December 20, 2013


Australia and Canada: a conservative bromance (Colin Horgan, 12/19/13,

Perhaps not since Harper recited one of Howard's speeches verbatim, without credit, in the House of Commons, have the Canadian and Australian governments been reading so closely from the same page. The two nations were jointly responsible for blocking a Commonwealth initiative to establish a climate fund for poor nations in November; Abbott has, as Harper did, promised to squash asylum seekers landing ashore by boat from Asia; and Abbott's platform carried the promise of further mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes. The Harper government has already implemented the same for some sexual and drug offences. 

So when Abbott's government killed the Australian carbon tax, it was little surprise that the loudest cheer came from Ottawa. The prime minister's parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, told the House that Canada "applauds" the decision, and that Abbott's move "sends an important message." Which is true for a few reasons.

It was important for the Conservative government for purely rhetorical uses. It provided fresh fodder for a tired, farcical talking point against Canada's opposition New Democrats, who the government alleges would implement something similar if ever given power.

Also important: it clearly showed the Harper Conservatives have a staunch ideological ally - finally.

The fact that the two parties and leaders are allies isn't a total shock. The parallels between Abbott and Harper were easily drawn months ago. Both are economists. Both are young. Both were grown into leaders after long-term grassroots participation in conservatism. And just as easily linked are the messaging strategies, borne from continued and very close relationship between the Canadian Conservative and Australian Liberal parties. Abbott's election night promise of guaranteeing a government "that is competent, that is trustworthy, and which purposefully and steadfastly and methodically sets about delivering on our commitments," would sound nice (and familiar) to Harper's "strong, stable, national Conservative majority government." 

And Conservatives will tell you the Liberals have recently turned to Harper and his team for guidance, and found a very welcoming ear. They had to return the favour, after all. Earlier this decade key figures within the Conservative party like strategic planner Patrick Muttart, were studying Australia's successes - particularly Howard's ability to covet the working- and middle-class. They adopted and adapted aspects of it to eventual success. That's useful for both sides, if only to do what Calandra did and justify each other's existence and continued power.

Posted by at December 20, 2013 6:30 PM

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