September 26, 2014 – 9:09AM
Chief political correspondent
NEW YORK: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has lauded Australia’s “lead-by-example” approach, listing four challenges facing the world, but conspicuously leaving out climate change – the subject of a special leaders’ summit earlier this week that he had studiously avoided.
In a workman-like speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Mr Abbott spoke of what he called “darkening times” facing the world, listing in particular the “murderous rage” of Islamic State (also known as ISIL) in Syria and Iraq; Russian “aggression” in Ukraine; the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and a stubbornly flatlining global economy.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Climate change by contrast, was mentioned only in the context of being easier to fix once higher economic growth is achieved.
He said Australians had “never believed we can save the world single-handedly, [but] nor have we shrunk from shouldering our responsibilities”.
However, when it came to his naming government priorities to support his arguments, he nominated scrapping the carbon price as his number one example.
This was despite an apparently emerging global consensus in favour of tough new co-ordinated action to cut emissions, and despite the fact that US President Barack Obama had opened the climate summit by warning that climate change, ahead of terrorism, was the “urgent and growing” existential threat to the world in the longer term.
“For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week – terrorism, instability, inequality, disease – there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate,” Mr Obama told the world.
“Nobody gets a pass … nobody can stand on the sidelines on these issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.”
In his General Assembly address, Mr Abbott offered a different perspective.
“Rather than preaching, we’re trying to lead by example,” Mr Abbott told the spectacular but mostly empty UN General Assembly chamber.
“Australia has abolished the carbon tax, abolished the mining tax, provided environmental approvals for $800 billion worth of new projects and begun the task of eliminating our budget deficit within four years.”
The mostly pedestrian speech covered off the main areas of concern to Australia including pre-G20 agenda-setting to emphasise the need for countries to build their economies up through structural efficiencies, freer trade, and targeted investment in economic infrastructure.
“Our G20 goal is to boost output by an extra 2 per cent over the next five years to create millions of jobs and to generate trillions in wealth right around the world,” he said.
“Likewise the post-2015 Development Agenda should focus on economic growth because growth makes every other social goal, even tackling climate change, easier to accomplish.
“To people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, talk of economic growth can seem ignorant or indulgent, but economic growth is really just economists’ shorthand for more jobs, higher pay, new industries, and the better life that only greater wealth can provide.”
However, on the subject of Russian support for Ukrainian separatists whom Mr Abbott said had shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, Messrs Obama and Abbott were firmly on the same page, with both calling on Russia to respect the post World War II international order and its system of legal norms.
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald