Trees exchanged as gifts symbolise 'evergreen ties' between Singapore and Australia

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on June 29, 2015.
Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on June 29, 2015.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - As a symbol of the evergreen ties between Singapore and Australia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart Tony Abbott presented each other with a gift of trees shortly after they witnessed the signing of a raft of agreements at the Istana on Monday to bring the two nations even closer together.

Mr Lee presented Mr Abbott with a Tembusu tree, a hardwood that dots the Istana grounds, while Mr Abbott presented a Wollemi Pine, a coniferous tree with a 200 million year lineage.

The two leaders had also planted a Gelam tree - which Kampong Glam is named after - at Bishan Park on Sunday, a tree native to both Singapore and North Queensland.

The gift exchange followed the signing of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) and Memoranda of Understanding that will see greater cooperation between the two countries in many areas, including trade and economics, defence and security cooperation, and enhancing of aviation and maritime connectivity.

The CSP lays out a 10-year road map that will set the course for Singapore-Australia ties and take it to the next level, said Mr Lee.

"It is comprehensive - it leaves no stone unturned; it is strategic - because given the shifting strategic balance in the region, it enables both our countries to work together to promote regional stability and an open and inclusive regional architecture; and it is a partnership - because it describes the win-win nature of our relationships," Mr Lee said in remarks at a lunch hosted for Mr Abbott.

"The trees symbolise how I hope the relations between our two countries will be: one that is precious, one that is evergreen, fresh and regularly blooming."

The signings cap off a two-day official visit by Mr Abbott, which also marks Singapore and Australia's celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations this year.

Earlier in the morning, Mr Abbott was also presented with a new orchid at the National Orchid Garden. Grown from a Singaporean hybrid and an Australian species, it was named by Mr Abbott as the Dendrobium Golden Friendship.

yanliang@sph.com.sg