Australia and Singapore strengthen partnership


Australia and Singapore have committed to greater bilateral ties signing an agreement which elevates the partnership to strategic levels.

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Australia and Singapore have committed to greater bilateral ties signing an agreement which elevates the partnership to strategic levels.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have committed to a comprehensive partnership aimed at strengthening economic, security and defence co-operation.

Amanda Cavill reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Tony Abbott has been on his first official visit to Singapore at the invitation of Prime Minister Lee.

Australia was one of the first countries to recognise Singapore's independence in 1965.

Since then, relations between the two nations have grown in areas such as security as well as arts and culture.

The highlight of the visit has been the signing of the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership by the two prime ministers.

Mr Abbott says it will see the two countries cooperating more closely across sectors such as economic, foreign affairs, defence and security, people to people ties and trade.

"I don't simply want Australia and Singapore to be friends, I want us to be family in the years and decades to come. If we can manage that, it will be of inestimable value to our two countries. Singapore is very conscious of the fact that it is in a dynamic yet sometimes challenging region, as we are, and we know that you can always do better in a partnership than on your own and let's make this the most intimate possible strategic, economic and family partnership."

Tony Abbott has also praised Singapore's experience in deradicalisation following fresh terror attacks abroad and threats at home.

The Prime Minister visited the Khadijah Mosque's successful program which has reportedly helped turn 60 people to become deradicalised.

Mr Abbott says given the state of the world at the moment, it's more important than ever that everyone should work together and learn from each other.

"Singapore has had quite a sustained long term effort now to deradicalise people who have succumbed to the false lure of religious extremism. I was very pleased to see their confidence that it was possible to turn people back from this dreadful, dreadful abyss because the more people succumb to that, the worse the abyss that all of us will face in the years and decades to come."

Mr Abbott also has been promoting the Coalition's recently announced White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, which includes a $5 billion concessional loan program for infrastructure development.

And together with Trade Minister Andrew Robb he's hosted a high-level investment roundtable with Singapore's leading firms aimed at encouraging investment in infrastructure development and other commercial opportunities.

Mr Robb says the economic rise of Asia has made northern Australia the perfect place for new initiatives.

"We have got great opportunities in Australia but we need informed capital to make them happen. The north of Australia is in the tropics. Singapore is in the tropics. They have got a lot of experience, not just in agriculture and mining, but in tropical health and medical research and all of those related areas. It's been a very important couple of days here. They are such long-term friends. They have been very significant investment partners for Australia."

The Singapore High Commissioner in Australia Burhan Gufoor says the bilateral partnership is going from strength to strength.

Mr Gufoor says he believes the scope for enhanced cooperation in trade, defence and security are limitless.

"Frankly there has been no limit. In fact the sky's the limit. It's really a relationship where we are long standing friends. We talk to each other very candidly and I think both of us have an interest in working very closely so that we create a region that is prosperous and stable and I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to work together. Singapore is in the heart of South East Asia and Australia is on the doorstep of South East Asia. And I think there is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs from both Singapore and Australia to work together."

Singapore is Australia's fifth largest trade partner, with exports and imports last year worth about $27 billion.

Singapore's investment in Australian property and companies is worth around $60.5 billion and is Australia's fourth largest source of foreign investment.

The two countries have a longstanding free trade agreement dating back to 2003 and already close defence ties including an annual ministerial dialogue.





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