It was the first speech delivered by a Japanese prime minister to an Australian parliament, and given the sensitive ground it needed to cover, it went over extremely well.
Shinzo Abe’s 27-minute speech – only the third major speech he had given in English as prime minister – featured condolences for the horrors of war, admiration for Australia’s sporting heroes, and commitments towards ensuring the relationship between Australia and Japan endured.
James Packer, Rio Tinto chief Sam Walsh and Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser were among those attending the joint sitting of Parliament in Canberra for the speech.
Here are some of the highlights of Abe’s speech, which has been recognised for its warmth.
On a new era of economic and defence ties between the two countries:
“We will now join up in a scrum just like in rugby, to nurture our regional and world order, and to safeguard peace.”
On ensuring the seven-year process of negotiating the Australian-Japan free trade agreement is beneficial to both sides.
“Let us work forward together, Australia and Japan, with no limit. Yes, we can do it.”
All these puns on attendee Dawn Fraser’s name:
“Ms Fraser, to me, you are Australia. I hope very much that you bring forth a new dawn to Japan and new dawn to the future of Australia-Japan relations.
“Miss Fraser Dawn, I hope we see you in good shape in Tokyo once more in 2020.”
“We will never let the horrors of the past century’s history repeat themselves… I stand here in the Australian legislative chamber to state this vow to you, solemnly and proudly… How many young Australians with bright futures to come lost their lives?”
On breaking workplace traditions in Japan:
“I want to make Japan a place where women shine. To do that I will become like the drill bit, myself, breaking through the vested interests and the norms that have deep roots.”
And telling Australian MPs to take this message back to young people in their electorates:
“Young people should head to Japan! …I will tell the youth of Japan that they should head to Australia.”
For his part, Tony Abbott wasn’t nervous about raising the spectre of the past either.
He said following WWII, the two countries had “forged one of the world’s firmest friendships and most practical of partnerships”.
“At some times, it’s true, Australians have not felt as kindly towards Japan as we now do but we have never underestimated the quality and capacity of the Japanese people.”
Abe will sign the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement and wrap up an agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology.
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