Toast Speech by Acting PM Lawrence Wong at the Official Lunch in honour of Australian PM Anthony Albanese on 2 June 2023. PM Albanese was on an Official Visit to Singapore for the 8th Singapore-Australia Annual Leaders’ Meeting.
Ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to welcome Prime Minister Albanese and his delegation to Singapore once again. This is Prime Minister Albanese’s first Official Visit to Singapore as Prime Minister, but Singapore is no stranger to him. He has visited Singapore many times in various capacities. In 2014 for the World Cities Summit. In 2017 as a Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellow, and that was also when I first met when I was then in MND (the Ministry of National Development).
The strong and enduring friendship between Australia and Singapore has come a long way. During World War II, Australian soldiers fought bravely to defend Malaya and Singapore, many giving their lives in the battles. When Singapore became independent in 1965, Australia was one of the first countries to recognise us as a sovereign nation. Our strong bilateral cooperation is anchored on a high level of strategic trust developed over decades, and it has flourished under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, or the CSP, which was established in 2015. Last year during the 7th Annual Leaders’ Meeting, we signed the Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement, which was the first for both sides but also first of its kind in the world. We are also collaborating on supply chain resilience, including food security, energy security, connectivity and crisis response. In fact, the fish on today’s menu is from an aqua culture farm in Singapore, grown from fry imported from Australia. Of course the wine is Australian too.
Singapore and Australia are partners that have supported each other in times of need. E.g. In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when international travel was suspended, we helped bring each other’s citizens home. We also concluded a vaccine swap to support each other’s efforts to fight Covid-19. More recently, last November, a team of 16 officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force also participated in the flood emergency relief efforts in New South Wales.
Our people-to-people ties between our two countries are strong. Just in the first quarter of this year, some 250,000 Australians visited Singapore, forming the third-largest group of short-term visitors here. Singaporeans, too, are avid travellers, and we make up the fifth largest source of tourists for Australia. So we have some ways to catch up because you are third for us but only fifth for you. But considering our much smaller population, I think we are doing reasonably well. More than 60,000 Singaporeans are living, working and studying in Australia. Thousands of our SAF troops train in Australia every year.
Australia has been a long-time friend and steadfast partner to Singapore. We share similar perspectives on the continuing importance of multilateralism, and an open and inclusive rules-based regional architecture for cooperation. This has enabled us to set new benchmarks for cooperation and jointly launch pathfinders in new areas such as the digital and green economies, which hopefully can be expanded to other regional countries. We continue to welcome Australia to play a bigger role in our region, and further contribute to our region’s stability and growth.
We are in a troubled world that is filled with geopolitical uncertainties and tensions. But the strong and enduring partnership between Australia and Singapore gives us confidence to navigate our way through stormy weather and to take our countries forward. In 2025, we will reach the 10-year milestone of our CSP. We look forward to working with our Australian mates to advance our bilateral cooperation to even greater heights.
Ladies and gentlemen
May I now invite you to join me in a toast to His Majesty the King and the people of Australia. The good health and happiness of Prime Minister Albanese and his delegation. The continued peace and prosperity of Australia; and of course, to the enduring and strong friendship between Singapore and Australia.
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