Published: 29 June 2015
The Honourable Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia;
Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore;
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to welcome all of you to the 35th Singapore Lecture. We are very privileged to have The Honourable Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia with us this afternoon. I thank Prime Minister Abbott for agreeing to deliver this Lecture on the occasion of your official visit to Singapore, despite your extremely busy schedule here.
2 Prime Minister Abbott's visit to Singapore takes place at a special moment for Singapore, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence this year. It is also the 50thanniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Australia.
Australia was in fact the first country to do so. Indeed, Australia had played a prominent and helpful role in Singapore's history, one that predates Singapore's independence.
3 Over the years, Singapore and Australia have built up a warm and deep relationship that spans many diverse areas. We have a mutually beneficial and thriving economic relationship, anchored by the 2003 Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (or SAFTA). Singapore is Australia's 5th largest foreign investor. Both countries enjoy excellent defence cooperation, with Australia generously allowing the Singapore Armed Forces to train in the country. At the people-to-people level, we feel very comfortable with each other. Over 20,000 Australians live and work in Singapore. Some 50,000 Singaporeans study, work, or accompany their families in Australia;
we had a warm re-union with many of them during Singapore Day in Sydney in October 2013.
4 This close relationship is underpinned by a shared strategic perspective of our regional environment. Both countries cooperate closely in regional and international fora. Australia has played an important role in promoting regional stability and prosperity, particularly through its engagement of ASEAN and its participation in the East Asia Summit. We have worked closely together on numerous fundamental areas of commonality, such as preserving an open and inclusive regional architecture and promoting trade liberalisation globally and regionally.
5 While our relationship is already deep and dynamic, both Prime Minister Abbott and Prime Minister Lee have recognised that there remains more that both countries can do together. This is the genesis of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement signed by both Prime Ministers earlier today. The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership puts the flourishing friendship between Singapore and Australia on an even stronger footing over the next decade and beyond.
6 Prime Minister Abbott is a well-known figure in Singapore. He started out as a journalist with The Australian, and The Bulletin. He entered politics in the early 1990s, serving as Press Secretary and Senior Adviser to then-Leader of the Opposition John Hewson. Mr Abbott has had extensive Cabinet experience, having served in Prime Minister John Howard's government in various capacities, including as Minister for Employment Services, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Health and Ageing. Mr Abbott was the Leader of Opposition from 2009 until he led the Liberal/National Coalition to victory in the Federal Elections in 2013.
7 Since taking office, Prime Minister Abbott has demonstrated an acute appreciation of the challenges that Australia faces as it comes off the mining boom and has kept the economy on an even keel even as Australia embarks on economic restructuring. He has pushed ahead to enhance and consolidate Australia's engagement of the region and concluded Free Trade Agreements with Japan, the Republic of Korea and China. The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Singapore and Australia provides yet another platform for Australia to expand its economic interactions with Southeast Asia and the larger region.
8 Singapore has always been a strong proponent of Australia's active and continued engagement in the region. We believe that Australia has made and will continue to make a valuable contribution to the region's stability and prosperity. Indeed, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abbott, Australia has taken a clear and focussed approach to engaging the region, by emphasising a closer relationship with countries in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region. Today, Prime Minister Abbott will speak on the topic of "Our Common Challenges: Strengthening Security in the Region."
9 Prime Minister Abbott has also shown leadership on the issue of jihadist terrorism, in particular the threat posed by returning "foreign fighters" and self-radicalized individuals, seduced by the violent ideology of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Earlier this month, Australia hosted a summit in Sydney on Countering Violent Extremism, which made a valuable contribution to regional understanding and cooperation on this important issue. Terrorism and violent extremism are global challenges faced by many countries, and need to be addressed with an adroit mix of domestic policies as well as regional and international cooperation.
10 Let me now invite Prime Minister Abbott to deliver the 35th Singapore Lecture.
11 Thank you.