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Tuesday, 25 March 2003
Page: 10123

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (6:55 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The Australia-Japan Foundation is an Australian government statutory authority which was established in 1976 to encourage a closer relationship between the peoples of Australia and Japan. Within this context, the foundation's current mission is to advance Japanese perceptions of contemporary Australia as a dynamic, sophisticated and internationally competitive country and an important trading partner. I think I read that about 350,000 Australian jobs depend on our trade relationship with Japan. It is a vital relationship and a very important market for us. It is probably our most important market in terms of the strategic alliances that are built on it. Along with the neighbouring countries in North Asia—Taiwan and South Korea—Japan is an exceptionally important trading partner for us.

The foundation has three outputs: it has an education output, an information output and the building of strategic alliances. In education, it provides, among other things, support for Japanese teacher training through yearly courses at Australian universities and the foundation has developed, and continues to expand, resource material available on Australia in Japanese. In information, it has developed issues forums which support the bilateral relationship through encouraging dialogue on issues of interest to both countries. It supports the Australian resource centre which responds to inquiries. It receives school visits, conducts seminars on a wide range of topical subjects and it supports academic research. It also lends books throughout Japan. In the strategic alliance area, the foundation has a range of activities which expand and reinforce Australia-Japan networks at a professional and community level.

As I mentioned, Australia and Japan enjoy an absolutely excellent relationship. Japan is of fundamental importance to Australia for political, strategic and economic reasons. There has been a dramatic growth over the decades in Australia's and Japan's familiarity with each other and, moreover, with particular reference to this foundation, many of Australia's arrangements with Japan have pioneered similar linkages with other regional countries.

There have been three major phases in the development of the postwar relationship with Japan. The first was the establishment of a major trading relationship with Japan shortly after World War II when we really pioneered the rebuilding of the relationship.

Senator McGauran —John McEwen.

Senator SANDY MACDONALD —As Senator McGauran says, that was pioneered in the 1957 Commerce Agreement by Sir John McEwen, our trade and commerce minister as he was in those days. Since then of course there has been a process of broadening the relationship, particularly at a cultural level which is very important for our two countries to understand each other. That was benchmarked in 1976 by the Nara treaty and, in 2002, by the emergence of a fully rounded and diverse partnership. I do not think anyone can disagree with that.

It is a very equal partnership and a very close relationship on a political and personal basis. There is strong cooperative advancement of various interests, including important political and security elements such as our commitment for regional security and the sharing of intelligence information. That is now very strong with Japan. Our relationship with Japan sets the pace for cooperation and integration in Asia in the Asia-Pacific region. It leads the way really. It is important that this foundation is encouraged. It is interesting to read the report and to see the good work it is doing. I commend the government and I commend the foundation on the work it does in this relationship.

Question agreed to.