Albanese Elected Australia's Leader 05/22 09:03
SYDNEY (AP) -- Australians awoke on Sunday to a new prime minister in
Anthony Albanese, the center-left Labor Party leader whose ascension to the
nation's top job from being raised in social housing by a single mother on a
disability pension was said to reflect the country's changed 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 the office has existed, referred to his humble upbringing in the
inner-Sydney suburb of Camperdown while thanking electors for making him the
country's 31st leader.
"It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mom who was a
disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in
Camperdown, can stand before you tonight as Australia's prime minister,"
Albanese told jubilant supporters after tipping Scott Morrison out of office to
end nine years of conservative rule.
"Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother
dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life 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 minor party
lawmakers who won seats in Saturday's election, in results analysts described
as extremely complicated, and which also mirrored the face of modern Australia.
With counting set to continue for many days as postal votes are tallied, one
prospect that emerged was that Albanese may need to be sworn in as acting prime
minister to attend Tuesday's Quad summit in Tokyo with U.S. President Joe
Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra
Biden, asked about his message for Albanese just before he departed South
Korea on Sunday to head to Tokyo, said, "I'm looking forward to seeing him and
the Quad matters."
Biden also said he had called Albanese.
Australian National University constitutional law expert professor Donald
Rothwell said that Australia's governor general, the representative of the
country's ultimate head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, would "only be prepared
to swear in Albanese as 'Acting PM' until such time as the results are much
Albanese, speaking to reporters on Sunday morning, merely said he would be
among "five people who'll be sworn in tomorrow (Monday)" before attending the
Quad meeting, then returning to Australia on Wednesday when "we'll get down to
business." The four colleagues he mentioned included lawmakers set to step into
key financial portfolios and his deputy leader.
The election delivered a clear rebuke to Australia's traditional two-party
system, both to Labor and the heavily defeated conservative coalition led by
the Liberal party's outgoing Prime Minister Morrison. The major parties bled
votes to fringe parties and independents, including in many seats considered
Labor or coalition strongholds.
Needing 76 seats in the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, to
govern in its own right, Labor on Sunday afternoon was being called the winner
in 71, with 67% of votes counted, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The Liberal-National coalition was ahead in just 52 -- drastically down from
its bare-majority 76 in the 2019 poll. Analysts described the result as a
fierce rejection of Morrison and his team's handling of many issues in its
three-year term including climate, COVID-19, women's rights, political
integrity and natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.
A total of 15 seats had been declared for independents or minor party
candidates. Of these, three were from the environment-centric Green party and
12 were non-aligned politicians, with up to nine of those so-called teal
independents. Labor may need the support of some of those winners, depending on
who secures the seven seats still undecided.
In a new wave in Australian politics, the teal independents are marketed as
a greener shade than the Liberal Party's traditional blue color and want
stronger government action on reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions
than either the government or Labor are proposing.
Most of their successful candidates are women, their rise seen partly as a
repudiation of Morrison for his handling of gender issues including sexual
harassment scandals that have rocked Parliament during his latest three-year
While Labor will form either a majority or minority government, both major
parties lost ground, with support for the coalition dropping by more than 6%
from the 2019 election, and Labor's vote falling by around 1.2% as of Sunday
Albanese vowed to bring Australians together, increase investment in social
services and "end the climate wars."
Speaking to reporters while walking his dog in his electorate on Sunday
morning, he evoked a more cooperative approach to parliamentary business --
possibly unavoidable if Labor cannot 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 what I want it to be is
a big moment for the country," he said. "I do want to change the country. I
want to change the way that politics operates in this country."
Greens leader Adam Bandt concurred, saying his party wanted to work with the
next government to "tackle the climate crisis" and an "inequality crisis" he
said was threatening Australia.
"The Liberal vote went backwards, the Labor vote went backwards," he told
reporters. "More people turned to the Greens than ever before ... because we
said that politics needs to be done differently."
Albanese, who revealed in a 2016 interview he had tracked down his
biological father in Italy in 2009, four years before his death, said his
surname and that of new government Senate leader Penny Wong, who is of Chinese
ancestry, reflected modern, multi-cultural Australia.
"I think it's good ... someone with a non-Anglo Celtic surname is the leader
in the House of Representatives and that someone with a surname like Wong is
the leader of the government in the Senate," he said.
Labor has promised more financial assistance and a robust social safety net
as Australia grapples with the highest inflation since 2001 and soaring housing
The party also plans to increase minimum wages, and on the foreign policy
front it proposed to establish a Pacific defense school to train neighboring
armies in response to China's potential military presence on the Solomon
Islands on Australia's doorstep.
It wants 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 internal party coup in 2018,
said he would stand down as Liberal leader.