SINGAPORE: The Australian government has assured Singapore it remains fully committed to implementing enhanced training access for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as laid out in the two countries’ 2016 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) agreement, said Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday (Apr 4).
“The Australian Department of Defence also stated publicly on Feb 23, 2017 that it would be able to achieve the training requirements for the Australian Defence Force and SAF under the terms of the CSP without compulsory land acquisition, through enhancing existing training areas and a more optimal scheduling of training activities,” added Mr Ong.
He was responding to a parliamentary question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and Workers’ Party member Dennis Tan on whether SAF training would be affected by the reduction in land size, after Australia backtracked on plans to press farmers in the state of Queensland into selling their land to provide Singapore troops with a larger training area.
Mr Ong was also asked if Singapore’s commitment of about S$2.4 billion to the planned training area expansion would be reduced as a result. “The costs of developments for SAF training requirements are still within the budget laid out in the CSP,” he said.
The CSP agreement, signed in October last year, had proposed developing up to 200,000 hectares of farmland in the Townsville area starting in 2019 - a move which would have expanded the SAF’s training area in Australia to 10 times the size of Singapore.
Other terms included growing the number of SAF troops in Australia from 6,600 to 14,000 and for 18-week training spells, up from six.
The SAF has conducted annual exercises at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland’s Rockhampton city for the past 26 years.