You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Might not right in Asia, say leaders

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Australia and Singapore are united in rejecting the idea that "might is right" in the Asian region, say the nations' two leaders.

Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday became his country's first leader to address Australia's parliament after 51 years of diplomatic ties.

On Thursday, Mr Lee and Malcolm Turnbull will sign a $2.25 billion deal under which 14,000 Singaporean troops will train for 18 weeks a year in Queensland and Singapore will be given special permission to co-develop military training facilities at Shoalwater Bay and Townsville.

Mr Lee spoke of the historical relationship between the two nations, noting many Australian troops died while defending Singapore from Japanese forces in WWII.

"Singapore will never forget their sacrifice," he told MPs and senators gathered in the lower house chamber.

In a warm and humorous speech, Mr Lee questioned how a "wide brown land" and a "little red dot" three times smaller than the ACT could forge such a deep bond.

Australia and Singapore relied on a "stable and orderly world" to prosper.

"This requires an open and inclusive social regional order where all the major powers can participate," Mr Lee said.

"We both see the United States as a benign force, playing a major role in fostering peace and stability in Asia. At the same time, we both have substantial ties with other major powers."

At the same time co-operation with China - the major trading partner of both Australia and Singapore - should be strengthened.

"We welcome China in engaging constructively with the region," he said.

Mr Turnbull said both countries sought a future for the region "covered by shared norms of behaviour and respect for international law and one marked by stable relations are among the major powers".

"Singapore and Australia are at one in defending the rule of law and rejecting the proposition that might is right," he said.

The two leaders will sign a deal to update the 2003 free trade agreement - which helped make Singapore Australia's fifth largest trading partner - and improve exchanges in the areas of innovation, science, education and the arts.

Mr Lee noted 400,000 Singaporeans visited Australia last year and about one million Australians visited the city state.

"Singaporeans may not quaff quite as much beer as Australians but I have it on good authority that Victoria Bitter goes well with chili crabs," he said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten described the two nations as "partners in prosperity" and supported the military training agreement as "good news for the (north Queensland) region and good news for our (Asian) region".

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon