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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 6733

The SPEAKER (09:31): For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of Korea and Japan from 11 to 21 April this year. The delegation consisted of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Sue Lines; the members for Cunningham, Capricornia, and Mayo; and me. Senator Lines led the visit to the Republic of Korea, and I was privileged to lead the delegation to Japan. The Republic of Korea delegation formed part of the official 2018 bilateral parliamentary visits, and the delegation to Japan was on the invitation of the presiding officers of the Japanese diet. Senator Lines will speak to the Republic of Korea portion of the delegation in the Senate. I would like to speak to the visit to Japan.

I'd like to thank the presiding officers of the Japanese diet for inviting an Australian parliamentary delegation to their country. The delegation visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, where members undertook a mix of formal and cultural activities. The delegation provided opportunities for strengthening existing relationships with parliamentary counterparts, gaining a practical insight into Australia's growing economic and social relationship with Japan and discussing existing and potential areas for intergovernmental and interparliamentary cooperation and exchange.

In this sphere, discussions focused on strengthening parliament-to-parliament links; the similarities and differences between parliamentary office positions and member services; and strengthening the Australia-Japan bilateral relationship, including trade, energy, policy and improving regional stability. The delegation discussed the issue of empowering women in politics, with reference to the Japanese parliament's initiative of establishing a parliamentary league to promote female participation in politics.

The delegation also met with Australian business representatives in Japan and Colombo Plan scholars who are Australians studying and living in Japan and saw firsthand at Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation some impressive glimpses into how robotics will assist humans into the future. The delegation was briefed on a number of important regional matters, which included maintaining regional stability and the issues surrounding the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, which Japan is still pursuing. The delegation acknowledges the difficulty faced by the Japanese government in negotiating on this matter over an extended period and the immeasurable loss to the victims and their families.

In addition to the presiding officers, on behalf of the delegation I wish to thank members of the Japanese diet that met and hosted members on their visit to Japan. I thank the mayor and deputy mayor of Kyoto for welcoming us to their beautiful and historic city. A particular note of gratitude and appreciation is extended to His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan for granting a special audience with me as Speaker.

The bilateral relationship is strong. In Japan we have a friend firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, as we are. The delegation was warmly received wherever we went. At the conclusion of our meetings I was pleased to extend a reciprocal invitation to the Speaker and President of the Japanese diet to visit the Australian parliament in the near future.

I'd like to thank the Australian ambassador to Japan, His Excellency Mr Richard Court AC, and the embassy staff for welcoming and assisting the delegation throughout the visit. In particular, I thank Ms Melanie Calvert, who accompanied the delegation whilst we were in Japan. Members appreciate the time, effort and logistical coordination required to arrange visits programs such as this. On behalf of the delegation, I thank the Australian International and Parliamentary Relations Office and the Japanese international affairs department for arranging and facilitating the program and for making it the success that it was. Thanks also to the delegation secretary, Stephanie Mikac, for her very able assistance throughout both visits.

In closing, I would like to extend delegation members' appreciation to the Japanese ambassador to Australia, Mr Sumio Kusaka, who's here on the floor this morning. Thank you and thank you to your embassy staff for briefing the delegation and for ensuring that our visit was a success on behalf of both houses of the parliament. I again thank you and I commend the report to the House.