Ambassadors’ Circle with the Australian Ambassador (Recap)
On November 21, 2023, Asia Society Japan welcomed the Australian Ambassador to Japan H.E. Mr. Justin Hayhurst to the Ambassadors’ Circle. In his presentation, he gave an overview of Australia’s foreign policy, covering the economy, security and defense, and partnership with Japan. In the fireside chat, he answered questions on a wide variety of topics, such as QUAD, CPTPP, U.S. and Taiwanese presidential elections, education, and clean energy.
Australia, an Indo-Pacific maritime nation
Ambassador Hayhurst began his initial comments by showing his one and only slide – a map of Australia as it appears in the Defense Strategic Review 2023. It represents how Australia sees the world and how it is an Indo-Pacific maritime nation.
Australia can’t buy or bully its way
Australia is committed to using its agency to shape the future of the nation, not just to take advantage of the international system but to influence how it works. “Australia can’t buy or bully its way into the world,” His Excellency said, borrowing the words of a colleague. Committed to the rule of law, Australia has confidence in its sovereignty and is determined to protect it.
The stability of the Indo-Pacific region can no longer be taken for granted. Our national interests are increasingly at risk due to a shift in the balance of power which is reshaping international order. With China’s growing power, the Indo-Pacific region faces a much more contested environment. We are witnessing competition over power, values, rules, supply chains, and technologies. In our disrupted world, partnerships characterized by trust and robust information-sharing are of more value than ever. The world needs new thinking and joint action and influence.
Opportunities for collaboration with Japan lie in deeper and more integrated cooperation and policy coordination in areas such as defense, foreign policy, energy transition, advanced technology, and data. Australia and Japan, along with other democracies, can plant an alternative vision to China-Russia alignment. Peace and stability rely on reassurance, communication, transparency, rules, and deterrence.
Aiming for strategic balance
Australia addresses this critical moment proactively. With an aim for strategic balance, Australia seeks to ensure that diplomacy is underwritten by military deterrence and is thus undertaking the largest capability uplift in its history, delivering nuclear-powered submarines built with the U.S. and U.K.
Proportionate and responsible increase in military capability reflects the extent and complexity of Australia’s maritime interests in a deteriorating society. With the third largest EEZ in the world, Australia’s maritime domain covers 10 percent of the Earth’s surface. Global maritime connections are fundamental to its security. The sea is also an important part of Australia’s energy partnership with Japan.
An ambitious and active partnership
Japan is a model regional leader. The transformations that Japan has actively undertaken and its readiness under its Free and Open Indo-Pacific policy support international law and connectivity. Economic cooperation is just as important as defense capabilities and military partnership. This view is mutually shared.
Australia and Japan also share interests in a balance of power that is China-prominent but not China-dominant. Like Japan, Australia seeks to operate with China in coexistence and interdependence but disagrees when needed. Japan and Australia can pursue this more effectively in partnership.
In 2022, Australia and Japan released the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation (JDSC) 2022. Its key agenda is to: promote the security and resilience of South Pacific island partners; work with Southeast Asia on the energy transition; and make efforts for the strongest possible US involvement in regional affairs. These are reinforced by Japanese contributions.
The Australia-Japan partnership has strategic complementarity. It features longstanding economic cooperation in food, energy, critical minerals, and other goods and services offered by Australia, whereas Japan offers the capital and technologies. An active and strong Japan is needed to achieve the strategic equilibrium that Australia seeks to maintain.
Following his initial comments, Ambassador Hayhurst engaged in a fireside chat with Mr. Jesper Koll, chair of the policy committee at Asia Society Japan. The Ambassador mentioned that he has been impressed by the determination and ambition of Japanese policy which is higher than can be recognized from outside. He commended Japan’s leadership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), and peacemaking in Cambodia.
In addition to the clean energy transition, Australia sees maritime security as a potential area for strengthening bilateral cooperation, especially given the higher level of trust and recognition that the two countries work together in the security domain. Quad also formally recognizes such cooperation.
The increasing scale of complexity in our strategic challenges also provides momentum for bilateral and multilateral cooperation, as seen in the co-financing of telecommunications cables in the South Pacific region. Yet, it is always a challenge to coordinate differences in bureaucratic and administrative systems and make fast progress.
An extended conversation with the floor covered Australia’s position toward CPTPP membership, prospects of US influence, the Taiwanese election, China’s expansive maritime claims, and energy ties with Japan in non-traditional energy resources.