Australian Japan Business Council Launch – Speech

Good evening.

My name is Richard Sandover.  I am current chair of Australia Japan Business Council.

Governor Beazley, Ambassador Yamagami, Consul-General Suzuki, Deputy Premier Roger Cook, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for attending the launch of the Australia Japan Business Council.

Governor Beazley, thank you for your generous words.  AJBC acknowledges your support of our council. We thank you for hosting this event.  Throughout your public life you have had a deep interest in global geo-politics.  During your political life particularly with respect to the ministerial portfolios you held and then later as Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, you have had an opportunity to shape the politics of our region.  Through your public service, you have made a real contribution to the strengthening of Australia’s global economic and security interests and we are the beneficiaries.

Ambassador Yamagami, Australia Japan Business Council is honoured that you could attend this event.  In the relatively short time since your appointment as Japanese Ambassador to Australia you have demonstrated a significant interest in Western Australia. Despite the pandemic and closing of the WA border you have visited WA on two occasions, once before the border shutdown and now following the border’s  opening.  Thank you for your informative and supportive speech.  Australia is fortunate to have such a pro-active and energetic Japanese Ambassador posted to Canberra.

I would like to introduce our Executive Committee, our indefatigable Deputy Chair Mayumi Laughton-Smith, David McCulloch, Andrew Tan, Jack Smith and Tamas Zegrean. Tamas is unfortunately unable to attend tonight and proffers his apologies.  The fact that AJBC has been able to open for business in the midst of the pandemic, is down to these energetic, knowledgeable and engaged people.

We wish to thank Governor Beazley’s team at Government House for their guidance with this event and their steadiness in maintaining an air of optimism, that despite the challenges raised by the pandemic, the ‘show must go on’.

I first visited Japan in 1971 as a member of a schoolboy water polo team coached by the former Olympian Tom Hoad.  Ever since then I have had a regard for Japan, supported by my late grandmother, Lady Kathleen Sandover, who in her 70’s took up learning the Japanese language.  My interest in Japan was strengthened by 43 years as a lawyer and partner in the commercial law firm Jackson McDonald, concluding in 2021.  Throughout, Jackson McDonald advised both Australian and Japanese clients in relation to a slew of projects that have come to define our Western Australian economy from the Pilbara iron ore industry, the north-west shelf, subsequent LNG and other mining and engineering  projects and beyond.

So, why the need for Australia Japan Business Council focussing on Western Australia?  With its formation Australia Japan Business Council is intending to assist Western Australian business to widen and deepen our business and trade relationships with Japan.  AJBC wants to help WA business to connect with their Japanese business counterparts, to foster better understanding between our peoples and assist where possible in promoting investment and market opportunities.

AJBC is a not-for-profit entity.  All committee members serve on a pro bono basis.  By building a diverse membership on the back of AJBC’s promise of engagement with members, scheduling of ongoing events of interest and collaborating with other likeminded organisations, Australia Japan Business Council believes it can help build an additional bridge between Japanese and Australian business.

In this respect, we urge your companies to take up corporate membership of AJBC and nominate people in your organisation who are ready and willing to make a positive contribution to promoting the Japan Australia business relationship.

AJBC will work with members to ensure their interests are promoted and enhanced.  It will strive to give members a vibrant forum in which they can share information, seek trading partners and alliances and promote their business interests.

In this vein, in collaboration with Australia Japan Business Council, AJBC’s first platinum member, ISA Technologies, a global leader in creating and managing secure health networks, is participating, along with others, in framing up an event featuring cyber security.  As we have seen recently, infrastructure and systems such as pipeline networks, power generation systems and health networks are susceptible to cyber-attack.  This event will entail a deep dive into the area.  We are hoping to feature speakers who have consulted to various international bodies on this subject.  We anticipate running the event in May.

Interspersed with subject matter events, AJBC will host events where networking will be the primary goal centred around an interesting speaker either selected by a member or a visitor to WA who has something new and insightful to communicate of relevance to the Australia Japan relationship.

Whether it be mining, or energy projects and allied services, WA has had an enduring and important economic relationship with Japan.  This trading relationship from WA’s side, has over time extended to tourism, grains, meat, packaged food and beverage, horticultural products, international education and innovation in cyber security, robotics, health and medical and more.

The Australia Japan economic relationship in today’s changing regional context cannot stand in isolation, however.  It must go hand in hand with a strong security relationship.  The existing relationship built on trust and respect has seen enactment of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, revival of the TPP following the departure of USA as a member and the re-energising of the QUAD initiative involving Japan, Australia, India and USA.  The recent signing by the respective Prime Ministers of Japan and Australia of the Reciprocal Access Agreement Treaty facilitating the inter-operability of our respective defence forces, is a further manifestation of this.

At this time of regional uncertainty, Australia Japan Business Council believes it is important to re-focus on strengthening engagement with Japan at a business and community level, as well as a political and security level.

Owing to our wind and solar potential and the discovery in WA of the Julimar strategic minerals province and generally of significant strategic minerals such as palladium, lithium, cobalt, rare earths, along with existing copper and nickel, opportunities to partner and trade with Japan now extend into emerging renewable hydrogen, lithium battery materials and critical minerals industries.  Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and co-ordinating lead author for the UN’s IPCC report on transport due out on 4 April, describes these opportunities as the new ‘Lithium Valley’.

The rules based international order is under strain.  AJBC believes that in a changing regional context, the Australia Japan relationship, resting as it does on trust and respect gained over many years, liberal representative democracies and a shared rules-based order, underpins the business opportunities and partnerships existing and emerging in Western Australia.  AJBC believes there is a need for a Business Council that is broader in sectoral scope, which offers a platform for WA SMEs as well as large corporations to access the Japanese market and develop trade and investment partnerships and alliances.

We hope you will join us outside for some refreshment and networking.  When you leave, please take a show bag.  Inside are the AJBC Strategy document, schedule of forthcoming events, membership tariff card and some wonderful gifts from 2 exceptional SME’s already exporting to Japan.  These are a Woodlands Wines Shiraz and wonderful Nakamura Chocolates.  I understand that by value, Woodlands is WA’s leading wine exporter to Japan and Nakamura Chocolates made in WA already have a premium distribution network in Japan with a dedicated retail outlet in Kobe.

Thank you for your participation in this event.


Richard Sandover


March 2022