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Thursday, 5 May 2016
Page: 4487

Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (10:31): I present the report of the parliamentary delegation to Japan and Korea from 9 to 21 November 2014, and I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with this report.

Leave granted.

Mr O'DOWD: I present the report of the parliamentary delegation to Japan and the Republic of Korea, which took place between 9 and 21 November 2014. The delegation had several aims. These included discussions of our trade relationships, particularly in the context of the new free trade agreements being finalised with each country at the time of the delegation's visit. We also wanted to explore the role of Australia's energy and minerals exports in the Japanese and South Korean economies and the countries' approaches to energy policy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

Among our other appointments, the delegation had the honour of meeting the presiding officers of the National Diet of Japan and the Speaker of the Korean National Assembly and held meetings with parliamentary friendship groups in both countries. We were deeply honoured by the generous hospitality extended to us all. We thank the parliamentarians in Japan and South Korea for making the time to hold informative and friendly discussions with us.

The dominant impression gained by the delegation was the extent to which Australia is relied on as a partner to Japan and South Korea in the secure supply of energy resources, minerals and food products. The visit gave us new insight into the deeply complementary trade relationships between our countries and the extent to which Australia fuels the Japanese and Korean economies. Australia is Japan's largest supplier of energy resources, providing 25 per cent of Japan's total energy needs. This includes 64 per cent of Japan's coal imports, 21 per cent of its natural gas and 19 per cent of its uranium imports. In addition, Australia supplies 59 per cent of Japan's iron ore and over 50 per cent of its beef imports. The delegation was pleased to see firsthand Australian energy and mineral resources being used to fuel the Japanese economy. For instance, the delegation had the opportunity to visit the Isogo power station in Yokohama, the most advanced coal-fired power station in the world. Employing ultrasupercritical technology, the plant uses Australian coal and produces 25 per cent less carbon emissions than the global average coal power plant. The delegation saw Australia's strong common interest with Japan in seeing that low-emissions coal-fired technology is widely deployed.

We visited the steelworks of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal in Osaka, which sources 50 per cent of its iron ore from Australia. We saw this being transformed into rail wheels for use both in Japan and in Australia on our mining projects. At the Sakai centre, which is one of dozens of LNG terminals in Japan, some 1.5 million tonnes of Australian LNG arrives each year from Woodside Pluto projects in Western Australia. The gas is used in the Kansai Electric Power Company's gas-fired power stations to provide electricity to its millions of customers in Kansai region. I am pleased to report that the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement and the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement had widespread political support in both countries.

It was encouraging for the delegation to hear from parliamentarians we met in Japan that the relationship with Australia has never been closer. In addition to our already very strong economic and people-to-people links, it was emphasised to the delegation that Japan would like to see the security and military relationship grow in the years ahead.

The Republic of Korea also deeply impressed the delegation. It is worth recalling just how extraordinary South Korea's economic development has been. In 1953, shortly after the Korean War, South Korea's gross domestic product stood at US$41 million and income per capita was just $67 per year. The country was amongst the poorest in the world. By 2014—just 60 years later—South Korea's GDP had grown more than 31,000-fold and is now over $1.4 trillion. The Republic of Korea is today the world's 13th largest economy. That is a great improvement. Australia's trade relationship with South Korea, notably our coal, iron ore, food and education services exports, has played a part in this extraordinary achievement.

Nothing better epitomises South Korea's economic development than the fact it now exports its own indigenously developed nuclear power plants, one of which the delegation visited during our visit. We also saw the steel modules for the Gorgon LNG Plant being fabricated, ready for shipment to Barrow Island off north-west Western Australia. It is very pleasing to see that the project is now producing and exporting gas back to Japan. With the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement now in force, there is potential for an expansion of Australia's agricultural and services exports, and increased Korean investment in Australia.

Goodwill towards Australia is evident in both Japan and South Korea. This seems to be, at least in part, because of the experiences of many tens of thousands of Japanese and Korean people who have travelled to Australia for education and holidays. The still well-remembered contribution of Australian forces in the Korean War also remains deeply appreciated by the South Koreans. We were pleased to be able to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan and we were all honoured to lay a wreath at the Australian Monument for the 340 Australians who were killed during the war.

The delegation wishes to record its appreciation for the work of our parliament's International and Parliamentary Relations Office and Australia's diplomatic missions to Japan and South Korea for their efforts in developing the programs and the excellent support provided during our visits.

As the House well knows, the former member for Canning, Mr Don Randall MP, tragically died in July 2015. Mr Randall was the leader of our delegation, and we express our sincere condolences to his family and our appreciation of his leadership of this delegation.

I would also like to thank Jerome Brown, who finalised this report and travelled with us on that very important visit in connection with our free trade agreements. His knowledge of the area was very much appreciated by the delegation members.

I commend the report to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): I thank the member the Flynn and I am sure the Randall family will be very touched by your words today.