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Rudd forges new defence ties with Singapore -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Australia is forging new defence ties with Singapore. In a brief stop over
in the city state, Kevin Rudd has signed an agreement designed to expand military training and
cooperation. Singapore is about to send army doctors to Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters have
again targeted Australian troops in retaliation for capturing one of their leaders. From Singapore,
Dana Robertson reports.

DANA ROBERTSON, REPOTER: Kevin Rudd the rock star. On tour in Singapore. He came to open an
Australian international school. The students who are the very embodiment of the Prime Minister's
new vision for Australia.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: What is the mission of the new Australian Government? To make it the
most Asia-literate country in the Western world.

DANA ROBERTSON: But Mr Rudd's determination to engage Australia in what he calls the Asia Pacific
century goes well beyond the schoolyard. He's now talking about a revival of the Colombo plan of
the 1950s, which brought hundreds of Asian students to Australia to study.

KEVIN RUDD: I think in some creative way we need to revisit how we expand our cooperation again
through tertiary educational opportunities.

DANA ROBERTSON: But it was defence that dominated Kevin Rudd's first visit to Singapore as Prime
Minister. His day began before dawn, honouring soldiers who fought and died defending Singapore
from the Japanese during the World War II. As the Prime Minister acknowledged their sacrifice, he
moved to strengthen Australia's modern day ties with the Singapore military, signing a new deal for
even closer cooperation.

LEE HSIEN LOONG, SINGAPOREAN PRIME MINISTER: Singapore is glad to have in Australia a close friend
and a strategic partner. Over the years we have nurtured diverse and solid ties through regular
exchanges between our leaders and officials at all levels. I'm happy to work with you and your team
to build on this long tradition.

KEVIN RUDD: Our friends from the Singaporean armed forces will soon be with us in support of our
own troops in Afghanistan, through the deployment of their medical team.

DANA ROBERTSON: The agreement coincides with the explosion of yet another roadside bomb in
Afghanistan that's injured two Australian soldiers, one of them seriously. It exploded beneath
their armoured vehicle in Oruzgan Province, but the incident soon got even worse. The medical
helicopter called in to help instead caused another casualty when a soldier on board was hurt in a
so called "hard landing".

KEVIN RUDD: Afghanistan is difficult and dangerous work. And therefore, our thoughts are always
with the troops.

DANA ROBERTSON: But while there's a lot of talk about building a stronger and deeper defence
relationship between Australia and Singapore, there's very little detail about what that would mean
on the ground. Both countries though have pledged to engage in joint operations and exercises in
humanitarian and disaster relief and search and rescue. It's an issue that's become close to the
Prime Minister's heart. In a foreign policy speech this evening he reiterated his attention to go
to the next APEC meeting with a proposal to improve regional cooperation when disaster strikes.

KEVIN RUDD: When natural disasters strike, often the only assets capable of being rapidly
effectively and immediately deployed are our armed forces. Therefore we do need, I believe, as a
region, to evolve a mechanism which enables the quick, speedy and coordinated deployment of our
relevant armed forces assets to meet the change of natural disasters as of when they arise.

KEVIN RUDD: When it comes to saving lives, he says, politics mustn't get in the way.