Apr 4, 2017

Address to the Lee Kuan Yew Forum

Chairman and distinguished guests.

It is a tremendous honour to be here tonight.

Three years ago now, in 2014, I last visited Singapore to attend the World Cities Summit.

There I had the privilege to hear from leaders across the world, including Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who spoke about the challenges of rapid urbanisation.

Across the Asia-Pacific, including in Australia, our cities are growing at an exponential rate.

How well we manage this growth will, in part, depend on how we use the many examples of best practice that exist across our region.

I have always been fascinated by Singapore.

It provides a global model for urban policy, particularly when it comes to public transport.

In fact, Mercer’s 2017 Quality of Living Survey ranks Singapore first for best city infrastructure.

Singapore is also leading the world when it comes to urban greenery.

Well on its way to achieving its vision of a City in a Garden, Singapore ranked first in a recent study on urban tree density.

Just this afternoon in a briefing on your National Broadband Network, it reinforced to me why a Fibre To The Home model with universal access is best practice and sees Singapore ranked 1st in the world for high speed broadband.

Your delivery model is almost identical to that which the Government I served in Australia began after our election in 2007.

There is much Australia can learn from Singapore.


Australia and Singapore have long had an excellent relationship.

This was reinforced in October last year when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed our Parliament.

Singapore is our fifth largest trading partner and our largest trade and investment partner in south-east Asia.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement plays a significant role in facilitating this.

Currently an update to this agreement is undergoing domestic treaty processes both here in Singapore and in Australia.

It provides a framework for bilateral investments.

The update also increases the recognition of a number of Australian qualifications, providing more opportunities for Australian workers in the areas of education, law, e-commerce, telecommunications and professional services.


Our cities are at a turning point.

The nature of our investment now will shape the cities of tomorrow.

Tackling the immense challenge of climate change through sustainable development is pivotal.

Just like in Singapore, Australian cities face the very serious issue of heatwaves.

In our cities, particularly the outer suburbs, which tend to be further away from coastlines, the Heat Island Effect means residents, especially the very young and elderly, are extremely vulnerable.

Urban canopy plays a critical role in reducing heat.

But a holistic strategy is also needed to ensure long-term change, which Singapore has considered through its water strategy, efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and its use of technology to ensure energy efficiency.


Last year in Quito at the Habitat III conference a New Urban Agenda was adopted with a specific focus on sustainable development.

Government participation in multi-lateral forums such as these is important.

Singapore has long been active in this space.

In his national statement at Habitat III, Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development said:

“We believe that the unique conditions and needs of each country should be recognised. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for all cities and all states, there is room for us to work together to share best practices and support each other to implement the New Urban Agenda.”

I, too, hold this view and believe we should all take interest in how countries around the world adapt and change.

This is particularly the case in such a transformative time as the 21st century.


When it comes to technology, we only ever move forward.

Access to data has transformed our capacity to understand the functioning of cities.

But it’s how we use this data that determines just how ‘smart’ our cities really are.

I understand Singapore is developing its digital twin called Virtual Singapore.

A 3D model and data platform of the whole city-state, it will be used for everything from testing how new traffic technology might work to simulating disasters.

As our cities expand, we also need to be innovative about how we build infrastructure, and how we finance it.

This is critical in Australia as each city faces its own infrastructure challenges but must grapple with the fact resources are limited.

Singapore, Asia’s infrastructure hub, has taken a leading role in the region bringing together expertise, building talent and sharing best practice.


In closing, I would like to thank you again for your warm welcome here in Singapore.

Singapore has demonstrated itself to be an exemplar when it comes to urban policy.

When governments invest in urban development we create cities that are diverse and vibrant places, rich in human experience.

I look forward to learning more on issues of sustainable development, innovation and infrastructure in the coming days.