26 April 2012

Australia Extends Singapore Air Force's Access to Training Facilities

26 April 2012

The RSAF can deploy up to 12 Super Pumas along with 250 personnel and family members as RSAF’s 126Sqn (Training/Support for army exercises) at Oakey Army Aviation Centre. RSAF also deploys 19 × PC-21 (Basic Training) as RSAF’s 130 Sqn at RAAF Base Pearce (photo : abpic)

SINGAPORE: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard indicated on Monday that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) would be allowed continued access to training facilities in Oakey, Queensland.

She was speaking in Singapore where she is on her first official visit as prime minister. 

Earlier in the day, she was given a ceremonial welcome at the Istana. 

Also present was Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

After the ceremony, Ms Gillard met Singapore's Acting President J Y Pillay at the Istana.

At an official dinner hosted in her honour, Ms Gillard said that Singapore was a "partner and friend with a capacity to bring pragmatic and far-sighted thinking to regional and global challenges".

"We share defence and strategic interests, underpinned by a commitment to multi-lateralism and regional cooperation," she added.

"Of course, we value our economic links and seek to learn from your example of adaptation and innovation as Australia remakes its economy for the demands of the 'Asian Century'."

Prime Minister Lee, who was in attendance at the dinner, said "Singapore and Australia enjoy a close and long-standing relationship".

"Australia was one of the first countries to recognise Singapore's independence in 1965. For that we will always be grateful," Mr Lee said.

"Since then, our relationship has remained close, underpinned by our shared strategic perspectives and wide-ranging cooperation."

Mr Lee added that defence cooperation is also key to the two countries' relationship.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has been warmly received during training exercises in Rockhampton, Oakey, Pearce and Tamworth in Australia, and had helped in disaster relief efforts during the floods in Queensland last year, he said.

Mr Lee added that Singapore would support Australia's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in the year 2013-2014. 

He also said Singapore shares a commitment with Australia on trade liberalisation, adding that Singapore is the fifth largest investor in Australia, and thanks to the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), economic ties are growing.

Australian investments in Singapore more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, with the number of Australians doing business in Singapore growing about 10 per cent a year. 

Singa­pore gets close to a million Australian tourists annually, while Australia receives more than 300,000 visitors from Singapore each year.

There are more than 20,000 Australians living and working in Singapore and around 50,000 Singaporeans in Australia, including 10,000 students.

Ms Gillard said she hopes to find more ways for the two countries to work together when Mr Lee visits Australia this October.

Earlier in the day, Ms Gillard presented Singaporean businessman Ow Chio Kiat, with the award of "Honorary Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia".

Mr Ow, who is the executive chairman of Stamford Land Corporation, received the award for his service to the development of commercial relations and identifying business opportunities between Australia and Singapore.

Ms Gillard also had an orchid hybrid named after her at the National Orchid Garden.

The Dendrobium Julia Gillard bears dark purple flowers which measure up to 7 centimetres across.


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