Progress on defence deal with Australia

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy had an orchid named after them at National Orchid Garden yesterday. The Aranda Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull is a hybrid of Arachnis hookeriana x Vanda Rockhampton Gold. With the Turnbulls were
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy had an orchid named after them at National Orchid Garden yesterday. The Aranda Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull is a hybrid of Arachnis hookeriana x Vanda Rockhampton Gold. With the Turnbulls were Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing (left) and National Parks Board CEO Kenneth Er. The visiting Australian leader also called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

PM Lee expresses deep appreciation for Australia's support of SAF's training needs

Singapore and Australia are making progress in the joint development of training grounds in Queensland for Singapore troops, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He added that he looks forward to the training arrangements being finalised in a treaty next year, which will take forward the agreement inked last October to build training grounds for Singapore troops in Townsville and Shoalwater Bay.

The plans had to be revised after farmers refused to sell their land and lodged protests.

Despite scaling back land acquisition plans to expand the training areas, Australia's Department of Defence said in February that training requirements for both countries' armed forces can still be met.

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the country remains committed to the expanded training areas, which bring "enormous opportunities for further collaboration between our defence forces".

Mr Lee expressed deep appreciation for Australia's continued support of the Singapore Armed Forces' training needs, which he said will benefit both defence forces and the local towns' economies.

Discussions are also under way to allow Singapore's air force to continue operating a training detachment at the main Royal Australian Air Force base in Western Australia for another 25 years.

The landmark deals come under Singapore and Australia's comprehensive strategic partnership, which was reached in 2015.

Mr Turnbull is on a three-day official visit to attend the second Singapore-Australia Leaders' Summit.

Both prime ministers reaffirmed longstanding and excellent bilateral ties at the summit, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The countries completed the third review of their free trade agreement last year, and the updated pact will go into force later this year.

Australia yesterday announced two new visas to boost business and tourism links with Singapore, and both countries also inked two deals to intensify cooperation in scientific research and cyber security.

"These are practical examples of what countries can achieve when we collaborate," said Mr Turnbull.

The raft of agreements in areas old and new reflect the breadth and depth of cooperation between both countries, said Mr Lee.

At the crux of the prime ministers' speeches was how Singapore and Australia work well together because they share the same values and a common strategic vision.

Mr Lee noted that both countries are outward-oriented economies that depend on trade. He added: "We want a peaceful and orderly world, an open and inclusive international system where countries big and small can prosper."

In the same vein, Mr Turnbull said: "Today, we are bound together by shared values of commitment to a rules-based international order, to the rule of law in our region."

This strategic alignment is why the countries work closely on regional trade initiatives like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), said Mr Lee, who added that Mr Turnbull took the lead in resuming talks among the remaining 11 members after the United States withdrew from the pact. "It shows Australia's continued commitment to regional cooperation and to free trade," he added.

Mr Lee said Singapore agrees with and supports the TPP 11 deal.

Both leaders also agreed on the importance of Asean, and an open and inclusive regional architecture. Singapore will chair Asean next year, and a special Asean-Australia summit will be held in Sydney in March.

Mr Turnbull called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday. Both prime ministers will open an arts exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Progress on defence deal with Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe