Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore concerning Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia
Singapore has conducted military training in Australia for almost 30 years. Singapore’s military training in Australia has become central to Australia and Singapore’s military relationship.
To date, Australia and Singapore have concluded two military training treaties:
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 (2009); and
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 (2012).
The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore concerning Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia (the proposed Agreement) will permit Singapore to expand its military training facilities at Shoalwater Bay and develop a new training centre at Greenvale in Queensland. The proposed Agreement identifies the land areas, facilities and infrastructure to be developed. In addition, the proposed Agreement permits the Singaporean military to undertake training at these facilities.
The proposed Agreement will replace the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore concerning Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia, (the MOU) which has covered these matters since 2016. Work preparing the training areas commenced in 2016 under the MOU.
According to the National Interest Analysis (NIA), the proposed Agreement is a key action under Australia’s 2015 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Singapore, which sets out a longer term plan to deepen collaboration in all areas of bilateral relations including defence. The NIA states that:
The Agreement contributes to Australia’s national interest by continuing to strengthen the bilateral defence relationship with Singapore, which is a close defence partner with a shared commitment to regional stability.
According to Mr Peter Tesch, Deputy Secretary Strategy, Policy and Industry, Department of Defence, the proposed Agreement also supports the Defence Strategic Update, launched by the Prime Minister and Defence Minister in July 2020, which prioritises engagement with South-East Asia.
Elevating the existing memorandum of understanding to a treaty will provide long-term certainty for both countries …
A range of facilities and infrastructure will be built at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Greenvale Training Area and in associated locations to support Singapore’s training needs.
Singapore will fund the development of the training areas, including the cost of acquiring land and the construction of facilities and infrastructure. The NIA states that commercial suppliers will be used for this work.
Singapore has capped its proposed investment at $AU2.25 billion.
Australia will manage all development activities, including the acquisition of land and entering into contracts for construction. In doing so, Australia will give priority to Australian businesses in the vicinity of the training areas.
According to Mrs Ese Rainey, Director Program Development and Delivery, Capital Facilities and Infrastructure, Department of Defence:
Defence has what it calls a local industry capability plan. It is included as a contractual document within the construction and delivery of the facilities by the prime contractor. It identifies how we are going to go out and engage with the local subcontractor market in order to maximise opportunities for those to actually be engaged from an economic benefit standpoint on the delivery of the various subcontractor packages. We have in the order of 160 work packages of which 47 have been awarded to date. Of those, $82 million has gone to local businesses in the Shoalwater Bay region.
This approach is supported by the Rockhampton Regional Council (RRC), which is adjacent to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area:
As the frequency and scale of the training activities increases under the Agreement, the Rockhampton Region has the necessary capacity and infrastructure to support and facilitate any requirements for additional facilities to accommodate accordingly. RRC supports increased involvement by the [Singapore Armed Forces] in implementation of the Agreement via value-added activities that include the greater use of local suppliers, increased equipment maintenance undertaken locally, housing to accommodate additional permanent personnel, and activities during scheduled local leave/R&R is also available.
Mrs Rainey advised the Committee that:
The nature of the facilities being delivered is predominantly what we would refer to as civil infrastructure … but there are also things like living-in accommodation and military-style hospital facilities that we will deliver, as well as runways, road networks and the like as part of the project.
Article 10 of the proposed Agreement provides the facilities and infrastructure development is subject to certain conditions, including:
funding being received from Singapore;
the costs incurred by Australia not exceeding the funding cap of $AU2.25 billion;
required approvals being in place;
the development not impeding Australian Defence Force training; and
relevant land or associated rights being obtained.
Singapore will be responsible for the costs of its training activities under the proposed Agreement, including a proportion of costs for the upkeep of the training areas, facilities and infrastructure it uses.
Australia would provide maintenance of all training areas and facilities, and must supply certain types of goods or services … to Singapore.
Singapore can also request goods and services from Australia through logistics or other channels. In addition, Australian Defence Force personnel will provide some types of support for the training activities.
The proposed Agreement also establishes a set of requirements in relation to Singaporean personnel training in Australia:
personnel and their dependants being subject to Australian criminal jurisdiction as agreed in the 1988 Status of Forces Agreement;
military discipline of Singaporean personnel being the responsibility of a Singaporean commander;
Singaporean personnel being medically fit and complying with health and biosecurity requirements while in Australia;
Singaporean personnel who are performing ongoing support functions in support of Singapore’s training, and their dependants, being permitted to stay in Australia for up to three years; and
Singaporean personnel needing to comply with Australian workplace health and safety requirements at training areas and facilities.
The Committee considers the proposed Agreement represents another step forward in the close relationship between the Australian and Singaporean militaries. The proposed Agreement will provide Singapore with training facilities larger than those available in Singapore. It will also provide significant investment in regions of Queensland that rely heavily on tourism, and have consequently suffered during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee 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 Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.