New Delhi: Anthony Albanese defeated incumbent Scott Morrison to become Australia’s Prime Minister-elect Saturday, leading his Labor Party to victory for the first time in almost a decade.
The 59-year-old will take office at a time when inflation and living costs are rising, relations between Canberra and Beijing are wrought and key free-trade agreements are yet to be finalised, including the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA).
In his victory speech, Albanese spoke about making Australia a renewable energy superpower, establishing a national anti-corruption commission and strengthening the country’s universal healthcare system. “Tomorrow, together, we begin the work of building a better future. A better future for all Australians,” he said.
Albanese will be sworn in Monday, just in time to attend the second round of in-person Quad summit with his Japanese, Indian and American counterparts in Tokyo on 24 May. The career politician termed the meeting an “absolute priority” during a post-election event Sunday.
While congratulating the Australian PM-elect, PM Modi wrote on Twitter that he looks forward to working towards strengthening India and Australia’s “shared priorities” in the Indo-Pacific region. India and Australia are yet to finalise the terms of ECTA – a free trade agreement, the first phase of which was signed by the outgoing Morrison government last month.
Who is Anthony Albanese?
Born in March 1963 in Sydney, Anthony Albanese was raised by a single mother in a working-class neighbourhood. He entered politics at a young age, joining the Labor Party as a teenager and is one of the longest serving politicians in Australia.
After finishing school, he worked briefly for the Commonwealth Bank before studying economics at the University of Sydney. He then worked with the New South Wales left faction of the Labor Party, later becoming assistant secretary of New South Wales Labor.
His first electoral win was in 1996 when he won the seat of Grayndler in New South Wales.
According to an op-ed in The Sydney Morning Herald written by his friend and fellow Labor Party member, Alex Bukarica, Albanese’s mother Maryanne has played a critical role in his life.
“To understand Anthony Albanese, it is necessary to know a bit about Maryanne, who remains such a powerful influence in her son’s life. The relationship between Anthony and Maryanne was as close a relationship between a parent and child as I have seen,” wrote Bukarica, adding that Maryanne’s chronic rheumatoid arthritis deepened the bond between mother and son.
Albanese even used his victory speech to emphasise the need to fix the “crisis in aged care” in Australia.
In 2016, in a biography titled ‘Albanese: Telling it Straight’, the politician had revealed a long-held family secret – his mother had led him to believe that his father died in a car accident. It was only when Albanese was 14 that his mother explained how she had met his father overseas, the two fell in love and she got pregnant, but the couple decided to part ways since his father was already engaged to someone from his native town in Italy.
“I think that the whole guilt associated with having a child out of wedlock in 1963 as a young Catholic woman was a big deal,” Albanese told the media after the release of the biography.
After Maryanne’s death in 2002, Albanese tracked down his father, Carlo, and kept in touch with him until the latter’s death in 2014.
Road ahead for PM-elect
PM-elect Albanese now faces a major challenge with China, which is Australia’s largest trading partner. The bilateral relationship has been strained ever since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 in 2020, prompting Beijing to halt some Australian imports like coal, beef and wine.
In a televised debate between him and Scott Morrison earlier this month, Albanese had called the security pact between China and Solomon Islands a “massive foreign policy failure” on the part of the Morrison-led conservative government.
“Some have commented that it has been the biggest failure since the Second World War,” Albanese said during the debate, jokingly adding that the Pacific Step-up – an Australian government programme that encourages partnerships with its Pacific neighbours – is more like a “Pacific stuff-up”.
Last month, China signed a first-of-its-kind security pact with the island nation, fuelling fears in Canberra that it could pave the way for Beijing to set up a military base in the Solomon Islands.
“..It’s more forward-leaning, it’s more aggressive. That means that Australia of course must respond,” Albanese had said about the Chinese Communist Party.
Anthony Albanese has also promised stronger action on climate change and doubling down on Australia’s goal to cut carbon emissions.
“There will be some changes in policy, particularly with regard to climate change, and our engagement with the world on these issues,” the 59-year-old said leader during an event Sunday.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)