PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22324

Joint Press Conference with HE Mr Lee Hsien Loong Prime Minister of Singapore Parliament House, Canberra

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/06/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22324

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Ladies and gentlemen it is with great pleasure that I welcome Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore. This is his first visit to Australia as Prime Minister but not of course his first visit to this country.

Australia and Singapore could not be closer. We're not only near neighbours, but we have a common strategic view of the world in our part of the region and the globe. There's very close security and defence cooperation. We both share the view that a continued United States' presence and involvement in the region is important for its stability and in our interests.

We have concluded, three years ago, a very successful Free Trade Agreement. We have a common view about the need to have open trading policies and we'll be arguing together for a successful outcome in the Doha Round. And overall it's a relationship which is in very good shape. And for that and many other reasons I am delighted to welcome the Prime Minister to Canberra and invite him to say a few words of introduction and then we'll take a couple of questions from each of the press groups and then go back inside.

PRIME MINISTER LEE:

Just to say I am very happy to be here in Canberra and to call on Prime Minister John Howard. We've met many times since I took over as Prime Minister but never in Canberra. And this time I am here to renew the relationship and to discuss the very many shared interests we have in the region, strategic interests, our economic cooperation, our participation in regional organisations like APEC, East Asian Summit and the ASEAN dialogues. And also discuss our bilateral relationship which goes all the way from the Free Trade Agreement to counter terrorism cooperation, to cooperation in education and of course science and technology.

So I am happy to be here. I believe that the relationship is in good shape. We've had some difficult issues to deal with over the last year but within the overall understanding that we are really strategic partners, Singapore with an interest in having Australia engaged in the region and Australia working with Singapore as a long term friend. These are issues which we can manage and keep in proportion as we move forward.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

A question from the Singapore press.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can I ask what areas do you see the two countries working closer together in the future?

PRIME MINISTER LEE:

One of course is trade. We have the SAFTA is three years old now. We will both do a review starting next month in July and we hope we will be able to broaden and deepen the agreement. Education is another area. The University of New South Wales is about to set up a campus in Singapore taking students from next year. Science and technology is a third one. I will be visiting the Australian National University this afternoon, the Economics Institute, and we're signing two MOUs for cooperation between them and A*STAR. So these are just, and of course, defence, where we have very good cooperation. So these are just some of the examples.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Lee, do you think that Australia's ''Open Skies'' policy should be renegotiated in the FTA review?

PRIME MINISTER LEE:

Well this is an area which we have discussed with the Australian Government. Our view is that we would like an "Open Skies" agreement with Australia and that we can do it within the SAFTA too. But whether within the SAFTA or not, we believe that an ''Open Skies'' is in both countries interests. The Australian Government had made a decision not to open the trans-Pacific route to SIA, we respect that decision but we hope that they will be willing to reconsider the matter and revisit it in future.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister this is a question on the world economy. With rising oil prices, falling stock market prices and trade imbalances in the global economy, how do you think it's going to impact the Singapore-Australia bilateral economic relationship and what are your views on the global economy in the short term? This is for two Prime Ministers?

PRIME MINISTER LEE:

Do you want to take that?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

To both of us is it? Well I think it will depend very much as far as Australia is concerned on the domestic strength of our economy. The stronger economies will fare better in adverse international conditions and I'm very pleased to say that both Australia and Singapore are strong economies. Speaking for Australia, our fiscal position has been acknowledged by the Managing Director of the IMF, as being quite outstanding, he said that our current account deficit is eminently manageable because it represents the product, if I can put it that way, of a growing economy which requires a great deal of investment and overall he sees the reforms that have taken place in Australia as equipping us well to deal with any adversities.

PRIME MINISTER LEE:

I don't think that our bilateral relationship with Australia, our economic cooperation would be affected by oil prices or share prices, it's based on fundamentals, it's based on long term links and investments and interest which will remain whatever the day to day fluctuations in the commodities or the financial markets. Singapore, of course, as a consumer of oil, is affected adversely by the high oil prices. Worldwide whether that leads to a recession or to inflation, that depends on many factors. It's a puzzle why the impact has been less than people might have feared beforehand but so far the impact has been manageable. The share market prices, those go up and down, we can't respond every time the share market goes up a couple of percentage points or down percentage points.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Lee is there any prospect of your government softening or in any way changing its policy of putting to death Australians and others convicted of drug crime, is that an issue that you've discussed with the Prime Minister today?

PRIME MINISTER LEE:

We've discussed this, we have discussed this many times over the last one year. Our position is quite clear that the death penalty is part of our criminal justice system, that applies in particular to drug traffickers whether they're Singaporeans or foreigners. It is not targeted at Australians or any particular country but it is a set of laws which apply in Singapore in which we have to enforce impartially and which we will continue to do so.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Thank you.

PRIME MINSITER LEE:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22324