Anthony Albanese becomes Australia’s new Prime Minister
SYDNEY — Australians woke up on Sunday to a new prime minister in Anthony Albanese, the leader of the centre-left Labor Party whose rise to the top job in the country after growing up on public housing from a single mother on a disability pension is said to be reflecting the changes in the country mirrored fabric.
The 59-year-old career politician, who has described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo-Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the post has existed, cited his humble upbringing in the Inside the Sydney suburb of Camperdown as he thanks voters for making him the country’s 31st leader.
“It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mother who was a disability pensioner and grew up in council housing in Camperdown can stand before you tonight as Australia’s Prime Minister,” Albanese told jubilant Scott Morrison supporters afterwards to overturn office to end nine years of Conservative rule.
“All parents want more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamed of a better life for me. And I hope my life’s journey inspires Australians to reach for the stars,” he said.
It’s unclear whether Albanese’s party could form a majority government or will have to rely on an increased number of independents and lawmakers from smaller parties who won seats in Saturday’s election, which analysts describe as extremely complicated and also the face of modern Australia.
With the count set to continue for many more days as mail-in votes are tallied, a prospect arose that Albanese may need to be sworn in as acting prime minister to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio on Tuesday at the Quad Summit in Tokyo Kishida and attend Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Biden congratulated Albanese on his election victory in a phone call on Sunday, the White House said, reaffirming Washington’s “unwavering commitment to the US-Australia alliance and its intention to work closely with the new administration to make it even stronger.”
Australian National University constitutional law expert Donald Rothwell said that Australia’s governor-general, the deputy for the country’s supreme head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, “is only willing to summon Albanese as ‘acting prime minister’ until the results are much clearer.” “
Speaking to reporters on Sunday morning, Albanese simply said he will be among the “five people to be sworn in tomorrow (Monday)” before attending the quad meeting and then returning to Australia on Wednesday when “we get down to business.” Among the four colleagues he mentioned were lawmakers set to get into key financial portfolios and his deputy chief.
The election gave Australia’s traditional two-party system a clear rebuke, for both Labor and the heavily outnumbered Conservative coalition led by outgoing Liberal Party Prime Minister Morrison. The main parties bled votes to fringe parties and independents, including in many seats considered Labor or coalition strongholds.
Labor needed 76 seats in the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, to govern independently and, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. named the winner of 72 with 71% of the vote on Sunday night.
The Liberal-National coalition was ahead by just 52 points – drastically below their bare majority of 76 in the 2019 poll. Analysts described the result as a strong rejection of how Morrison and his team addressed many issues during his three-year tenure, including climate, COVID -19, women’s rights, political integrity and natural disasters such as bush fires and floods.
A total of 15 seats were declared for independents or candidates from smaller parties. Of these, three were from the environmentally-centric Green Party and 12 were non-aligned politicians, with up to nine of these so-called blue-green independents. Labor may need the support of some of these winners depending on who secures the seven-seat tie.
In a new wave of Australian politics, the blue-green independents are being marketed as greener than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue color and want stronger government action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than government or Labor are proposing.
Most of her successful candidates are women, whose rise is seen in part as a rebuff from Morrison for his handling of gender issues, including sexual harassment scandals, which have rocked Parliament during his last three-year term.
While Labor is set to form either a majority or minority government, both major parties lost ground, with support for the coalition down more than 6% from the 2019 election and Labor votes down about 1.2% on Sunday morning.
Albanese pledged to bring Australians together, increase investment in social services and “end the climate wars”.
Speaking to reporters while walking his dog in his constituency on Sunday morning, he evoked a more cooperative approach to parliamentary affairs – perhaps inevitable if Labor fails to form a majority government – and described his victory as “a really big moment”. .
“It’s something that’s a big moment in my life, but I want it to be a big moment for the country,” he said. “I want to change the country. I want to change the way politics works in this country.”
Green Party leader Adam Bandt agreed, saying his party wants to work with the next government to “tackle the climate crisis” and an “inequality crisis” threatening Australia, he said.
“The Liberal vote went down, the Labor vote went down,” he told reporters. “More people than ever have turned to the Greens… because we said politics needs to be done differently.”
Albanese, who revealed in a 2016 interview that he tracked down his birth father in Italy in 2009, four years before his death, said his surname and that of the government’s new Senate leader, Penny Wong, who is of Chinese descent, reflect modern times , multi-cultural Australia.
“I think it’s good … someone with a non-Anglo-Celtic surname is the Speaker of the House and someone with a surname like Wong is the Senate leader,” he said.
Labor has pledged more financial support and a robust social safety net as Australia grapples with its highest inflation since 2001 and soaring house prices.
The party also plans to raise minimum wages, and on the foreign policy front it proposed establishing a Pacific Defense School to train neighboring armies on Australia’s doorstep in response to China’s potential military presence in the Solomon Islands.
It aims to tackle climate change with a more ambitious 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
Morrison, who became prime minister after an intra-party coup in 2018, said he would step down as leader of the Liberals.