ADDRESS TO THE STATE DINNER FOR PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 8 July 2014
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Prime Minister Abe, it is a privilege to have this second opportunity to wish you well here in Australia, and to congratulate you on your magnificent speech to our Parliament this morning.
I can assure you, it is rare indeed for speeches in our Parliament to receive applause from both sides of the chamber.
But this was an honour you richly deserved.
Your thoughtful, warm and funny address showed a deep understanding of, and affection for, Australia – and Australia’s icons – like the legendary Dawn Fraser.
And your reflections on the tragedy and trauma of the Second World War were delivered with an honesty and insight that touched us all.
Prime Minister Abe, you are here in the seat of our democracy as our honoured guest and our friend.
And as the representative of a nation and a people that Australians deeply admire.
Australians admire Japanese innovation, the Japanese entrepreneurial spirit, the Japanese aesthetic and Japanese determination.
And Australians have learned so much from your nation’s work ethic and Japanese business practice.
Like a good many Australian business graduates, as part of my MBA, I studied the life and work of Soichiro Honda.
A man who, following the destruction of one of his factories by a US B-29 bombing raid, and another by earthquake, started again with a staff of 12, in a shed just 16 metres square, selling motorcycles made from surplus parts.
Within 18 years, the Honda Motor Company was the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
His vision typifies the Japanese drive to be the best, to look beyond the horizon, to pursue a competitive edge through ingenuity and sophisticated technology.
Led by people like Soichiro Honda, from the devastation of the Second World War, Japan rebuilt itself into an economic powerhouse.
This remarkable economic regeneration has made Japan a world leader in technological development and advanced manufacturing.
And a world leader in the way we do business, through the rightly famous philosophy of kaizen: continuous improvement through teamwork, discipline and self-analysis.
There is much for Australia to learn as our own nation changes from an industrial to an intellectual economy.
For decades, Japan has withstood financial shocks and recession, to deliver new prosperity for its citizens.
And amid that terrifying combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear contamination at Fukushima – Japan displayed a remarkable resilience and courage that won worldwide admiration.
This bravery, this unwavering resolve in the face of adversity is a quality that Australians have always held dear.
Indeed, one of the earliest Australian poets, Adam Lindsay Gordon captured this sentiment when he said:
Life is mainly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble – and courage in your own.
This is why the Australian people were so quick to lend a helping hand to the people and communities of Fukushima – and so glad to do so.
And I thank you for the most generous acknowledgement you gave to Robert McNeill as the representative of Australian search-and-rescue personnel, and to Prime Minister Gillard.
Australia will always admire Japan – and we will always look to work with, and learn from, Japan as we embrace the opportunities of this Asian Century.
Prime Minister, it has been a tremendous honour for me to meet with you today, to discuss your vision for the future of Japan, the future of our relationship and the future of our region.
As you reflected in your remarks to our Parliament, the friendship between Australia and Japan spans generations and crosses the political divide.
We need only look at the conclusion of the defence technology transfer agreement – work for which began under Labor.
And the continuing benefit of the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement in our defence logistics, and the value of our Information Sharing Agreement.
Both finalised under the previous Government and both the product of a constructive dialogue on strategic matters at leader level and Ministerial level.
This enhanced level of collaboration will aid our response to, transnational terrorism, piracy, disaster response - and help us build on our proud shared UN peacekeeping history in Timor Leste, Iraq and South Sudan.
No matter who forms government in Canberra or in Tokyo, no matter our differences – the friendship between Australia and Japan will continue to grow and thrive, to the mutual benefit of both our great countries.
History has taught Japan and Australia both that there is nothing for our countries to fear, nor lose, from working closely together.
Whether the challenges of the future are strategic, technological or economic, the best path forward will always depend on our co-operation.
We know that in helping each other, we will both learn and grow.
In working together, we will achieve the greatest of success.
As Kaneko Misuzu a poet from your home prefecture of Yamaguchi put it nearly a century ago:
‘We are all different, but we are all wonderful’
Prime Minister Abe, all of us in the Labor party wish you, Mrs Abe, and your colleagues all the very best for the remainder of your stay in Australia.
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