Australian Embassy

Remarks by Australian Ambassador-Designate, Mr Justin Hayhurst at Japan National Press Club, 13 April 2023

I would like to start by thanking the board and members of the Japan National Press Club for hosting me today.

Thank you also to Harima-san for moderating the discussion.

I have been busy in my first few months in Tokyo, where I have met many Japanese ministers, parliamentarians, officials and businesspeople committed to partnership with Australia.

I have also benefitted from insights gained from my early travels outside the capital, including to see the recovery efforts in Fukushima.

Today, I will first set the scene by describing how challenges to Australia’s and Japan’s interests have intensified in recent years.

In 2017, I was part of an inter-agency taskforce that supported Australia’s former government to deliver a new Foreign Policy Whitepaper.

This document assessed the international order was being reshaped, risks to Australia’s interests were building and the stability of the Indo-Pacific region could no longer be assumed.

It said China’s power in the Indo-Pacific was growing to match, and in some cases exceed, that of the United States.

It described a contested and competitive world, in which well-governed states, with cohesive societies and flexible economies, would thrive if they worked together to support stability and shape the character of an enduring peace.

Above all it was concerned with the agency of Australia as an international actor.

This concept of agency remains fundamental to Australia’s foreign policy as described by our Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, when she said:

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

            And we cannot be passive when big powers flout the rules.

            We are more than just supporting players in a grand drama of global geopolitics, on a stage dominated by great powers.

            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?

Now, strategy documents are not forecasts.

They often miss or downplay issues that come to dominate the work of governments, issues such as pandemics and cyber-attacks.  

Systemic shocks such as the global Covid recession and Russia’s catastrophic and illegal invasion of Ukraine confound even the best analysis.  

Even so, looking back less than six years since the publication of that White Paper, it is striking how much more sobering the outlook can seem today.

The word deterrence barely featured but has now necessarily become central to Australia’s and Japan’s strategic policies.

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s nuclear sabre rattling are two of the starkest negative trends, but there are many others, including the DPRK’s continuing development of ballistic missile capabilities and China’s destabilising actions in the Taiwan Strait.

The creeping normalisation of a might is right approach erodes stability and hard-won principles of international law.

Military intimidation and economic coercion remain go-to tools in the armoury of authoritarian statecraft.

The confluence of these trends has demanded a response from Australia and from our partners, including from Japan, our special strategic partner.  

And that response has been forthcoming.

Let’s count some of the ways.

There is the growing purpose and momentum of the Quad, which will again be demonstrated in the forthcoming leaders summit in Sydney.

There is the record level of Australian assistance to, and engagement with, the Pacific, including re-energised partnerships on climate change and Covid recovery, as well as stepped-up efforts to ensure Pacific security remains in the hands of the Pacific.

Australia is deepening partnerships with India, Indonesia and many others in Southeast Asia.

As well as delivering with Japan a Joint Declaration of Security Cooperation, which I will come back to later.

Australia has also joined Japan and others outside NATO in supporting the determined response to assist Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s illegal aggression.

This coherent and unified response to the danger posed by the war illustrates the power of partnership.

It has created a unity of purpose across the North Atlantic that has implications as profound for the Indo-Pacific as does Russia’s illegal use of force. 

In addition to all of these actions, Australia is embarking on the largest single capability uplift in its defence history to deliver nuclear-powered submarines in partnership with the United States and United Kingdom.

This is a proportionate and responsible increase in military capability that reflects the extent and complexity of Australia’s maritime interests in a deteriorating security environment.

There will be further announcements in coming weeks about Australia’s defence capability, policy and posture following an independent defence strategic review.

For, in the words of Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles:

we are .. resolved to have the capability that contributes to a sustainable balance of military power, so that no country judges the benefits of conflict might outweigh the risks.

Yet in saying this, he also made this point:

Like Japan, Australia does not place a premium on military power as a tool of strategy. Australia will place its primary focus on diplomacy, economic openness and upholding rules. Working with our regional partners in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and the Quad.

This is a vital point about Australia’s approach – where defence is only one arm of statecraft -  and its intersection with Japan’s approach.

Because as Japan’s Prime Minister has said “diplomacy needs to be backed by defence capabilities.”

And indeed Japan is something of a model here, even allowing for its unique legal and strategic circumstances.

It is pursuing a record defence spend, a massive transformation in systems and readiness all framed within a Free and Open Indo-Pacific construct that emphasises transparent development financing and support for international law and connectivity.

Japan has been a driving force in the Quad and its welcome rapprochement with the ROK will deliver security and economic dividends to the region.

Japan’s response to our current strategic circumstances demonstrates the necessity of deterrence and military preparedness, as well as the equal and reinforcing need to support an open order based on agreed rules.

Australia and Japan don't just have an interest in the distribution of power or in stability, but also in the principles by which power is used to deliver what Australia's Foreign Minister describes as a world where the rules, whether they govern trade or the maritime domain or the environment or military engagement, are clear, mutually negotiated and consistently followed.

Australia’s foreign policy goals are tied to an open regional order based on law that can incorporate the agendas and ambitions of powers large, medium and small alike.

Australia and Japan are in a foreign policy partnership that coordinates action to achieve regional impact beyond the bilateral.

Our statecraft is about deterrence and stability to be sure.

But it is also about using our agency to shape, build, connect and to partner.

I want to set out the three pillars of our partnership.

One is what I would call strategic coordination.

To fulfill the intent of our Joint Security Declaration and its commitments to an open, secure maritime domain, to international rules, to deterring aggression and its statement that:

We will consult each other on contingencies that may affect our sovereignty and regional security interests, and consider measures in response.

This agenda is about working together to shape the Indo-Pacific.

It is about better integrating systems and strategies, as well as developing greater levels of interoperability, including pursuing opportunities for joint exercises and joint capability development.

It won’t be straightforward, but our respective goals won’t be achieved without a greater level of integrated effort.

Our main strategic advantage in a turbulent time is our partnerships so we need to exploit this.

So, pillar one encompasses strategic coordination, deterrence, and inter-operability.

To marshal our resources for shared objectives.

This is bigger than Australia-Japan relations of course – it is relevant to our respective alliances with America, as well as our partnerships with India, and the ROK, our support for peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, our work to support the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and cooperation to respond to Pacific development and security needs.

Pillar two is our vital trade and investment partnership.

It is centered on energy and food but also includes crucial inputs into Japanese manufacturing and wealth creation such as copper, nickel, zinc and aluminum, sugar and wheat.   

There are opportunities in medical devices, services and defence industry as well significant potential for increased research collaboration and broadening our education exchange as trusted partners. 

Tourism has great promise with Australia a safe destination for Japanese visitors and students. 

Australia is already the number one study destination for Japanese schools.

According to the Herbert Smith Freehills 2022 investment report, Japan continues to rank second only to the United States in terms of cumulative foreign direct investment into Australia (A$133.8 billion).

Two-way trade between Australia and Japan was valued at A$117.3 billion in Australian FY2021-2022, making Japan Australia’s second-largest trading partner and second-largest export destination at over A$90 billion.

This amounted to a 75 per cent increase in two-way trade compared to Australian the previous financial year.

Our partnership in energy security – so vital to Japan – will need to evolve to reflect each government’s commitment to decarbonisation and clean energy.

Riding through the disruption this transition entails will be assisted by the strategic trust both governments share and the record number of senior level engagements we are pursuing.

Both Australia and Japan are supporting the energy transition in Southeast Asia and beyond, and ensuring we work to limit supply chain vulnerabilities.

We are working to create viable markets for the supply of critical minerals to support battery-making and other technologies.  

It will be important to manage our strategic interests in these fields to avoid the risks of protectionism.

But we cannot ignore the security risks and distortions which flow if we over-rely on one supplier for critical technologies and inputs or one market for our exports.

The third pillar on which we focus is that of the connections between both nations.

We are now re-connecting after COVID-19 and benefitting from this re-connection but there is more work required to ensure our people and societies know and understand each other better, even as our companies and governments forge deeper partnerships.

One way the Australian Government will be looking to bring the second and third pillars of our relationship together will be our participation in the 2025 Osaka Expo.

Then, in 2026, we will celebrate 50th anniversary of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, known as the Nara Treaty, giving us another opportunity for initiatives to make it even easier for Australians and Japanese to benefit from travel, study, research and work across our borders.

This is a busy and ambitious agenda.

We are doing more, doing it faster and doing it in partnership more than ever before.

There are and will be obstacles, including building the right information sharing systems.

The actions we are taking, individually and in partnership, are necessary but we recognise they occur in a region full of risk.

That means keeping lines of communication open to China while building deterrence and resilience.

This is approach of the Australian Government – to cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must, and act in the national interest.

Japan is also showing through its chairing of the G7 this year there is a need to focus on, and to listen and respond to, the interests and agendas of developing countries, what we sometimes call the Global South.

Looking back a mere five or six years as I did in the beginning shows how much has changed, and how quickly.

But it also shows how Australia has responded with purpose and determination.

And how indispensable our partnership with Japan has become.

And, in the coming period, as Prime Minister Albanese joins the G7 Summit in Hiroshima as a guest of Japan, and then Prime Minister Kishida travels to Australia for the Quad Summit, we will see further momentum in our engagement.

Foreign Minister Wong describes our partnership as committing: ‘both countries to expanding and strengthening cooperation across defence, intelligence, energy transition, climate change, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, health security, maritime security and economic security’.

In other words, to using all the tools at our disposal to secure our objectives.

Further iterations of our 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers meeting in Australia later this year and the ratification and then use of the Reciprocal Access Agreement will help deliver on this commitment.

As will the many dialogues between economic ministries and our businesses.

Recent history has shown Australia and Japan have built a partnership that enjoys both economic and strategic complementarity.

When we work together, we deliver results that serve our interests and those of the Indo-Pacific region.

There are many examples that show the influence and impact of Japan-Australia cooperation, from the establishment of APEC, to the Cambodian Peace Process, the success of the CPTPP (Comprehensive & Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership), and our response to the disaster in Tonga last year.

At a time of flux, we are working to maintain that tradition, working, that is, to apply our resources and influence to deter conflict and coercion, achieve strategic balance, and support a region where countries and peoples can cooperate, trade and thrive.

Thank you.