Economic and defence ties are set to be strengthened by Australia's “new special relationship” with Japan as both countries' leaders signed a free trade agreement.
In the first address by a Japanese leader to federal parliament today, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thanked Australia for both its emergency and economic assistance in the past.
He reflected on the two countries’ tumultuous past, saying he would not let the "horrors of the past" be repeated, and acknowledged that Japan’s post-war industry had been supported by Australia.
Mr Abe’s speech did not make mention of the recent tension over Japan’s whaling expeditions, instead focussing on efforts to make a "truly new base" for relations.
"This afternoon, Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott and I will sign the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)," he said.
"Seven years ago, when our [task] on this EPA began, many asked if we would ever see this day… Let us congratulate each other for the many efforts that brought us here today.”
The speech also outlined the transfer of defence technology and equipment to be detailed in the agreement.
The full text of free trade agreement has not yet been made public, which has drawn criticism from the Opposition.
Economic, defence ties boosted with Japan:
Mr Abbott also addressed the special sitting of parliament, saying that the new agreement would further liberalise trade between Japan and Australia.
Speaking ahead of Mr Abe’s address, Mr Abbott said that the free trade agreement would be the first that Japan has made with a major developed economy.
“For Japan, it means even better access for its manufactured goods,” he said.
“For Australia, it means better access for our beef, dairy, wine, horticulture, and grain products. For everyone, everywhere, it means that two significant countries are prepared to put their hopes above their fears and declare their confidence in the future.”
Mr Abbott said spoke on the upcoming G20 summit in November, where he said the two countries would bring the message of economic growth, “prosperous people and fairer societies”.
Mr Abe’s address was met with a standing ovation from the assembled politicians, but the impending agreement has drawn criticism from some.
Senator Nick Xenophon described the agreement as a “costly and secretive folly” ahead of the address, saying that Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed past deals signed with Singapore, the United States, Thailand and Chile had led to worsening trade deficits.
“We are taken for mugs by partner countries,” he said.
“We are known overseas as the Free Trade Taliban because of successive Australian governments and bureaucrats having a fundamentalist, literalist approach to free trade.”
‘Partnership for peace’
Both leaders addressed the special sitting of parliament on peace, with Mr Abbott stating that “ours is not a partnership against anyone”.
“It’s a partnership for peace, for prosperity and for the rule of law,” he said.
“Our objective is engagement.”
Mr Abe also stated that Japan is “now determined to do more to enhance peace in the region and peace in the world”.
His comments came as approximately 100 protesters gathered outside Parliament House to rally against Mr Abe’s visit.
The protesters cited concerns over historical grievances relating to WWII and planned changes to the country's constitution.
Japan's government recently announced it was changing its post-war pacifist constitution to enable the country's military to come to the aid of an ally under attack.
"We have been angry since Boxing Day...on Boxing Day Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni shrine. That is what we're very, very angry about," he said.
"Furthermore, we're angry about Abe and the rightwing government completely denying the comfort women during the world wars."