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Singapore to pay $2bn to use Qld bases

by October 13, 2016 General

Up to 14,000 Singaporean troops training on Australian territory by 2021 are set to dwarf the foreign military presence of US Marines in the top end.

For use of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area, Singapore will invest about $2 billion into upgrading infrastructure.

Defence Minister Marise Payne and her Singapore counterpart Ng Eng Hen signed off on the new arrangements in Canberra on Thursday during the official visit of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Senator Payne said a memorandum of understanding set a framework to implement increased Singapore Armed Forces training in Australia.

Up to 14,000 Singapore personnel will conduct unilateral army training in Australia for up to 18 weeks a year by 2021. That’s twice as many troops for three times as long as under previous arrangements.

Senator Payne said Singapore’s training presence would start to increase next year.

The MOU sets conditions for upgrading of the two training areas, with work set to start this year.

Although Singapore is funding this work, it will remain Australian property and available for use by the Australian Defence Force.

All construction will be conducted through Australian tendering procedures.

Senator Payne said as the Singaporean presence increased, so too would demand for support services from local businesses.

Australia and Singapore had a long history of defence engagement, she said.

“This will bring us closer as defence partners and generate significant local economic activity over the next 25 years.”

For Singapore, Australia offers vast open spaces for training – at 4545 square kilometres, Shoalwater alone is more than six times the area of Singapore.

Under longstanding agreements, the Singapore military has trained in Australia for decades. That has attracted much less attention than US Marines training in the top end which this year involved 1250 troops, with 2500 at its peak.

Singaporean jet pilots train at RAAF Pearce, Western Australian, and helicopter pilots at the Australian Army Aviation Centre at Oakey, Queensland.

Much of the time the Singaporean military trains on its own. It conducted the first of its annual Wallaby exercise series at Shoalwater Bay in 1990.

That involves combined training of infantry, tanks, armoured vehicles, helicopters and jet aircraft, including live firing. Between exercises, armoured vehicles are warehoused in Rockhampton.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia’s strategic partnership with Singapore would generate substantial economic benefits in central and north Queensland.

“The investments, centred around Townsville and Shoalwater Bay, will help local workers and business make the transition from the mining construction boom,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Prime Minister Lee said the memorandum of understanding would create create opportunities for joint training and for enhancing the armed forces.

© AAP 2016

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