Singapore military ties 'are game-changer'
Closer military ties between Australia and Singapore are a “game-changer” for the region, says Defence Minister Marise Payne ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Lee will visit Canberra on Wednesday and Thursday for economic and security talks with Malcolm Turnbull and senior ministers.
During the visit, Mr Lee will address parliament and seal a $2 billion deal in which 14,000 Singaporean troops will train for 18 weeks a year in central and northern Queensland.
The leaders are also expected to approve talks to revamp the 2003 free trade agreement, which has led to Singapore becoming Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner.
Australia is aiming to get its economic links with Singapore to be on par with that of New Zealand.
Senator Payne said the military agreement was vital to the security and stability of the region.
“This is a move that has been applauded amongst our partners in the region… it’s going to be a huge game-changer in the region,” she told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
Mr Turnbull said regional security was “more important than ever” and the Singapore-Australia relationship was critical to this.
“The relative peace and harmony in our region is the foundation upon which the greatest economic transformation in the history of mankind has been based,” Mr Turnbull said.
Australia and Singapore are both members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements – a joint defence arrangement between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Mr Lee and former prime minister Tony Abbott signed a 10-year agreement in June 2015 to deliver a comprehensive strategic partnership and meet annually at leader level.
The agreement would improve economic, foreign affairs, defence, security and people to people ties.
Work is underway to make it easier for young Singaporeans to spend working holidays in Australia and recognise the qualifications of Singaporean professionals such as engineers and accountants.
© AAP 2016