Australian Embassy

Questions and answers session - Ambassador-Designate Hayhurst at Japan National Press Club, 13 April 2023

Q (English Question)

Ambassador, thank you very much for your strong message to Japan and the region. I'm from Kyodo News, I’m Takami Hanzawa and I cover international news.


I have one question on AUKUS. There are some Asian countries that are a bit sceptical about the confrontational status between China and the US. What is the message to the countries like that who are not very happy about the confrontational status between China and other countries in the region? How do you convince them that Australia and Australian policy contributes to the stability of the region? Thank you.


A (Ambassador Hayhurst)

Thank you. Just at the outset, let me say on timing, I am happy to take some questions beyond 2 o’clock if that suits people.


Thanks for the question about perceptions of AUKUS and regional stability. Australia is seeking to acquire, over decades, eight nuclear powered submarines. There are more than 500 submarines in the world. Australia has a massive maritime domain.


It's very clear to us that we are making a proportionate investment in our defence capability to make us a more capable partner for the countries of Asia and to help deter conflict and preserve stability.


Our sense is that most of the Indo-Pacific is very strongly in favour of an active and serious Australian contribution to peace and stability. And our sense is that there is a similar response to Japan's plans for defence expansion and capability.


Regrettably, in an environment where there is a serious amount of military modernisation, it is necessary for other countries to respond by building their own capabilities. But the Australian commitment is absolutely to peace, security, and stability. Thank you.


Q (Japanese Question)

My name is Mizuno, I am a freelance member of the Press Club. As I listened to the presentation from the Ambassador, I was able to once again understand that there are many overlaps seen between Japan and Australia when it comes to strategic issues and strategic understanding.


Now, against this backdrop, there is one security architecture which Australia belongs to, but Japan does not, which is AUKUS, and there is another intelligence sharing organisation called the Five Eyes to which Australia does belong, but Japan does not.


So, what I would like to ask you is what may be Australia’s position or response if Japan asks that Japan would like to join AUKUS or Five Eyes?


A (Ambassador Hayhurst)


Thank you. Australia and Japan are really deepening our security cooperation and collaboration, including in defence and intelligence. We don't need to be the same, be in the same groups in the same ways all of the time. Those partnerships reflect very specific purposes and histories and systems.


Clearly, Japan itself recognises the importance of having defence technology partnerships with others, and so it's developing with the United Kingdom and Italy a new fighter jet program which Australia is not a part of and doesn't need to be a part of.


The fact of the matter is that all these networks and partnerships collectively are adding to our capability and to our weight. And because our strategic agendas and coordination is so close, the sum total of our own capabilities and these partnerships means Japan and Australia can make a stronger contribution to regional security.


So, in the case of AUKUS, for example, the three countries involved need to work together first to deliver capabilities they've promised before they can really consider expansion. But that is not going to in any way stand in the way of even closer cooperation in security matters between Japan and Australia.


Q (English Question)

Thanks, Ambassador. It's Michael Smith from the Australian Financial Review. Two weeks ago in Canberra, the President of INPEX raised some very strong concerns about energy security and the future supply of LNG from Australia to Japan. Have other Japanese companies raised similar concerns with you, and what's your message to Japan in terms of the concerns that seem to be building up about the future supply of gas from Australia?


A (Ambassador Hayhurst)

Thank you. Almost every conversation I've had since the day I arrived in early January has had a strong focus on energy security. We know this is a very important issue for Japan, and I have had many conversations also with INPEX.


What I can say is there's clearly a long history of very successful, mutually beneficial investment in gas and other energy from Japan to Australia. There are bright prospects there, still. There is a lot of trust between governments and there's a recognition of Australia's commitment to being a reliable supplier to Japan.


At the same time, Australia, like Japan, has very ambitious decarbonisation targets and is very committed to meeting those targets. So, there are new mechanisms in place to provide certainty to companies so they can reduce their emissions to achieve those targets.


We're always in close dialogue with investors and the Japanese government and we'll continue to discuss closely how Australia will fulfil its commitments to Japan to remaining a stable and reliable supplier of energy. It's always been a pillar of our relationship and it will remain so.


Q (English Question)

Hello, my name is Maya Shimizu from Nikkei Inc., thank you very much for your time today. My question is about China as you have kindly talked about in your speech. In early April, China conducted military exercises in the waters near Taiwan in reaction to the Taiwanese President's visit to the United States.


What is your perception of the recent security system in the Indo-Pacific, including this situation? What role can Japan and Australia play in this situation, and what kind of conversation is to be expected between the Prime Ministers of our two countries?


A (Ambassador Hayhurst)

Thank you. We, the Australian Government, have said that China's recent actions are disproportionate and destabilising. We all have a strong shared interest in regional peace and stability and we think risks to that stability are growing.


The key for Japan and Australia is to act together to support stability, that is to support the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, to retain channels of communication with China, to be able to deter conflict and to act in ways that underline that there are ways through differences between countries based on international law and that is the primary means by which disputes should be resolved.


The Australian position is very clear. We support the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and we do not support actions that seek to use force, intimidation or coercion to change that status quo.


Q (English Question)

Thank you very much Ambassador. My name is Takeuchi. I'd like to ask you about India's position. India is a member of the Quad, but it's a very unique country, much different from the other three countries. And so, in particular it is pro-Russia.


So then, on the other hand, it is the chair country of G20 this year and also Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, is coming to the Hiroshima Summit as well. And so, then, it's a key country and it's a leading country of the Global South.


Australia is also a member of the G20. And so, then what kind of playing role and what kind of message do you expect India to make in the G20 or the international arena? Thank you very much.


A (Ambassador Hayhurst)

Thank you. We work very closely with India on a shared agenda in the Indo-Pacific that supports an open maritime order, international law that supports giving the countries of the Indian Ocean and ASEAN choices. And we pursued through the Quad a very constructive agenda that is about the sort of Indo-Pacific region we would like to live in.


We don't necessarily need to agree on every issue. India has strategic autonomy, it has its own traditions and history, but fundamentally it shares this vital Indo-Pacific agenda with Japan, Australia and many others, the United States, but many members of ASEAN as well.


In the G20, we are very strongly supportive of India's chairing and its focus on many of the priorities and concerns of the Global South, particularly around food security. Food security has been dramatically affected by Russia's illegal invasion and there are actions the international community needs to take to provide relief from this.


So, fundamentally, I think it's a mistake to focus on India's legacy relations in defence procurement with Russia, rather than the wider reality as articulated by India's leaders and ministers of India's commitment to a positive international agenda, particularly its focus on engagement in the Indo-Pacific.


We're all democracies Japan, India, Australia, we think international law is the best way to create an order that supports the interests of all countries, big and small. And there is a growing convergence, as you can see, by Japan's own visits to India and Australia's, and there'll be more evidence of that in Hiroshima, then in Sydney, and again in India for the G20.

Thank you.