All roads lead to Rome. But in Singapore, some of them lead to Australia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday at a lunch hosted by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Canberra Road in Sembawang was named after the Australian flagship which visited in 1937, while Blackmore Drive was named after missionary Sophia Blackmore, who helped to found Methodist Girls' School in 1887. "It happens to be my mother's school, so it's a good school," he said, drawing laughter from the 500 guests.
He cited the roads as examples of the historical ties between the two nations, which celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations last year.
The signing of four agreements under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) today will mark "another milestone in our friendship", he said. These will boost cooperation in trade, defence, innovation and combating drug crime.
PM Lee thanked Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, his predecessor Andrew Robb, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and officials for working on the CSP: "Long may our two countries work together, prosper together, appreciate each other and thus cement our relations for many years."
Mr Turnbull, referring to an anecdote PM Lee shared during his speech to Parliament, said Mr Lee "showed a very classically Singaporean thoughtfulness, courtesy and pragmatic planning ahead" when he put on a tie for dinner during an exchange trip in 1967.
His host family's son told him to take it off. Mr Turnbull quipped that it was better to be asked to take off a tie than to be asked to put it on.
But he said such forward thinking, especially in how Singapore embraced technology and innovation, has set an example for Australia on how to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
"This realism, this agility, this resilience of Singapore, at every level of policy and of business, is something that we admire," he added.
Both leaders had a bilateral meeting before lunch.
In the evening, PM Lee planted a Wollemi pine at the Singapore High Commission in Canberra.
He also met some 150 Singaporean students and Singapore Armed Forces cadets and urged them to "come back one day with many friends on the other side".