This is a press release from MFA today:
His Excellency Gregory Hunt, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Urban Water of the Commonwealth of Australia, will visit Singapore as the 29th Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellow from 3 to 11 April 2009. During his stay, Mr Hunt will call on Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor. Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu will also host him to an official meal.
Mr Hunt will participate in a roundtable at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. He is also scheduled to attend a PAP Meet-the-People Session.
Other elements of Mr Hunt’s programme in Singapore include meetings with senior officials at the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. He will also visit the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Singapore City Gallery, the NEWater Plant, the Marina Barrage, the Changi Chapel Museum and the Night Safari.
Now I’ve never heard of Gregory Hunt, but from the red carpet treatment he is receiving from the Singapore authorities, one would assume he is some really big, influential chap in the Australian government. Well, yes and no. Technically he is not a member of the Australian Government, because he is an MP from the opposition Liberal Party. However, as a Shadow Minister he is accorded a protocol level equivalent to a minister in the government, or close to it, hence the “His Excellency” honorific.
What is interesting to note is the honour the Singapore government accords to opposition MPs of other governments. From a realpolitik standpoint, it makes sense: These leaders could, in the next election, become government ministers if their party wins the majority vote. So it is important to cultivate them.
But it is in stark contrast to the disdain demonstrate towards our own opposition politicians. Perhaps it’s because our opposition leaders have yet to reach the stature of their counterparts in other developed countries. Nevertheless it still makes political sense for the PAP to treat opposition members as persona non grata so as not to give them any credibility with the electorate.
C’est la vie…