Mr Wilson (10:49am) — I'm glad for the opportunity to speak on this motion about the relationship between Australia and Japan—not about coal, as I understand it. I thank the member for Forde for bringing this topic up for debate. Australia and Japan have a considerable recent history of economic and cultural engagement. It's a tradition that has enriched both countries. It's a relationship that continues to underpin our prosperity in a region of relatively sustained but nevertheless fragile peace and stability.
There's no doubt that Japan and Australia, representing the north and south poles of the eastern Indo-Pacific, have vital work to do, in partnership, if further cooperative, peaceful development is to prevail in our region. From the first recorded export of Australian wool to Japan in 1888 through to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce last year, ours is a relationship built on a core set of shared values and shared ambitions for a thriving Indo-Pacific region. Since the end of World War II we have worked closely with Japan to establish and promote a number of shared objectives.
From our own distinct perspectives and national interests we have worked together in pursuit of peace, trade, democratic governance and a cooperative rules-based international order, but there is much more to be done, as Japan's ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Ambassador Kusaka, said last year in Perth:
Merely drumming up support for democratic values on their own will not gain the support of our fellow neighbours in finding common ground for our interests.
We need to be able to offer a credible economic plan that instills confidence among our neighbours …
I absolutely agree with that. I would go further in saying there's potential for Japan and Australia to work together not just for our mutual trade and broader economic interests but in supporting sustainable development in the Pacific, where our neighbours include some of the poorest and least developed nations.
My home state of Western Australia has been at the forefront of the trading relationship between our two countries, with state representative offices in both Kobe and Tokyo, the latter of which recently celebrated its 40th year of operation. Japan is WA's second largest export market, and the value of those traded goods increased 11 per cent last year alone to reach $15.7 billion. Japan is also Western Australia's largest source of imports.
My electorate of Fremantle benefits directly from the strong relationship via both tourism and international students, and the City of Fremantle maintains a vital connection with its sister city of Yokosuka, a key port to the south of Tokyo which I've been fortunate enough to visit. The cities of Fremantle and Cockburn within my electorate are active participants in the Mayors for Peace initiative, which started in Japan in the aftermath of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a great privilege in my former role as deputy mayor of Fremantle to join a delegation of Anangu artists from South Australia to install the first Australian sculpture in the Nagasaki Peace Park in 2017.
We must not forget, whenever we talk about trade and economic cooperation, that the precondition of commerce is peace. Indeed, at a time of uncertainty and volatility across the world, including some worrying instabilities in our region, it is crucial that we honour and strengthen country-to-country relationships that are founded on principles that support dialogue and cooperation. At a time when some nations are responding to domestic economic challenges by taking a closed approach to borders and trade, and in some cases slipping towards authoritarian models or modes of governance, the Australia-Japan relationship stands as an example of openness based on robust, democratic institutions and adherence to the rules based international order. It stands as a clear demonstration of the synergies that can be gained when countries, despite their historic, cultural and linguistic differences, work together on the basis of respect and understanding to expand common ground rather than retreat to opposing positions.
As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce, we should remember there was nothing preordained about the quickly formed and substantial nature of our relationship after World War II. The fact that we've overcome what might be reasonably have been regarded as cultural and historical obstacles should be a reminder that we can keep working together even in areas where we take a different starting position. We have a shared interest in rules based and rigorous fisheries management and ocean protection, but a clear difference when it comes to whaling. I believe that ultimately we will reach a common position on that issue. We have a shared interest and even some common experience in respect of atomic weapons, and I believe there's more we can do together towards the cause of nuclear disarmament. As a member of this place I hope that I can join with others in the parliament to support a strong Australia-Japan relationship. That relationship should continue to deepen as we cooperate further in the Indo-Pacific region.