Australia lands tentative travel bubble deal with Singapore

·3-min read

Australia and Singapore have agreed to start work on a plan for a travel bubble which would initially allow students to return.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a brief visit to Singapore on Thursday for talks with his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.

It was the first stop for the prime minister on his way to Cornwall for the G7 leaders' summit, as well as trade and security talks in London and Paris.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the deal after visiting Singapore on Thursday. Source: AAP

Mr Morrison said Singapore had done a "tremendous" job in tackling COVID-19 and it was time to put systems in place to enable the two countries to open up in a similar way to the Australia-New Zealand bubble "when we are both in a position to do so".

"There is still some time before we reach that milestone but there is nothing impeding us - as we discussed today - from getting on with the job of putting systems in place that will enable such a bubble to emerge between Singapore and Australia," he said.

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"We discussed giving a priority to students from Singapore to be able to return to Australia to complete their studies ... and for that to occur sooner rather than later."

Travel bubble to depend on vaccine certificates

Mr Lee said at the joint media conference the world was now moving into the "next phase of the fight", in relation to the pandemic.

The "safe and calibrated" air travel bubble would start with mutual recognition of vaccine certificates, he said.

The Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris wheel located in Singapore.
Singapore, a vibrant and popular holiday destination, could soon be open to vaccinated Australians. Source: Getty/File

"When ready then we can start small with an air travel bubble to build confidence on both sides," he said.

The two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on health care and health technology and agreed to start talks on a "fintech bridge" which would make it easier to cooperate on financial technology.

As well, a "green economy" agreement will be negotiated, alongside greater collaboration on hydrogen and other low-emissions fuels.

Mr Morrison said Australia would continue to work with Singapore to ensure regional stability.

"Australia and Singapore share many things - we share history, we share trust, we share ambition."

At the G7, Mr Morrison will attend three sessions - on health, the economy and climate - and meet with US President Joe Biden, Japanese leader Yoshihide Suga and Korea's Moon Jae-in.  

After the summit he'll meet with British PM Boris Johnson in London and hold talks in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.

A Singapore Airlines flight touches down at Sydney International Airport.
The travel bubble will start with students from Singapore being able to return to Australia to complete their studies. Source: AAP/File

"There has never been a more important time for Australia to be at the table with the world's largest liberal democracies and advanced economies," Mr Morrison said in a statement.

"The global pandemic and the recession it has caused means like-minded countries and businesses need to work together to lead the global recovery to restore lives and livelihoods.

"There is a lot at stake for Australia, the region and the world."

While Mr Morrison is not expected to make any new commitments on climate, Australia is facing calls to support a so-called "carbon border adjustment mechanism" - a levy on the carbon content of emissions-intensive imports.

Mr Morrison said while tackling climate change would be a key issue, other focus areas would be preparedness for future pandemics, business-led growth, free and fair trade and the international rules-based order.

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