Australian Embassy

Q&A Session after the speech by the Hon Madeleine King MP, Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia

Australian Embassy, Tokyo – 29 January 2024


Q: (Question from the MC) You touched upon the engagement of Japanese businesses in the Future Gas Strategy. Many of the companies represented here today have made submissions. What are some of the next steps in developing the strategy and what would you like to see come out of it?

A: I was very clear on my commitment around the Future Gas Strategy that it would be open for widespread consultation for anyone that's interested in the gas industry and its future in Australia. And importantly, that of course includes partners like Japan, whether it be the government, investment houses, companies that specialise in gas extraction or manufacturers that need gas for power, as well as communities right around our country or elsewhere that have an interest in gas and its role in the future.

So, the consultation has been extensive, it's been very open and I think that's a really positive thing. I thank everyone here for participating, if you did. I think most people have participated as I know we have a lot of submissions on it. But the point of it is about developing that evidence base of what will be required, because a lot of different views are floated about when we will not need gas, when we will need gas, how much gas will we need, how much gas is there. All these things can be a bit of a mess. It's not orderly. So, my ambition was to gather the evidence so we could tell the story to more people of what will be required, what will the third largest economy in the world, which is Japan, need to keep going as it has done in ongoing development. That is good for Japan and of course, good for the Japanese people and good for the region and therefore good for the world.

So, we can't as Australians – a small population by your standards of 27 million – can't ignore the role we need to play in providing for the energy security of great, large economies like Japan, but also others like Korea and China as well as Singapore, our near neighbour, as well as the Philippines and Malaysia. These are all countries that don't have the gas that we have. We have a role to play in making sure their populations and their industry have access to energy. And we will continue to do that. And now we'll have a better idea of why we need to do that. That's my ambition.


Q: Thank you for your speech. My name is Yoshihiro Nakajima. I belong to Kyodo News, a Japanese news agency. I would like to ask you about the Australian stance on supplying LNG to Japan. After Russia’s invasion to Ukraine, global demand for LNG has increased. I understand that there was also growing concern in Australia about LNG shortages. What is Australia’s current export stance on LNG. Also, will Japan be able to continue to receive LNG supply from Australia in the future. Are there any challenges for Japan to continue receiving stable supplies from Australia? This is one question.

A: Thank you. Australia is committed to maintaining its position as a reliable supplier of gas but also coal and iron ore when needed to Japan. That is a commitment I've made today and I’ve made before, as has the Prime Minister of Australia. So that will continue, and it is important it does for many reasons. As I said, Japan is the world's third largest economy and we are the largest exporter of gas to Japan and we realise how important that is for our friends here. So that will continue.

We have had supply issues for gas in Australia, particularly the east coast of Australia. That was in 2022 and it was largely a combination of - we call it the perfect storm. You know that movie where everything goes wrong all at once? It was that kind of instance. So, we had an inability to get coal into the coal-fired power stations because the coal mines had flooded, which led to a greater reliance on gas. And the gas was not available because of certain disruptions to supply. So, we had to make it work a bit better for the domestic supply side on the east coast of the country.

That is by and large now resolved, and there's a greater understanding of the need for gas on the east coast. In Western Australia, where I'm from, there is a larger gas supply because of a reservations policy that government has. Nonetheless, if projects like Scarborough and Browse do not go ahead or are constrained, then Western Australia will also face a shortage.

And that's bad for many reasons. One, it's my home, so I'd rather that didn't happen. But equally that gas will be required for the increased demand in minerals processing. The greatest growth of gas use in Western Australia, and that's a third of the country, is minerals processing. Some of that is processing of iron ore, but mostly around critical minerals and rare earths, which we all know is going to be vitally important to green energy in the future.

So, we know we need that gas. Demand is not going down for gas. But equally, we know we are facing a changing climate and we need to take action. The Japanese Government committed to net-zero emissions long before the Australian government did. Gas companies committed to taking action to lower their emissions well before the Australian Government did. And I thank them for their efforts. I think it's important we recognise the efforts of the gas industry in seeking to reduce their emissions, do all that they can on CCS, carbon capture and storage, whilst in the meantime providing energy for the great cities of Japan and around the region to continue to function and for their people to have power.


Q: May I ask another question? Japan and Australia have agreed to cooperate in the use of hydrogen energy and in the construction of supply networks for critical materials. Could you tell me specifically what kind of cooperation Australia would like to promote. This is the second question.

A: Yes. Well, in the hydrogen area, it's been a very important project. I’ve been to the Suiso Frontier, the ship that Kawasaki Heavy Industries have built, which is a remarkable thing. And Japan is a leader in the LNG carriers that we see going back and forth from our country to yours. So that is world-leading research and we partner with Japan, and the Victorian Government partners does as well, on the hydrogen potential and hydrogen transport. We talk a lot about hydrogen exports, but the only people actually building a ship that can carry anything is Japan and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

So, I congratulate them wholeheartedly because they're the people putting the money and the time and the effort into that research. And they deserve our thanks. On critical minerals and materials and rare earths, Japan is already investing in Australian projects. We see through Lynas, as I mentioned, which was brought on by a ban on the export of rare earths from China. Japan has showed its commitment to Lynas and diversifying its supply.

Without that investment, there would be no rare earths supplier outside of China. I think that's something we need to recognise and seek to have more of it. We need to diversify the supply of these materials that will be essential for battery technologies, other green technologies and also defence applications. So, I see us partnering in terms of capital investment, but also on intellectual property.

We know Japan and Korea have the battery technology. Australia’s not that good at that - I reckon we could build them, but you know, we'd rather not reinvent wheels and co-invest on that research and intellectual property as well. I see a great future for that. And also in our renewable technology prospects as well. I think that's a natural thing we can all do together.


Q: Thank you, I’m from Reuters. Thank you for the speech. I have a couple of questions regarding your visit. You are about to meet Minister Saito this afternoon. My first question relates to that. What will be the main topic of your discussion with Mr. Saito? Should we expect anything by the two sides being signed today in regard either to energy or minerals? And my second one comes to direct investment which your country may want to have from the Japanese side. Do you have any specific target that you would ideally like to see from Japan to invest in your country in terms of LNG and rare earths, let's say, in a five-year horizon?

A: Certainly. So, in relation to my meeting with Minister Sato, there is no particular agreement or commitment really. We have not met before and I had met the Minister in that portfolio a number of times. So, it is important that we work together. As a new minister in that portfolio of trade and resources, I was very keen to come to Tokyo to introduce myself because I expect that I will be working as always, as any Australian Resources Minister would, with their counterpart here in Japan.

No doubt, we'll talk about all the things in our partnership, the exports and so forth that I've spoken about today here. But principally it's about meeting and speaking formally and informally for the first time.

In relation to targets for investments. Well, the sky's the limit if you ask me. There's no target because the relationship is so deeply embedded over a very long time. So, when I speak of Japanese investment into Australia, we saw these people here that have worked in that space. We don't set minimums. We don't set outer limits. We just set a willingness to work together. And that's my ambition – to always let my friends in Japan know that we always welcome and respect their investment into our country.

We have had some changes in policy. There were changes in government. We have had some difficulties in energy pricing in Australia and that has had some ripple effects and concerns for investors here. And that's understandable, because it's investment made over many, many decades and it's in the billions of dollars. So, it's only fair that they get to speak to one of the ministers for the Australian Government about that investment.

And I'm here to make sure everyone understands that we can be trusted as the destination for that investment.


Q: Thank you very much for mentioning the Suiso Frontier. I’m Shintaro Nishikawa from Kawasaki Heavy Industries. We always believe that Australia and Japan have a great relationship through the current fossil fuel economy. But for the future through the hydrogen project, I strongly believe that we will have a great relationship without change. No question, just a comment. Thank you very much.