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Transcript 22422

Address to Parliamentary Luncheon for the Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Hsien Loong 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: Speech

Transcript ID: 22422

Mr Prime Minister, visiting Ministers from Singapore, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It's with real pleasure and enthusiasm that I welcome His Excellency, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, on his very first visit to this country as Prime Minister. But he is no stranger to Australia, having visited here on numerous occasions in other capacities in the past.

Of the many very close and important relationships that Australia has in the Asia-Pacific region, none is closer and in many senses of the word, more immediate, than the relationship we have with Singapore. The name Singapore, of course, is very deeply etched in the Australian recollection and in Australian history. And all Australians remember the pivotal moments that surrounded the fall of Singapore in 1942, the fact that some 1800 Australians died in defence of Singapore, many of them being buried in the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.

Singapore is a country that shares a common strategic outlook with Australia. Both of us believe in open markets. Both of us believe in freer trade. Both of us believe in the success of the Doha trade round as something that is important to meeting the legitimate demands and the legitimate aspirations of the developing countries of the world. And both Australia and Singapore believe very strongly in the continued involvement and commitment of the United States in the affairs of our region. And in that connection I welcome very much remarks in support of that proposition that the Prime Minister has made in recent months.

I want on behalf of the Australian Government to acknowledge the assistance and the advocacy of Singapore on behalf of Australia in respect of our membership of the East Asian Summit. Along with a number of other countries, including Indonesia, Singapore argued for a broadening of this group recognising that the inclusion of both Australia and New Zealand would give it a standing and a substance that it would lack without the inclusion of our two countries. Three years ago we concluded a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore. And that Free Trade Agreement of course has successfully encouraged a growth in our trade over the time that has gone by. The relationship between Australia and Singapore for decades has been nurtured by the people-to-people links. Some 100,000 Singaporeans have graduated from Australian universities and a number of the Ministers in the current Cabinet of the Republic of Singapore are to be numbered amongst that important educational cohort. And we often have cause on occasions such as this to reflect on the wonderful contribution that the visionary Colombo Plan has made to the development of links between Australia and Singapore, Australia and Malaysia, Australia and other countries within the ASEAN area.

Singapore has had a remarkable history, born in an independent sense in very difficult circumstances, the product of sudden and abrupt changes of political alignment in the region. When it was formed in 1965 the prospects were regarded by many people as bleak indeed, yet through sheer determination, hard work, a realisation that its greatest asset, indeed in some senses, its only asset, was the individual capacity and energy of its people. The country has become something of an exemplar of what can be achieved by dint of hard work and individual effort and a belief in the virtues of competitive capitalism.

So I welcome you, Mr Prime Minister, very warmly on a personal basis as well as on behalf of the Government. I've had the privilege of working with you now over a period of time since you assumed the Prime Ministership of your country. I have found you a forthright interlocutor, somebody who speaks clearly for his country, someone who recognises as I do that even in close relationships there can be differences of opinion on sensitive issues, but I have found in you a Prime Minister with whom we can talk through those differences without them leading to a broader contamination of a relationship which is important.

We are thrown together both by history and geography. We have a shared commitment in the fight against terrorism and I acknowledge the close, professional, relationship between our security agencies. Our agencies greatly admire the skill and professionalism of their counterparts in Singapore and the relationship could not be closer.

We do share as I said at the beginning of my remarks a common strategic view about our region, it's a view that will keep us together in the future, it's an attitude which I know will result over time in the development of other common policies and most importantly of all our two countries share vital people-to-people links and values that bind us together against many common enemies and common challenges.

Prime Minister, you are warmly welcome in our country as are your Ministers. We look forward to seeing you again and I have very great pleasure in inviting the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Kim Beazley, to support my remarks.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22422