Tuesday 30 June 2015

Singapore, Australia strengthen ties with signing of strategic partnership agreement

By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries by witnessing the adoption of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that will bring about new levels of cooperation and exchanges in defence, the economy, foreign affairs, and arts and culture.

The accord, signed at a ceremony at the Istana on Monday, paves the way for increased intelligence sharing to combat terrorism, more access to military training areas in Australia, and collaboration on fighting cybercrime.

There will also be annual meetings of Australia and Singapore leaders alternating between the two countries as hosts.

On the economic front, financial markets will be integrated and aviation and maritime connectivity will be enhanced. The flow of skilled labour and visitors will also be increased.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement will also be reviewed early to look for new trade and investment opportunities.

There will also be more cultural exchanges between the people of Singapore and Australia. Singaporean students will get more internships in Australia while civil servants from both countries will conduct short term study visits.

Heritage institutions and museums will facilitate more travelling exhibitions, loaning of artefacts and co-curate exhibitions.

To build on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, a host of Memorandums of Understanding were signed between agencies from both countries to establish more specific frameworks for cooperation.

Mr Abbott is in Singapore on the last day of a two-day official visit. He is accompanied by an Australian delegation which includes Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles and a business delegation.

Abbott seeks to grow Australia's ties with Singapore
Comprehensive Strategic Partnership pact set to boost bilateral cooperation
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2015

AUSTRALIA'S relations with Singapore should grow to the level of the ties it has with neighbour New Zealand, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday.

He indicated that with the elevation in ties, which the new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership seeks to achieve, their professionals should be able to work and reside in the other's country easily.

"I want to see Australians and Singaporeans with the same kind of work and residency situation in our two countries as Australians and New Zealanders have long had," Mr Abbott said.

He held out this possibility at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, after both inked the partnership accord yesterday for new levels of cooperation in defence, the economy, foreign affairs, and arts and culture.

The new partnership sets out a road map on the course of the ties between the two countries for the next 10 years, Mr Lee said.

It will also work towards letting Singaporeans enjoy even more seamless travel to Australia. Currently, Singapore passport holders can use SmartGate, a self-service passport processing option, at major Australian airports.

The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership pact also paves the way for increased intelligence sharing to combat terrorism, greater access to military training areas in Australia, and collaboration on fighting cybercrime.

The leaders of both countries will meet every year as well, with the meetings alternating between their countries.

An early review of the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement will be led by Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam and Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb. It is expected to be concluded by July next year.

To build on the new partnership, several memoranda of understanding were signed between agencies of both countries to establish more specific frameworks for cooperation.

A day after both prime ministers grilled steaks together at a barbecue open to the public in Bishan Park, the two stood side by side again at the Istana yesterday to emphasise the compatibility and deep friendship between their countries.

"We are like-minded and we share similar strategic perspectives of the region", like the importance of US-China relations, Mr Lee said.

Agreeing, Mr Abbott said his two-day official visit was a chance "to turn friendship into something far more akin to a family relationship".

In Mr Lee's toast at the official lunch shortly after the press conference, he noted that Australia was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Singapore, just nine days after the island's separation from Malaysia.

But ties go back even further as Australian soldiers died in the defence of Singapore during World War II, and many were buried at the Kranji War Memorial.

"Singapore will always appreciate and remember their sacrifice," said Mr Lee.

Mr Abbott had laid a wreath at the cemetery at the start of his visit on Sunday.

Strong trade and defence links with Australia were also underlined by Mr Lee, who added: "I am glad to have enjoyed good relations with successive Australian prime ministers over the years. And I'm very happy to continue and build on these relations with Tony."

Economic, defence, people-to-people cooperation
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2015

THE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership lists plans for cooperation in the economic, defence and people-to-people spheres over the next 10 years.

Here are some details:

- Review the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement by July next year to unlock new trade, investment and other opportunities.
- Improve ease of travel - allow more Singapore professionals to work and live in Australia and vice versa.
- Increase aviation and maritime connections.
- Explore investment opportunities in sectors such as food and infrastructure, and in new growth areas including in Northern Australia.
- Hold annual meetings of leaders, alternating between the two countries as hosts.
- Increase SAF access to Australian military training areas and facilities.
- Share more intelligence in areas like counter-terrorism.
- Attach Central Narcotics Bureau officers to the Australian Federal Police.
- Exchange expertise on cybercrime investigation and digital forensics.
- More collaboration between museums and heritage institutions to facilitate travelling exhibitions, loaning of artefacts and co-curation of exhibitions.
- Short-term study visits for Australian and Singapore civil servants.
- More internship opportunities in Australia for Singaporean students studying in Singapore institutions.
- Share information on policies and programmes to deepen links between educational, scientific and research institutions.

Gift of trees to symbolise evergreen relations
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2015

TO SYMBOLISE 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 yesterday.

They did so shortly after they signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and witnessed the signing of a raft of agreements at the Istana to bring the two nations even closer together.

Mr Lee gave Mr Abbott a Tembusu tree, a hardwood that dots the Istana grounds, while Mr Abbott presented him with 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 new partnership and memoranda of understanding will see greater cooperation between the two countries in many areas including trade, defence and security cooperation, and the enhancing of aviation and maritime connectivity.

"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," Mr Lee said at a lunch that he hosted for Mr Abbott.

The various agreements cap Mr Abbott's two-day official visit, which also marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Australia.

Earlier yesterday morning, Mr Abbott was presented with a new orchid at the Botanic Gardens. He named it Dendrobium Golden Friendship. He also called on President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana after a ceremonial welcome by the presidential guards.

"I could have gone to the World Cup Cricket final or I could have gone to the memorial service for Lee Kuan Yew. I have to say it was a very easy choice because there will be many games of cricket, but there will only be one Lee Kuan Yew": Tony Abbott. http://bit.ly/1KkucgH
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, June 29, 2015

At the lunch, Mr Abbott presented Mr Lee with a photograph of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew meeting then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a visit to Australia in 1965.

"Lee Kuan Yew didn't just lead Singapore; he made Singapore. Sir Rob Menzies didn't just lead the Liberal Party; he made the Liberal Party," said Mr Abbott.

"The challenge for us in these times is to be worthy of our great forebears and to exercise the best possible stewardship over the institutions that they created, institutions which we want to see thrive and prosper for the benefit of our peoples and the wide world," he added.

Mr Abbott also recalled a warning that the late Mr Lee gave during a visit in 1980 to Australia.

Mr Lee had said Australians risked becoming "the poor white trash of Asia" if they did not liberalise their economy and open their doors to immigration as well as try to reduce inflation and unemployment.

"There was a fraught moment when Prime Minister Lee's father reminded Australia of the prospects that awaited countries which did not constantly innovate, reform and improve," said Mr Abbott.

"But I'm pleased to say that we have magnificently avoided the fate that Lee Kuan Yew said might await us in the absence of serious reform."

ISIS fighters from region 'pose security threat to South-east Asia'
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2015

THE hundreds of radicalised individuals from the region fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) present a "daunting precedent" that threatens the overall security of South-east Asia, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned yesterday.

This is why countries have to step up their game, rather than just hope for the best - or for someone else to do the heavy lifting, he said at the 35th Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Mr Abbott's remarks came after he and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earlier witnessed the signing of an agreement at the Istana that will enable both countries to cooperate more closely to neutralise the global terror threat.

Australia's experience so far illustrates the gravity of the situation, he said at the lecture.

About 120 Australians are fighting in Syria and Iraq, with many more back home recruiting, funding and sympathising with ISIS.

Such individuals pose a grave threat, he said, adding: "Our domestic security agency is currently investigating several thousand persons of concern and has over 400 high-priority cases."

Of the 25 Australians who returned after training in the Middle East, 19 were later involved in some form of terror activity in Australia, with eight convicted so far of terrorism offences, he said.

To confront these and other problems, Singapore and Australia have agreed to step up intelligence sharing, visits and collaboration between law enforcement and national security agencies.

Both countries will also "compare notes" on the profiles, motivations and vulnerabilities of radicalised individuals and how to reintegrate them back into society, PM Lee said at the Istana event.

While here, Mr Abbott visited Khadijah Mosque, which hosts a resource and counselling centre for the Religious Rehabilitation Group - whose Muslim scholars counsel terror detainees and radicalised individuals.

Said Mr Abbott at the lecture: "I refuse to call this death cult 'Islamic State' because to do so insults the Muslims it is killing and concedes legitimacy to a movement at war with the world.

"Still, Daesh is consolidating its power over an area as large as Italy with about eight million people. Its affiliates control large swathes of Libya and Nigeria, and are active in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa," he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. "It is seeking to establish a far province in South-east Asia. It is the deadly enemy of all governments and of all people."

In its 50 years as a nation, Singapore has become a dynamic economic and security partner for Australia. It is...
Posted by Tony Abbott on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Abbott: New chapter in strong S'pore-Aussie ties
Flow of students now both ways, he says at opening of JCU's new campus
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2015

JAMES Cook University (JCU) Singapore officially opened its new campus yesterday in a ceremony attended by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The private school - an offshoot of JCU based in Queensland, Australia - was previously housed in two separate campuses in Upper Thomson and Ang Mo Kio. It started operating in Singapore in 2003.

The new campus is now on a 24,000 sq m site - the size of more than three footballs fields - in Sims Drive.

It is on the former premises of Manjusri Secondary School and can now accommodate more than 5,000 students.

"This is quite a special day for higher education here in Singapore, and it's another chapter in the story of Australia and Singapore's long and strong friendship," said Mr Abbott, who is here on a two-day official visit.

He said more than 130,000 Singaporeans have graduated from Australian universities since the 1950s and that the relationship is now mutual under the New Colombo Plan. The plan offers Australian undergraduates scholarships and business opportunities in the region.

"The tide of students flows both ways," he said. "We are returning the compliment that Singapore has paid to us by learning as much in your country as you have, over the decades, learnt in ours."

JCU's new campus boasts state-of-the-art facilities such as a financial trading room where students get access to real-time stock market data and classrooms equipped with smart Apple TVs.

There is also a psychology clinic which offers counselling services for members of the public struggling with problems such as depression or dementia.

About a third of its 3,700 students are local, while the rest come from across the region.

"The main thing we can get here is a diversity in culture," said second-year business student Sajan Varghese, 32.

"We have people from almost all the countries in the region, and I think this provides a global perspective."

Singaporeans and Australians both love food and nature. So yesterday, I brought Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Bishan-Ang...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's barbecue time for a taste of Singapore life
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2015

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Tony Abbott had a taste of Singapore life yesterday when he visited Bishan Park with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

There, the leaders barbecued some steaks as part of 50 barbecues held simultaneously around Singapore yesterday.

This was an Australian High Commission programme to celebrate 50 years of bilateral ties, and the barbecue event at Bishan Park alone saw a turnout of as many as 2,000 people.

Mr Abbott and Mr Lee also planted a tree together at the park and joined in a community drum circle.

They even spied a family of otters frolicking in Kallang River.

Mr Abbott's official visit continues today, and the two leaders are scheduled to sign an agreement to cooperate more closely in trade, arts and culture, and security.

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