Remarks at the Official Dinner, Singapore
MON 23 APRIL 2012
I am delighted to be in Singapore on my first official visit as Australia’s Prime Minister.
I thank Your Excellency for your very warm welcome.
This is indeed a place where Australians have for so long been welcomed and where so many of our interests converge.
In Singapore, my country sees a partner and friend with a capacity to bring pragmatic and far-sighted thinking to regional and global challenges.
With you, we share defence and strategic interests, underpinned by a commitment to multilateralism and regional cooperation.
And, 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’.
Few capacities are more important for my nation’s success than education and training, as they have been for yours.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the first Colombo Plan scholars to Australia.
It brought some of Asia’s brightest and best to my country in order to better serve their own, including around 1000 gifted young Singaporean students…a number of whom are with us here tonight.
Such exchanges have been a profound anchor in the ties between our nations, reflecting a high-quality relationship which is immensely valued by my country.
Tonight, I celebrate our shared past and I look to the future.
I look forward to working with you, Mr Prime Minister, on further ways in which Singapore and Australia can work together in the future.
I especially look forward to your official visit to Australia in October, where you are, of course, a familiar and honoured visitor.
Meanwhile, I deeply appreciate the warmth and generosity of your welcome.
I know our relations will be strengthened by the fellowship we share here tonight because our nations have long been friends,
in good times and in bad.
It was here in Singapore that Australia established one of its very earliest foreign posts in 1941, a fateful time in the life of our people.
The years since the war have been years of opportunity for both our nations.
And just this morning, I reflected at Kranji on how a great price was paid for that freedom.
In those post-war years, Australia came to value anew the friendship of our neighbours and learnt to open our economy
to the world.
Singapore used these decades with exceptional wisdom to build a city-state that is the envy of the world.
And I know you spoke movingly last year of the “ordinary people who struggled to improve their lives and lived through war or hardship or the turbulent early years of independence, and [who] achieved extraordinary results with good leadership.”
To this great nation, and those who lead them, I offer this heartfelt toast:
‘To the President and the people of Singapore.’