Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was dramatically booted from office on Monday after a putsch within his ruling Liberal Party. A leadership vote led to the controversial Abbott being replaced by rival Malcolm Turnbull. The new premier will serve out the coalition government's remaining term before parliamentary elections are held next year.
Turnbull and Abbott have clashed in the past, most conspicuously on the subject of climate change. Abbott is one of the Western world's leading climate-change skeptics and has repeatedly insisted that it's not worth imposing "substantial costs" on the economy with measures aimed at curbing emissions. In 2009, Turnbull, a backbencher in Abbott's party, described Abbott's climate policies as "bullsh*t." Now, though, Turnbull is toeing the party line, at least until elections.
Abbott won global notoriety for his intransigence on the matter. He was not alone, though. For years, he had a kindred spirit: Canada's Stephen Harper, another conservative prime minister from the Commonwealth.
Under Harper's watch, Canada has assumed the role of a kind of petro-state — a transformation that reflects Ottawa's apparent lack of seriousness in enacting meaningful climate-change policy. Australia and Canada earned the lowest rank among industrialized nations in the 2014 Climate Change Performance Index, compiled by various European nongovernmental organizations.
Their indifference to critics — and even their desire to muzzle them — generated little outcry outside their countries. Last year, Harper floated the idea of a "conservative alliance among 'like-minded countries' " to work against global climate-change efforts proposed by the Obama administration, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. This sort of hard-headed stance won praise among the right.
A 2013 article in the National Review hailed Harper — a hawkish nationalist — as the "Leader of the West."
But Harper is now under threat, too. Canada will hold parliamentary elections in October. Polls indicate that the contest will be an uncomfortable one for the conservative leader, who has been in power for almost a decade. Both the rival left-leaning parties aiming to oust the Conservatives have more concrete climate-change measures in their platforms.
A slump in global oil prices has hurt the Canadian economy, which Harper has so entwined with its booming western tar-sands industry. His leadership style, which critics decry as being particularly partisan and demagogic, has become widely unpopular. This is similar to the experience of Abbott, frequently pilloried as a boor and a bully. Though separated by thousands of miles, their political fates may soon echo the other.