PARLIAMENTARY WELCOME FOR PRIME MINISTER ABE
TUESDAY, 8 JULY 2014
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On this historic day, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the first law-givers of our nation and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Prime Minister Abe.
On behalf of the Opposition, it is my great pleasure to join the Prime Minister in welcoming you, and your wife Mrs Akie Abe, to our Parliament, and our nation.
You honour all of us with your presence here today.
There is so much our two countries share:
Faith in democracy.
Deep respect for the rule of law.
Co-operation in peacekeeping missions.
Global leadership in nuclear non-proliferation – and I acknowledge today the work of our former Foreign Ministers Yoriko Kawaguchi and Gareth Evans.
And a steadfast commitment to a stable, prosperous and peaceful Asia-Pacific.
For more than a century, Japanese demand for Australian resources has helped build our nations’ shared prosperity.
Japan is an investor, as well as a customer – a true trading partner.
For more than fifty years, Japanese investment has driven the development of Northern Australia, from the iron ore fields of the Pilbara to the North West Shelf and Darwin Liquid Natural Gas to coal mines in the east.
And Japan has long been much more to Australia than a leader in technological innovation or a market for our resources.
We have traded and shared our values and our ideas too.
Australia’s arts and our architecture, our food and philosophy and even the way we do business, have been enhanced and enriched by the Japanese.
All Australians are grateful for these gifts.
We celebrate this diversity, we know that it helps us gain and grow and learn.
Or, as the Japanese saying goes:
"Juunin to Iro.”
“Ten People, Ten Colours.”
In embracing our differences, we are stronger.
And ours is a friendship that shares hardship.
When Fukushima was devastated by earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, Australian hearts went out to our friends in Japan.
Within days, Australian search and rescue personnel, defence operations-response officers and three C-17 aircraft were on the scene helping with the international clean-up and rescue effort.
They were soon followed by donations and contributions from hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australians.
Prime Minister Gillard was the first world leader to visit the region following the disaster and personally convey our condolences for your loss, and our admiration for your resilience.
In those tough times, Australia was proud to stand by our friend.
We gave our help gladly, knowing that Japan would not hesitate to respond with the same speed and generosity.
This understanding, this care for each other’s welfare, lies at the heart of our friendship.
A friendship that runs deeper than treaties or trade agreements, summits or state dinners.
A friendship built on the open-hearted generosity and wisdom of our two peoples.
It has long been this way.
Three years after your grandfather’s term as Prime Minister, Yamatotakada City and the town of Lismore in New South Wales became ‘sister cities’, the first such partnership between Australia and Japan.
Today 109 communities across our nation – and yours – share this bond.
Joined together in the spirit of friendship, of understanding and of learning from one another.
People from our two countries building personal connections through student exchanges, cultural exchanges and local government visits.
Friendships flourishing through email and Skype and long-planned catch-ups.
In Bundaberg and Settsu City
Inakawa Town and Ballarat
Geraldton and Kosai City.
And, of course, your ancient capital Nara and our capital, Canberra.
Every year, in the Canberra-Nara Peace Park, a patch of Japanese Maples and Cherry Blossoms among the gum trees, Australians and Japanese people gather for a festival.
Surrounded by Japanese sculpture, accompanied by Japanese music and delighting in Japanese food, festival-goers light two thousand candles in celebration of peace and friendship.
In that spirit, by those lights, today we say to you that Japan will always have a friend in Australia.
A partner in prosperity - and a partner in peace.
Prime Minister Abe, you are most welcome in Australia – and the people of Japan always will be.
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