Singaporeans urged to keep up good ties with Australia

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans in Australia play a key role in strengthening ties between Singapore and Australia, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday.

And he urged them to continue developing relations between the two countries.

"All of you play a crucial role in strengthening ties between Singapore and Australia through the work that you do, the friendships forged, and the links established with the local business and community networks," he said at a reception with about 180 Singaporeans based in Western Australia.

The strong ties between Singapore and Australia are warm and long-standing, he said.

Their cooperation is deep and across diverse fields, including defence, education, trade and tourism, and both countries are always exploring ways to strengthen this friendship, he added.

One such way is the pilot programme of the New Colombo Plan, which sends Australian students to Singapore and other countries in the region.

Another is the recent extension of the trial SmartGate automated border processing system to Singaporeans, he noted, which makes it more convenient for Singaporeans with biometric passports to clear immigration when entering Australia.

Australia is home to about 50,000 Singaporeans, with Perth hosting the largest community of about 14,000 Singaporeans. Among them are professionals, entrepreneurs, students, homemakers and air force personnel.

President Tan highlighted the Singapore community in Perth for being active in promoting bilateral ties by establishing chambers of commerce and business councils. He encouraged them to continue working with the High Commission to strengthen the ties between the countries.

Dr Tan also urged Singaporeans to stay connected to home, and to "keep the Singapore spirit strong".

With increasing globalisation, more Singaporeans have ventured overseas to study and seize opportunities where their skills are in demand, he said.

But with technology having "narrowed the distance between home and Australia", it is also easier for Singaporeans to keep in touch with what is happening back home.

"I hope that you will take advantage of this to stay closely linked to your family and your country," he said.

Singapore's High Commissioner to Australia, Mr Michael Teo, said to reporters that chambers and business councils have been set up to help small Singapore firms tap business opportunities in Australia.

Western Australia, for example, accounts for about half of all exports from Australia to other parts of the world, with agriculture and dairy products offering significant business opportunities for small businesses to dive into.

Singapore Chamber of Commerce (West Australia) president Anthony Quahe said 24 Singaporean companies are registered members, from industries such as property, accounting and engineering.

As members, they gain access to established trade and business networks, attend talks and pick up tips on doing business in the state, he said.

On Dr Tan's call to stay connected with home, Singaporean Fozzil Jaffar, 39, Murdoch University regional manager for external engagement, said: "I studied (in Australia) and built my career here, but at the end of the day, Singapore is home and where my family is, so I will go back."

Earlier yesterday, Dr Tan visited the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Pearce Detachment, where he was met by Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou.

Dr Tan and his wife Mary then toured the base, inspecting its PC-21 simulator before meeting members of the 130 squadron and their family members. The squadron consists of more than 90 pilots, air force engineers, trainees and support staff currently deployed at Pearce. Dr Tan and the Singapore delegation depart for home today.

This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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