Australian Embassy

Ambassador Designate Hayhurst remarks for Perth USAsia Centre’s Japan Symposium (transcript), 28 March 2023

Hello everybody.

My name is Justin Hayhurst, Australia’s Ambassador Designate to Japan, and I thank you very much for inviting me to provide some remarks to the Perth USAsia Centre’s Japan Symposium 2023.

At the outset, I want to acknowledge the work of Gordon Flake and the Centre for all the excellent work you do on Indo-Pacific security and other matters. It’s an important job and you do it very well. My only regret today is that I can’t be with you in person.

Some of the things that I will say will be familiar to you. Australia and Japan have a very close partnership, officially called a ‘Special Strategic Partnership’ and are working together in a regional and global environment increasingly characterised by sharp strategic competition.

There is competition over the balance of power, there is competition over standards, there is competition over technology, there is competition in lots of domains. It is very challenging circumstances. Our region, the Indo-Pacific is also home to the world’s largest military build-up, and both Australia and Japan are responding.

North Korea has conducted more than 60 ballistic missile launches in the past year, and it’s a depressingly routine feature of our Embassy in Tokyo’s work to report on the latest violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

My early impressions are that Japan itself feels very much on the front lines of strategic competition. It is also, I think, very preoccupied with another major security dilemma, namely the question of energy security, which along with energy transition will be difficult and consequential for all economies, but for a country like Japan which is only 12 percent self-sufficient in energy, it poses particularly complex challenges. It is also particularly relevant for the relationship between Japan and Australia.

Another big thing since I’ve arrived is in the realm of digitalisation and cyber security, another obvious domain where our two countries can cooperate together.

In the broad, I’ll just run through some of the main reasons, evident though they will be to all of you, why greater cooperation between Japan and Australia makes sense. We’re both democracies, we have a shared commitment to international rules that underwrite stability, prosperity and sovereignty, we’re both market economies, we believe in transparent international institutions.

So, we’ve got an interest not only in how power is distributed in the world, but the rules by which power is tamed, tempered and utilised. There have been a number of shifts in Japan to respond to the new uncertain environment. A series of very significant announcements late last year around defence and national security policy with a commitment to increase defence spending by up to 65 percent over five years to reach two percent of GDP, and to build defence capabilities in all domains including cyber, space and advanced technologies.

To put this into a little bit of context, Japan’s acquisition, technology and logistics agency will have its budget increased by four and a half times in the coming few years to 38 billion Australian dollars.

Australia is itself, as you will well know, also going through a major and consequential defence capability uplift. So, there’s a complementarity not only in our policies but in the way our systems are needing urgently to bring into being and put into practise new systems, new defence capabilities, and new defence projects.

There’s an opportunity for some collaboration clearly on defence technology partnerships. This will, I think, be complemented by an ability for greater training and work together in defence. Australia and Japan have signed a reciprocal access agreement, signed in January 2022, and it will come into force this year and streamline our ability to work together.

Last year in Perth as you know, Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Kishida also signed a joint declaration on security cooperation, which will also act to support our increasingly integrated strategic coordination. It will also support interoperability and it will support I think regional deterrence.

More broadly across the relationship as a whole, the leaders talked about all sorts of ways in which we would cooperate more on defence, intelligence, energy transition, climate change, humanitarian assistance, health security, maritime security. Across all these domains how we harness and use technology and the standards which that technology will be used will be vital.

I think it’s fair to say there’s strong appetite in Japan for doing more with Australia and I detect the same on our part from the Australian end, and how we integrate and embed some of our technology partnerships will be critical to that.

I wanted to give a couple of examples that I’ve come across already. Last week in Tokyo it was the Defence Security Equipment and Intelligence Expo, and more than 40 Australian companies showcased their products and their capabilities and technologies to work with Japan’s newly energised and soon to be fast growing defence industry. It’s a commitment and opportunity to bring forth, to bring together our industrial bases to take cooperation from research to commercialisation.

We have indeed worked together for many years with Japan’s defence establishment on science and technology and we’re negotiating research development tests and evaluation arrangement on the co-development and production of advanced defence capabilities, broadening our initial research agreement signed in 2015 on Marine Hydrodynamics to all domains.

Energy security, as I mentioned, is another critical element of our partnership and of Japan’s broader national interest strategy. At the moment, Australia’s energy exports, depending on how you calculate it, power Japan’s electricity for eight out of every 24 hours. That is to say, without Australia, Japan can’t achieve energy security. It’s a big theme of the partnership, it’s a big theme of the leader’s visit and how the energy transition plays out and how technology is harnessed for renewable clean and green energy will matter greatly to the prospects of both countries, not just in the health of their bilateral partnership, but their ability to achieve their own energy and energy security objectives.

We’ve also signed a critical minerals partnership to develop secure supply chains and explore investment and co-financing opportunities. We can draw on our respective strengths. Australia’s resources powerhouse, Japan has the technology, the capital and indeed the demand to make viable markets. We hope to support joint research and development including in the battery supply chain.

Prime Minister Kishida visited a nickel refinery in Kwinana when he was in Perth last year. Japan’s also announced a 200-million-dollar investment in Australian company Lynas for its rare earth production, that is an example of the sorts of ways the partnership will work together.

We’re also big partners in the Quad context and we’re working in that context to harness emerging and critical technologies for the region> We’re shaping technology standards, supporting 5G deployment and diversification and bolstering supply chain security. The 2023 Quad Leader Summit to be hosted by Australia later this year will deepen this work.

There are lots of other examples. Japanese chip manufacturer Mega Chips invested 100 million dollars in Morse Micro, Australia’s largest semiconductor maker. This investment will boost our company’s R and D capability and strengthen its capacity to manufacture and distribute energy-efficient long-range chips to Japan.

In Japan, they’re at an earlier stage I think of digitalising government services, banking services and a whole range of other sectors where there’s great potential for Australia to be a partner, and we ourselves are massively upgrading our cyber security capability, another area we can work together.

To really cooperate in this domain, we’ve obviously got to trust each other’s systems and I think information security is an important issue the two countries will work on in the future. As Japan seeks to expand its own system and protections on information security, we will be there with Japan sharing our experiences, looking at how we can integrate our systems more to enable greater information sharing with a trusted strategic partner.

The end point here I think is a bilateral partnership where we don’t just work with each other, we work together, we integrate, we bring our systems together. This is pretty ambitious, it won’t be easy, but I think that there’s a strategic imperative for both countries to pursue this agenda.

So, the two governments have a serious commitment to enhance our cooperation. We have the complementarity, strategic trust and shared objectives for the international order to make that a priority. Your discussion today will not just be relevant, it will be massively useful for governments looking to give effect to and achieve the potential of a partnership that has been elevated in recent years and that culminated at least to this stage with the signing of the joint security declaration last year.

I really look forward to hearing the outcome of your deliberations, it will be a big assistance to me in my role as we work together to deepen this partnership, not just for bilateral interests but because an effective Australia-Japan partnership in all domains, including harnessing and using technology is critical to our wider regional interests.

Thank you.