Australia’s High Commissioner finds renewed optimism in Canada
Tony Negus, Australia’s High Commissioner to Canada, was in Canberra in April to attend several high level meetings on the Canadian-Australian relationship, but found time in his packed schedule to make a quick visit to Sydney where he addressed 25 members of the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC).
At a lunch held at Thomson Geer, a CACC corporate sponsor, Mr Negus briefed the audience on the current business climate in Canada and showcased the warm relationship Australia and Canada have long enjoyed, noting the countries had much in common and were open to business and working together.
In a wide ranging speech which touched on everything from bilateral trade and investment to coping with snow, Mr Negus said he had observed increased optimism in Canada under the new Trudeau government and a ‘lifted sense of place in the world’ with the country renewing its commitment to multilateral institutions like the United Nations, its much-lauded peace keeping role, and its reputation as a problem solver and honest broker in the political spectrum.
Mr Negus said Canadian and Australian relations remained strong at the highest level with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau having quickly forged a good relationship whilst engaging at the G20 Summit, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and other recent gatherings on the world stage.
He felt the Australian Government would be interested to watch the progress of the Trudeau Government in Indigenous Affairs after its recent announcement to invest $8 billion over five years in projects to improve the lives of its First Nations people, who share similar challenges to the Indigenous populations in Australia.
Mr Negus also said Canada and Australia share a common purpose as members of the coalition determined to defeat the terrorist group ISIL.
On a festive note, Mr Negus hoped that, whatever the outcome of the upcoming Australian Federal election, the Australian Prime Minister or Governor General might attend the celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017 in Ottawa.
Helping each other’s citizens abroad
Mr Negus said relations between the countries’ two foreign affairs bureaus were amongst the strongest in the world. “Many Australians and Canadians are unaware that our governments have a policy of providing assistance to each other’s citizens abroad for emergencies in countries where one country or the other does not have an embassy,” he said.
He observed that though Canada and Australia were not ‘natural trading partners’ as they trade in similar resources, nevertheless there was a significant amount of investment –between us, with Canada investing $35 billion in Australia and Australia investing $45 billion in Canada in the last year.
He noted the lower Canadian dollar has resulted in an upturn in manufacturing and increased exports, but investment in mining and energy is decreasing. Domestic consumption remains flat, with analysts stating that people are afraid to spend due to uncertainty about the economy.
Mr Negus also discussed how Canada was trying to branch out from its dependency on natural resources to being a smart, clean and green tech-focused country for the 21st century.
He briefed the audience on Prime Minister Trudeau’s election promise and recent budget announcement to run a deficit budget of $10 billion a year over four years (now increased to $30 billion) and balancing it after that. The government will focus on environment, public transit and affordable housing, issues that are of interest to the Australian Government as well.
Mr Negus took questions from the audience on a variety of topics ranging from security to investment.
The former Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mr Negus stepped down in September 2014 after five years in the role, and took up his duties as High Commissioner to Canada in January 2015.
At the lunch, he was introduced by Chamber President Brian Hansen who acted as MC for the event. In his remarks, Mr Hansen thanked Thomson Geer partner, John Howard and Rhonda Pigott, Director of the NSW State Office for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for organising the briefing.