Feb 5, 2018

Private Members’ Business – Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:59): I rise to take the opportunity to contribute to this debate, which acknowledges the importance of the trade and economic relationship between Australia and Japan. In particular, I welcome the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce. Indeed, given the history of World War II, it’s quite a remarkable thing that we’re recognising that 60 years ago, just after the end of that conflict, Australia and Japan entered into a relationship based upon friendship and, whilst not forgetting the past, acknowledged the need for us to move forward into the future as two peoples in two sovereign nations. Indeed, what a success that relationship has been over the last 60 years! There is no doubt that there is a significant opportunity, moving forward, for that relationship to continue to be strengthened. It is of mutual benefit to our two nations—in terms of job creation and our cooperation in international forums—that our trade relationship has formed the basis of that. It has been of great benefit, Japan being a major importer from Australia of our resources, our agriculture and our technology, which has allowed Japan to be one of the economic success stories of the late 20th century.

Indeed, Japan has played an important role in international forums. Twice as a minister in the previous government I was able to go to Japan, and on a number of occasions I was able to host here in Australia infrastructure delegations from Japan. Japan was critical in forming the MEET, as it was known—the ministerial council on energy and emissions in transport. Japan understood that, in playing an important role in the development of the Kyoto Protocol—the global foundation that came out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto—we need to work cooperatively as an international community to drive down our emissions, and one of the ways we can do that is in the transport sector. That’s why Japan has been at the forefront of the development of electric vehicles and zero-emissions transport.

Japan’s success in the postwar period has been put down to many things, but one critical factor is the development of high-speed rail. With the Shinkansen, they were ahead of the rest of the world in having the vision of being able to transport large numbers of people in very short periods of time, and they continue to lead the world in that technology. They have much to offer Australia as we seek to develop a high-speed rail network down the east coast. Just as high-speed rail stacks up in Japan, just as it has led to significant economic development along the routes in regional centres in Japan, Australia has much to gain from high-speed rail. So I look forward to continuing to have discussions with executives from the Japanese rail sector on how their knowledge can provide a basis of support for the development of high-speed rail here in Australia. We know that it stacks up, with a return of more than $2 for every dollar of investment between Sydney and Melbourne, and we know that it could be a major factor in developing our regional economies, taking pressure off the capital cities on the east coast.

I commend the resolution to the House and I look forward to strengthening the friendship between Australia and Japan in the future.