OTTAWA — Stephen Harper solidified his government’s like-mindedness with Australia’s hard-right Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday as the two meshed their views on the environment, job creation and political manoeuvring.
There’s not a single country in the world that would take action on climate change at the expense of its own economy, Harper said as the two leaders held a joint news conference in Ottawa.
Canada wants to deal with climate change without crippling the economy, Harper said.
“No country is going to undertake actions on climate change, no matter what they say … that is going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country,” he said.
“We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking.”
For his part, Abbott made clear that while his government recognizes the issue, it does not consider tackling climate change a top priority.
“We think that climate change is a significant problem. It’s not the only or even the most important that the world faces, but it is a significant problem,” he said.
“It’s important that every country should take the action that it thinks is best to reduce emissions, because we should rest lightly on the planet.”
Still, Abbott told a business roundtable later in the day that, much like the Harper Conservatives have done, he will take further actions to reduce the “regulatory burden” that often gets in the way of job creation, and pointed to the number of environmental hurdles that have been overcome for Australian business by his government over the past nine months.
“Our aim over time is to make it significantly less burdensome,” Abbott told the roundtable as he promoted Canadian investment in Australian businesses and his country’s increasingly privatized infrastructure.
Abbott has carried an ‘open for business under new management’ sign for Australia ever since being elected to power last September, and has also made no secret of his political bromance with the Harper Conservatives.
Paying homage to Harper’s newfound role as the elder statesman — and mentor — among conservative-minded world leaders, Abbott bowed Monday to a man he called an “exemplar of centre-right leadership.”
“I cherish our first meeting back in late 2005 when you were an opposition leader, not expected to win an election,” Abbott told Harper as the two men stood at twin podiums.
“But you certainly impressed me on that day,” he added.
“Much for me to learn from the work you’ve done.”
Later, Abbott made a point of stressing the commonality between Australia and Canada to encourage Canadian business investment in Australia, if for no other reason than the two countries share similar judicial and government systems.
“We speak the same language in every sense, Abbott told his audience.
“We are such like-mind comparable countries, we are both multicultural, resource driven federations.”
As he prepared to head of to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Abbott said he was “encouraged” by regulations introduced in the United States last week to chop carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 per cent by 2030.
Harper noted that Canada has actually done more to lower carbon emissions in its electricity sector than the U.S.
“The measures outlined by President Obama, as important as they are, do not go nearly as far in the electricity sector as the actions Canada has already taken ahead of the United States in that particular sector,” he said.
American approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to move Alberta crude to the Gulf Coast, has been stalled in the U.S. while the Obama administration drops hints that Canada must do more on the environment.