Chapter 2 Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government
of the Republic of Singapore concerning the Location of a Republic of Singapore
Air Force Helicopter Squadron at the Australian Army Aviation Centre Oakey done
at Singapore on 1 June 2012
The proposed treaty action is to replace the Agreement between the
Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore
concerning the Location of a Republic of Singapore Air Force Helicopter
Squadron at the Army Aviation Centre Oakey, done at Canberra on 21 October 1996
and which entered into force on 19 November 1997, (the 1997 Agreement),
which is due to expire on 31 December 2012.
Since 1997, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) helicopter
squadron (126 Squadron) has been deployed at the Army Aviation Centre, Oakey
(AAC), Queensland. This squadron operates the Eurocopter AS332M Super Puma (commonly
referred to as the Puma) helicopter.
National interest summary
The purpose of the Agreement is to allow for continued location of a
RSAF helicopter squadron at the AAC, Queensland, which has been ongoing since
1997. Access to the AAC is greatly valued by Singapore, given its lack of
domestic training areas, and is a major element of our contribution to the bilateral
Access is vital to the RSAF to enable them to develop and maintain their
Use of the AAC under the proposed Agreement is part
of Australia’s broader policy to allow access to Australian Department of Defence
(ADOD) facilities by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) (which includes the
RSAF). Permitting access to the AAC benefits Australia by enhancing the
bilateral defence relationship, improving the effectiveness of the RSAF as an
exercise and training partner and as a potential partner or contributor to
regional security operations, and promoting Australia’s broader policy of
increasing regional security.
The existing 1997 Agreement is:
just one part of the relationship. We exchange students at
our staff colleges, at our training institutions. We run exchanges for our
junior officers and our NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] to go to Singapore to
learn the way they do some of their training, and we reciprocate back in
Australia. We do some joint exercises and Singaporeans are serving alongside
of us in Afghanistan and have provided a reasonable amount of support to us,
including medical and dental teams, an unmanned aerial vehicle and the imagery
analysts to interpret the data that that provides, as well as logistics and
specialist officers. So we have a broad, rich, valuable relationship with the
Singapore armed forces.
Apart from personnel, the 1997 Agreement is part of a broader suite of
cooperative security arrangements with Singapore. The Department of Defence
Firstly, under the Five Power Defence Arrangements, we have
access to Singaporean facilities and land in certain designated areas. We
currently maintain a Royal Australian Navy liaison office in Sembawang naval
wharfs and Royal Australian Navy liaison managed accommodation in Sembawang,
and we maintain deployment facilities and access rights to Paya Lebar Air Base.
Additionally, Australia gains access on a regular basis to the Murai Urban
Training Facility in Singapore, and our Rifle Company Butterworth, in Malaysia,
regularly deploys to Murai, at least once per rotation. They are normally, I
believe, three-month rotations for Rifle Company Butterworth to conduct
training. And, as I think was mentioned before, Australia sends one officer to
participate in the Goh Keng Swee command and staff course in Singapore.
[The Australian] Army greatly values our access to the
Singaporean urban ops training facility. It is world class and is something
that we have not replicated here. For our infantry soldiers to rotate through
there is of great benefit to Army and something that we wish to maintain.
Reasons for Australia to take the proposed treaty action
The following information of the claimed benefits to Australia of the proposed
treaty action is taken from the National Interest Analysis (NIA).
The training conducted by the RSAF at the AAC under the current 1997
Agreement and proposed Agreement does not usually involve
the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and the RSAF personnel do not use ADF
The type of training described by the Department of Defence is ‘raise,
train and sustain’ and is considered to be
‘basic conversion training’. This training includes Search and Rescue. The
aircraft used by the RSAF are troop lift helicopters that transport troops,
equipment and cargo. These helicopters are not combat aircraft.
There are significant indirect benefits to Australia from the access
provided to Singapore. The SAF is a
significant exercise partner, possessing highly sophisticated technology, some
of which is not in service with the ADF. In addition, many of
the RSAF assets used at the AAC, in particular aircraft, are employed elsewhere
in bilateral and multilateral exercises involving Australia. Enabling the RSAF
to generate and maintain capability in Australia therefore directly enhances
the ADF’s ability to exercise with the SAF, thereby contributing to our own
capability development goals.
Heightened SAF capability is also of benefit to Australia in that it
makes the SAF more effective as a coalition partner and as a contributor to
regional security. Granting access to the AAC is part of Australia’s contribution
to the broader bilateral defence relationship with Singapore. Australia gains
considerable benefits from this relationship. One example is access to SAF
facilities in Singapore and to SAF courses. Providing the RSAF access to the
AAC for these reasons is consistent with Australia’s broader policy of regional
engagement, whereby positive defence relations with countries in the region are
developed. These relationships develop the ADF’s military capability and help
to support Defence partnerships in the region, which are vital for the
promotion of Australia’s strategic objectives. The proposed Agreement will
also benefit Australian commercial enterprises through access to commercial
arrangements with the RSAF.
Due to the ongoing use of the AAC by the RSAF since 1997, failure to
renew the 1997 Agreement by entering into the proposed Agreement would
undermine Australia’s longstanding political, defence and trade relationship
with Singapore. This is particularly true given that the proposed Agreement is
broadly similar to the 1997 Agreement. The proposed Agreement will maintain
and extend existing requirements under the 1997 Agreement, including those
governing the day-to-day activities of the RSAF helicopter squadron at the AAC.
The Agreement defines the obligations, division of responsibilities and
costing arrangements between Australia and Singapore for the deployment of up
to 16 helicopters and accompanying RSAF personnel to the AAC until 31 December
The Agreement reflects changes to policy during the past 15 years and
brings these arrangements in line with similar agreements and arrangements
between Australia and Singapore, in particular, the Agreement
between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore
concerning the Use of Shoalwater Bay Training Area and the Use of Associated
Facilities in Australia, done at Singapore on 31 May
One of the most significant changes set out in the proposed Agreement is
improving the definition of ‘explosives’ to bring it in line with ADOD policy.
The Department of Defence explained:
Under the old agreement explosives were simply referred to as
including ammunition, bombs and rockets containing an explosive charge or
propellant. The new definition, which has been brought in since the previous
Oakey agreement was concluded, now has more detail in it:
'Explosives' are substances
manufactured with a view to producing an explosion or pyrotechnic effect. These
include, but are not limited to: bombs and warheads; missiles; artillery,
mortar, rocket and small arms ammunition; demolition charges; pyrotechnics;
clusters and dispensers; cartridge and propellant actuated devices; flares;
squibs; chaff and all similar or related items or components explosive in
In broad terms, it is designed to be a far more
all-encompassing definition, and is something that has become best practice
since this agreement was first drafted 15 years ago.
Notwithstanding this amendment, there are no explosives stored at the
Other significant changes include:
increasing the number of RSAF helicopters stationed at the AAC
updates throughout the treaty to reflect changed responsibilities
for base and airspace management at the AAC and within the ADOD; and
the addition of more extensive provisions, including those
relating to ADOD procedures with regard to the RSAF helicopter squadron noise
abatement procedures, facilities, security, disciplinary policies, the use of
Australian commercial enterprises and financial arrangements. The proposed
increased number of aircraft is regarded as being sustainable by the ADOD
without disrupting Australian training or operational requirements at the AAC.
Article 1 sets out definitions of key terms used in the proposed
Article 2 sets out the scope of the proposed Agreement.
Article 3 sets out obligations relating to the conduct of the
RSAF helicopter squadron activities at the AAC for the purpose of training to
maintain flying skills and operational capabilities.
All RSAF activities in Australia shall be conducted in accordance
with Australian laws, regulations, policies and procedures, and RSAF activities
at the AAC are to be conducted in accordance with the rules, procedures and
standard operating procedures applied to other users of the Centre, including
Article 4 sets out the RSAF helicopter squadron’s composition, in
terms of aircraft, equipment and personnel. It restricts the helicopter
squadron to 16 helicopters, unless otherwise mutually determined, and requires
the RSAF to advise all details of the aircraft forming the RSAF helicopter
squadron to the Commander AAC.
Australia is obliged to facilitate the entry and exit of
contractors to and from Australia in a manner consistent with the Exchange of
Notes constituting a Status of Forces Agreement between the Government of
Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore, done at
Singapore on 10 February 1988 (the SOFA). Proposed paragraph 9 of Article 4
prohibits the RSAF from using or storing explosives and other weapons without
prior written ADOD approval.
Article 5 governs RSAF flying operations at the AAC.
RSAF flying operations at the AAC shall not be undertaken unless
compliance with relevant rules and procedures can be assured to the
satisfaction of Australia.
Article 6 provides that the provision of ADOD administrative and
other support to the RSAF Helicopter Squadron is to be mutually determined in
an Implementing Arrangement.
Article 7 obliges Singapore to arrange private residential
accommodation for its personnel and dependants in Australia.
Article 8 requires the Parties to consult on any implications for
facilities related to the RSAF helicopter squadron operations.
Australia may provide additional land on which Singapore may
build new facilities required by the RSAF helicopter squadron, but is not
obliged to do so.
Article 9 requires the RSAF to inform the Commander AAC in
writing before introducing or removing aircraft, vehicles and equipment to or
from the AAC and to provide reasons where such material is removed back to
Article 10 deals with security. The ADOD holds the primary
responsibility for security of the AAC. Singapore shall be responsible for any
increased charges incurred by the ADOD as a result of providing security for
facilities used by RSAF.
Paragraph 2 requires Australia and Singapore to comply with the Agreement
between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of
Singapore for the Reciprocal Protection of Classified Information transmitted
between the Australian Department of Defence and the Singapore Ministry of
Defence, done at Canberra on 15 October 1996.
Article 11 applies the disciplinary and criminal jurisdiction
provisions set out in the SOFA to RSAF personnel and accompanying dependants.
Article 12 requires the RSAF to ensure that all RSAF personnel
are medically and dentally fit prior to their arrival in Australia and requires
the RSAF to be responsible for the continuing medical and dental support of RSAF
personnel in Australia.
Article 13 requires Singapore to demonstrate a practical
commitment to supporting Australian Commercial Enterprises and to require its
contractors to demonstrate such a commitment, subject to certain limitations.
Article 14 requires Singapore to pay for goods, services and
facilities provided by the ADOD for the conduct of RSAF activities pursuant to
the proposed Agreement on a full cost recovery basis.
Article 15 sets out how claims will be handled by the Parties.
The SOFA is to apply to the settlement of claims.
Article 16 requires that disputes arising under the proposed
Agreement or any Implementing Arrangements be settled in the first instance by
negotiation between the Parties through nominated liaison officers.
No changes to national laws, regulations or policies are required to
implement the Agreement. The proposed Agreement will not effect any change to
the existing roles of the Australian Government or the State and Territory
The Agreement does not impose any foreseeable direct
financial costs on Australia, except that Australia may compensate
Singapore for the residual value of any RSAF facilities that Australia intends
to use following termination of the Agreement. Australia also
does not receive any direct financial benefit under the proposed Agreement,
except through the contracting of Australian commercial enterprises. All
support provided by Australia to activities under the proposed Agreement is on
a full cost recovery basis except for shared support, which is calculated on a
pro-rata basis of direct costs. Termination or expiration of the proposed
Agreement will not extinguish any debts incurred while the proposed Agreement
is in force.
Indirect financial benefits of the deployment
In terms of maintenance and supporting Australian
commercial enterprises, the Singaporeans are described as ‘model tenants’. The
Department of Defence explained further:
…the Singapore Air Force is required under the terms of the
agreement to source from Australian commercial enterprises services to repair
and maintain aircraft deployed in Australia pursuant to the proposed
agreement. More than fifteen years ago the Singapore Air Force was not there,
but there is a whole raft of things that are now opportunities for businesses
that would not be there were it not for the presence of Singapore.
…of the workforce that provides the maintenance support to
the Singaporean helicopter fleet at Oakey, [a] minimum of two-thirds of that
workforce are to be Australian nationals. Singapore exceeds that obligation,
with approximately 90 per cent of the workforce being Australian national. With
regards to a dollar figure, at the beginning of each year of the agreement, a
commercial support estimate is conducted on how much maintenance support will
be required of those helicopters. For the last two years it has run between
$11 million and $15 million as an estimate of the obligation for the Singaporeans
to include as Australian content. On both occasions they have exceeded that
The Committee also heard evidence that the RSAF
deployment to Oakey brings financial benefits to the local area.
…it has been our experience over the last fifteen years that
we have observed a valuable net benefit not just for those directly contracted
services but also for the local community. It pretty much
goes without saying that the Singaporean personnel, those family members who
accompany them and the contractors employed to help the additional support
requirements that Singapore has will in turn be members of the local community;
they will buy things from local businesses and use their services. So in that
regard we are confident that it is good for the local community.
The Committee has heard strong evidence that the existing 1997 Agreement
forms part of a positive security relationship between the Republic of
Singapore and the Commonwealth of Australia. The Singaporeans are seen as
‘model tenants’, and have been more than fulfilling their obligations under the
Agreement as it stands. Apart from formal commitments to support Australian commercial
enterprises through aircraft maintenance and the like, the deployment of the
RSAF helicopter squadron has also brought economic benefits to the local
The security relationship between Singapore and Australia – of which
this Agreement is a part – also contributes positively to the ADF gaining
access to sophisticated technology and Singaporean training facilities. This
relationship stands as a positive example of the Defence Department’s
international engagement with South-east Asia.
Given the apparent success of the 1997 Agreement through the positive evidence
the Committee has received, the Committee supports the continuation of the RSAF
deployment at Oakey through the proposed Agreement and recommends that binding
treaty action be taken.
||The Committee supports the Agreement between the
Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore
concerning the Location of a Republic of Singapore Air Force Helicopter
Squadron at the Australian Army Aviation Centre Oakey done at Singapore on 1
June 2012 and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.