Abbott gives Davos a taste of G20

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told the world that Australia will use its G20 presidency to urge nations to abolish protectionism and open up to more free trade.

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In his keynote address delivered to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Mr Abbott outlined Australia’s agenda for the hosting of November’s G20 summit in Brisbane, again promising there would be positive, practical outcomes and more than just a “talk-fest”.

In a well-received 20-minute speech delivered to world and business leaders, Mr Abbott also strongly emphasised the importance of individual nations sticking to the fundamentals of economics to promote global growth and further recovery from the global financial crisis.

He encouraged promoting sustainable private-sector-led growth and avoiding “government-knows-best action for action’s sake”.

Also taking a chance to talk up his new government’s ambition on a global stage, Mr Abbott said G20 member nations may find Australia as a good example to follow.

The address, a tradition for the nominated chair of the G20, was the culmination of Abbott’s three-day visit to the Swiss alpine town, where he has been busy outlining Australia’s G20 vision and meeting with international counterparts.

He made clear in Wednesday’s speech that freer trade would be a priority at this year’s G20, saying “as always, trade comes first” and “we should all be missionaries for free trade”.

Also high on the agenda will be discussions on ways to increase infrastructure investment, countering tax havens and financial reform.

In what at times bordered on an economic lecture, Mr Abbott stressed “real progress is built on clear fundamentals” and said “you can’t spend what you haven’t got”.

He accused the former Labor government of trying to spend its way to prosperity.

“Governments can be like addicts in search of a fix,” he said.

“But after the recent election, Australia is under new management and open for business.”

Mr Abbott outlined to the forum a range of his government’s planned initiatives, including scrapping the carbon tax and mining taxes, negotiating free-trade agreements with South Korea, Japan, China, India and Indonesia and implementing measures such as the “fair dinkum” paid parental leave scheme.

He said these meant Australia set a good example for other countries.

Abbott closed by stressing “better governance is not the same as more government”.

His address was preceded by the screening of a Australian promotional video while he opened by saying “the snow might be outside but it’s very warm in every sense in this theatre.”

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