimensions of our partnership rely above all on well-functioning markets and capital mobility.

Both countries champion rules-based trade.

But we also need to tackle the security risks and distortions which flow from over-reliance and dependence on any single supplier for critical technologies and inputs, or any single market for our exports.

This will depend on having a stable, law-based, institutionally sound economic environment in which we can trade, invest and collaborate with confidence.


These remarks show, I hope, how indispensable our partnership with Japan has become.

Australia and Japan share a busy and ambitious agenda.

In partnership, we need to use all the policy tools and networks at our disposal to secure our objectives.

Recent history shows Australia and Japan have a partnership that enjoys both economic and strategic complementarity.

Above all, by working together closely we have become friends.

As I conclude, I would like to convey a direct message to you as students of Hokkaido University.

You are undertaking study at university at a time of great promise, as well as of disruption. 

Never has the power of human intellect, critical thinking and creativity been more needed – or better rewarded.  

The need to deliver clean energy, improve digital governance, protect our environment and harness the power of quantum computing and AI are just some the pressing challenges before us. 

As I have said, for democracies like Japan and Australia, we also need to work hard to protect our security – including cyber-security - as well as to make a difference on global issues like health security, economic development and supporting a stable and open Indo-Pacific. 

Responding to all of this, requires brain power, creativity, and effective collaboration. 

By pooling our resources and capabilities, we can accelerate the development of critical technologies and foster innovation. 

I encourage you to think broadly and ambitiously about your studies – and the wider intellectual and social life of your university and country. 

You could be one of the new leaders of Japan in business or government, and one who supports academic, business or governmental cooperation between Japan and Australia - and other countries.   

So, I wish you success in your studies at Hokkaido University.

I hope you will work with Australia as a partner for our common prosperity and security.  

And although we don’t have much powder snow in Australia, I hope to see you there.

Thank you.


Ambassador Hayhurst Q&A Session at Hokkaido University