Press Conference at Miraikan, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

December 18, 2015


Well thank you so much Doctor Mohri. 

It is wonderful to be here visiting the Miraikan, your science and innovation museum, something that inspires and instructs and excites all the visitors, including this one! I was so excited to meet ASIMO, my first robot. The first robot I've shaken hands with, first robot I've taken a selfie with. Perhaps next time he can take the selfie of us.

It's fantastic and I just want to say how honoured I am to be welcomed by you. You personify the great collaboration between Australia and Japan in so many fields but particularly in the field of science and education, as you said, you have graduated with your PhD from Flinders University in South Australia and the Miraikan has a sister relationship with Questacon in Canberra, our capital city of course and Questacon itself was originally a gift to Australia from Japan.

So this connection of scientific collaboration, each country encouraging the other, each country inspiring the other as we push the frontiers of innovation and science further and further, that is a very long tradition.

Japan, as we know, is one of the great pioneers of innovation. It is home to 40 of the world's top 100 most innovative companies and that's more, larger share than any other single country.

Our country, Australia, too, is home to some of the highest-quality scientific research organisations in the world and last week I announced our new National Innovation and Science Agenda. We are determined that it will be innovation and science that will drive the next stage of our prosperity.

We know what Japan, I believe, has always known, that our greatest assets are not the rocks under the ground - no matter how valuable they may be - our greatest assets are the 24 million Australians that walk around on top of it and the many millions of other people in the world that they collaborate with and learn from.

But it is those 24 million Australians, their imagination, their entrepreneurship, their enterprise, that is what drives our prosperity in the 21st century. That is the next boom that comes after the mining boom, is the ideas boom.

And it's a boom, unlike a commodities boom, that can last forever because it is founded on the ultimate renewable resource, our imagination. That is the one thing we have which has no limits.

It is limited only, our ideas boom, its longevity, its productivity, its scale is limited only by our imagination and our enterprise. As long as we are prepared to keep on pushing the frontiers of innovation, as long as we are prepared to work hard and to put effort and enterprise behind those dreams and those new ideas then it can go on forever. It can be enduring.

Now Japan, of course, has many blessings, but it has not been blessed with great, with a huge store of natural resources.  And so Japan has always understood that its prosperity is driven by the enterprise, the imagination, the efforts across every range of endeavour of the people of Japan.

The most valuable capital today is not financial capital, there's plenty of that, it is human capital and that's what we seek to promote.

So we are natural and complementary partners in that effort and that's a reason for welcoming today the commitment of Australia's Group of Eight universities, our leading universities, vice chancellors of which are here today and Japan's key research-intensive universities to deepen their bilateral research linkages in areas of shared national priority - energy, health and medical research.  And it will be complemented by the Group of Eight's plan to establish more systematic engagement and R & D collaboration with Japanese industry.

One of the things we have not done well in Australia, and frankly you do much better here in Japan, but we have not been good at this in Australia to date we're changing that, we're seeking to change that, is we have had insufficient collaboration between primary research institutions such as the universities and business and industry and we are adjusting the incentives to promote that.

It is very important we see more of the great work of our researchers and our scientists being translated into commercial, industrial form and that is a major agenda of my Government.

I want to also welcome Japan's decision to recognise the degree qualifications of Australian universities from next year and that will not only encourage freer movement between our two countries but also that of ideas too.

We, our nations, Australia and Japan, are dynamic, vibrant nations. We embrace innovation, we are committed to it. It is no accident that Prime Minister Abe and I have a very similar shared vision in this regard.

We did not compare notes when we prepared our speeches for the Paris Conference of the Parties, I can assure you of that but nonetheless it was interesting, I found it very interesting that we were so much of the same mind because in each of our speeches, which were, which I might say the French President or the French leaders of the conference said that all the speeches should be 3 minutes, I think there might have been a handful of the 170 leaders that managed to complete it in 3 minutes - but nonetheless, I think there was a pretty reasonable compliance.

But in our brief speeches both Prime Minister Abe and I talked about the key to success in grappling with global warming and ensuring that we move to a world where there is net zero carbon emissions, a carbon-neutral world, if you like. We both pointed to the need for technology, for innovation, for science. Each of us gave speeches about technology and innovation so there’s a very strong meeting of minds. 

And that's why Australians are inspired, excited, energised by that challenge just as I know the people of Japan are too.

So it's wonderful to be here, we are both committed to a 21st-century of innovation and we have a lot to learn from each other.

I'm delighted to be here and I thank you very much indeed.


I would like to ask about how does Australia collaborate with Japan in terms of in this innovative field in the broader Asia-Pacific region? How can Australia depend or deepen its relationship to play greater role in more wider prosperity and safety and stability?


Thank you and, of course, we do this ultimately prime ministers can lead and we do lead and we can seek to inspire and we can put in place the structures that encourage collaboration, but it requires many thousands of people to people connections. And you’ve seen what the universities are doing, I talked about that and that’s a very good example. We’ll shortly be witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Japan’s Forum for Innovative Regenerative Medicine to cooperate on developing regenerative medicine and that again is an important focus of innovation, but right across the board you see – you know, very often, very often, we have lots of technology, in fact technology is, technology is often in greater supply than what you could call technological imagination. You need both. You need imaginative leadership; you need a culture that is non, that is not so differential that new ideas are resisted. You need to have a culture in business or in Government where you are prepared every day to say, "Perhaps the way we did things last week is no longer applicable. Perhaps we've learnt something. Something new has happened, a competitor has done something which we can learn from or respond to,"  and so, agility is absolutely critical, treating volatility as a source of opportunity not as a source of threat is critical.

Now, you see in Australia – and I'll have a little more to say about this later today – a great example where Japanese technology combined with Australian imagination and leadership, application, imagination to apply it in a particular location, you're seeing an extraordinary degree of automation in the iron ore mining industry, where you have whole – ASIMO is a very impressive robot, some of the biggest, heaviest robots ever built are operating in the Australian mining industry and that is a great example of Japanese and Australian technology and real imagination on behalf of the management.

So right across the board, it is, this is the century for imagination. Those who succeed in this century with the technology we have, with the pace of change that we have, will be the most imaginative.


Prime Minister, for decades leaders have been coming to Japan saying they'll learn from Japan, from its technology, of course its innovation, its fabulous innovation. How is your vision, in a practical sense, tell me, how’s it going to be different in terms of ensuring results, actually getting those results, which has been the difficult thing in the past?


Well I'm not sure, I think there has been, there has been considerable success in innovation in Australia. I mean I think the achievements of our scientists, we have a Nobel Prize winner sitting right here in the front row over here so, from Australia, so I think we have a you know, we have a good record but we have to be better. We seek to be better and a lot of this is to do with culture. I mean the point I made about the level of collaboration between industry and universities is an important one. Now, we, there are various explanations for that. I think the incentives are wrong. Academics have been, in terms of getting research grants and so forth, their, the primary motivator has been to publish and make sure your publications are cited in lots of other publications, hence the term “publish or perish”. So we want to, we're adding another criterion for success in achieving grants which is to demonstrate the degree of collaboration that you're undertaking with business, with industry, so you can add “publish or perish” or perhaps “collaborate or crumble” as well. So you've got two incentives there. Japan clearly is an example of enormous industry-led innovation and that’s really the high point but even if you look at academic business cultures that are very similar to Australia's and the United States or the UK, the level of collaboration is much higher. We've also recognised that there is a lot of capital in Australia. We have $2 trillion in superannuation funds. We have an enormous savings pool but people at very early-stage businesses have struggled to get finance, hence we're providing some very generous tax offset, tax offset encouragements, inducements if you like, to encourage people to invest at the very early stage where money is often very hard to get. You know if you change the paradigm, if you change the debate, if you change the discourse, things will happen. We saw just a week ago one of the largest superannuation funds in the country, State Super NSW, this is a big - what was originally a big Government superannuation fund, about as institutional as you could imagine, putting $140 million into a fin tech, you know financial technology, start-up investment fund. Now that shows you that once people start to recognise that success in 2015 and the decades ahead of us is based on technology and innovation and is based on seizing the opportunities from a rapidly-changing global environment, then the dollars will follow and you will see change. So this is, we're not just talking about pulling some important levers and it's a big package the National Innovation and Science Agenda across many fields but it's not just those particular levers, we're talking about cultural change, a change to, a change to a more innovative approach where you are prepared constantly to challenge the way you've been working and be prepared to do things in a different way because that, in this century, is absolutely the key to success. Sorry if I've spoken for too long. I'm very passionate about this. Please.


Thank you, Prime Minister. Please explain to us why did you prefer to come to Japan in this timing and what kind of discussion is expecting with Prime Minister Abe this afternoon?



Well thank you. Well, of course I'm delighted to be here in Japan. I’ve been to Japan many times before I was Prime Minister and in different capacities and I have to say I don't need, I don’t need much encouragement to visit Japan, let me put it that way. It is always a great pleasure to come here and our two countries are very good friends and the more we can build on that friendship and make it stronger in the years ahead the better. I've had some very good discussions with the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Abe, at the several summits we've attended. We seem to have attended one after the other, we've actually seen quite lot of each other. We are far from strangers. I'm not sure, this might be our fourth or fifth meeting, so we have got to know each other already, but it's good to be here. We will discuss the whole range of issues, as you know. We'll discuss innovation, we'll discuss the economy, we'll discuss obviously the important strategic collaboration we have. We have a special strategic partnership with Japan and there are some issues that we disagree on, as you know, Australia is very disappointed that Japan has resumed whaling in the Southern Ocean this year. We recognise that is a point of difference of opinion but we will, as good friends should, we should be upfront and frank about our differences of opinion, put them on the table and deal with them, seek to resolve them. If we can't resolve them then we will obviously keep talking but we shouldn't allow it to erode the goodwill in the rest of the relationship. We have very few differences but good friends have to be honest with each other and the Prime Minister and I, apart from our passion for innovation and technology, are both very frank, straight forward speakers so we, we have a good, open and honest relationship. So thank you very much indeed.


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