Ladies and Gentleman, it is a great honour for me to be invited to this luncheon meeting.
The Law Council of Australia and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations exchanged the memorandum on strengthening legal exchange and friendly cooperation on the 2nd of September 1999. More than 12 years have passed since then, and today we have become able to collaborate such a fruitful occasion as we gather here.
I had served as an associate judge in the courts for nearly 10 years before I won a seat in the Diet in 1977. Since then, I have spent a long time in the law-making process, both in the opposition and ruling parties in both Houses. After 3 years ' work as the President of the House of Councillors, last year I served as the Minister of Justice in Prime Minister Kan ' s cabinet. As I am so closely connected with the legal profession, it is a great pleasure for me to see the continuous friendship between Australian and Japanese lawyers.
Many Japanese people are still in the midst of the hard days that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11th last year. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was so kind to visit Minami-Sanriku town in Miyagi prefecture, one of the most severely affected areas, just a month after the disaster. I ' m sure that her visit was extremely encouraging to many suffered people there. It is something we can take pride in, as her admirable energy and thoughtfulness doubtlessly come from her background as a lawyer.
There is no doubt that Australia is one of the most important partners for Japan. And needless to say, we should deepen exchange and cooperation for our common future and greater development. I believe that close relationships among lawyers of both countries are an especially important and constructive way not only to strengthen the Rule of Law in our two countries, but also to extend it all over the world.
As an illustration, East Timor is an example of such cooperation. As you know, she has just enjoyed her 10th anniversary after a long and tough journey. I had an opportunity to express my support for the East Timorese struggle for self-determination in a committee of the United Nations on the topic in 1986, and then I began a supra-partisan movement to support it in Japan and in the international community. Through these activities, we had many important and essential liaisons with parliamentarians and other mindful people such as lawyers, religious leaders, civil movement activists and so on. Of course, independence is something the East Timorese people achieved by their own will and endeavours, and international support was only a supporting player. What I want to stress is the fact that the Rule of Law started in this area of the Asia-Pacific region. This year, they succeeded in electing the new President peacefully, notwithstanding the complicated process. This fact shows clearly that the Rule of Law has been firmly planted in this area, instead of the rule of sword. In this process, our bilateral collaboration has certainly achieved a great result.
We, as lawyers, need to work together across national borders in order to establish the Rule of Law all over the world and to strengthen it from generation to generation. And we, I mean the Australian and Japanese lawyers, are called upon to work together to establish the Rule of Law in the Asia-Pacific region, as we are two important leaders of the democratic world in this area. A special session will be held on cross-border law services this afternoon. I hope that this joint seminar brings fruitful discussions and helps to deepen the relationship between our two bar associations and among us all.
Thank you for your kind attention.