Tony Abbott has looked to Singapore’s experience in de-radicalisation as Australia monitors fresh terror attacks abroad and threats at home.
The prime minister’s visit to Khadijah Mosque’s successful program came on his first of two days in the city-state, on a visit aimed at strengthening ties in defence and security, and trade and investment.
Mr Abbott says Singapore has long-term experience in “detoxing” people from radicalism, whereas for Australia, it is early days.
“I was very pleased to see their confidence that it was possible to turn people back from this dreadful, dreadful abyss,” he said.
“Because the more people succumb to that, the worse the abyss that all of us could face in the years and decades to come.”
Australia has not raised its domestic terror alert level after Friday’s attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, in which more than 60 people were killed.
However the prime minister warned Australians that Islamic State was “coming after us”.
The religious rehabilitation group he visited in Singapore was established after a branch of terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah was discovered in December 2001, with plans to attack targets including the Australian High Commission.
The centre’s volunteers are said to have conducted more than 1500 counselling sessions and de-radicalised more than 60 people.
Mr Abbott was set to meet Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over an Aussie-style barbecue on Sunday night, ahead of inking a new bilateral agreement.
The comprehensive strategic partnership will draw both countries closer in the fields of the economy, foreign affairs, defence and security, and people-to-people ties.
Mr Abbott said he wanted to boost the existing free trade agreement with Singapore, already Australia’s fifth-largest two-way trading partner.
The visit is his first chance to take the northern Australia white paper to Asian investors, vital for making the vision for a new economic powerhouse into a reality.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb, WA Premier Colin Barnett, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk joined the roundtable talks with Australian CEOs from Lend Lease, Woodside and Hancock Prospecting, among others.
The Singapore investors were told about the promising “next frontier”.
“Obviously it’s important that we respect our pristine environment, but nevertheless, we do need to make so much more of north Australia than we have up until now,” Mr Abbott said.
The visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between Australia and Singapore.