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 country’s top job after being raised in social housing by a mother single person receiving a disability pension would reflect the changing fabric of the country.
The 59-year-old career politician, who described himself as the only candidate with a ‘non-Anglo Celtic name’ to run for prime minister in the office’s 121-year existence, referred to his humble education in central Sydney. suburb of Camperdown while thanking 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 disabled pensioner, who grew up in public accommodation on the road in Camperdown, can stand before you tonight as Prime Minister of Australia “Albanese told jubilant supporters after firing Scott Morrison from office to end nine years of Tory rule.
“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamed of a better life for me. And I hope my journey in life inspires Australians to aim for the stars,” he said. -he declares.
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 minor parties who won seats in Saturday’s election, in results that analysts described as extremely complicated and which also reflected the face of modern Australia.
With the count set to continue for several days as mail-in votes are counted, one prospect that emerged was that Albanese may have to be sworn in as caretaker prime minister to attend Tuesday’s Quad summit in Tokyo. with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Biden congratulated Albanese on his election victory in a phone call on Sunday, the White House said, and reaffirmed Washington’s “unwavering commitment to the US-Australia alliance and its intention to work closely with the new government to make it even stronger”.
Australian National University constitutional law expert professor Donald Rothwell said Australia’s Governor-General, the representative of the country’s ultimate head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, would not be “willing to swear in Albanian as ‘interim prime minister’ until the results are much clearer. »
Albanese, speaking to reporters on Sunday morning, simply said he would be among “five people to be sworn in tomorrow (Monday)” before attending the Quad meeting and then returning to Australia on Wednesday when “we let’s get to work.” .” The four colleagues he mentioned included lawmakers set to step into key financial portfolios and his deputy chief.
The election was a clear rebuke to Australia’s traditional two-party system, both for Labor and the heavily defeated Conservative coalition led by outgoing Liberal Prime Minister Morrison. Major parties bled votes from fringe parties and independents, including in many seats considered Labor or coalition strongholds.
Needing 76 seats in the lower house, the House of Representatives, to govern in its own right, Labor was voted the winner in 72 on Sunday night, with 71% of the votes counted, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The Liberal-National coalition led by just 52, a drastic drop from its mere majority of 76 in the 2019 poll. Analysts described the result as a fierce rejection of Morrison and his team’s management of numerous issues during her three-year tenure, 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 independent candidates or minor parties. Of these, three were from the environment-focused Green Party and 12 were non-aligned politicians, with up to nine of these so-called teal independents. Labor may need the backing of some of those winners, depending on who gets the still undecided seven seats.
In a new wave of Australian politics, teal independents are being marketed as a shade greener than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue color and want stronger government action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than it does that the government or the Labor Party are proposing.
Most of their successful candidates are women, their rise seen in part as a repudiation of Morrison for his handling of gender issues, including the sexual harassment scandals that rocked Parliament during his last three-year term. .
While Labor will form a majority or minority government, the two main parties have lost ground, with support for the coalition dropping more than 6% from the 2019 election and Labor’s vote dropping by around 1.2 % Sunday morning.
Albanese promised to bring Australians together, increase investment in social services and “end the climate wars”.
Speaking to reporters as he walked his dog through his electorate on Sunday morning, he spoke of a more cooperative approach to parliamentary business – perhaps inevitable if Labor cannot form a majority government – and described his victory as “a great moment”.
“It’s something that is a big moment in my life, but what I want is 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.
Greens leader Adam Bandt echoed that view, saying his party wanted to work with the next government to “tackle the climate crisis” and that an “inequality crisis” he said threatened Australia.
“The Liberal vote went down, the Labor vote went down,” he told reporters. “More people have turned to the Greens than ever before…because we said politics should be done differently.”
Albanese, who revealed in a 2016 interview that he had been reunited with his biological father in Italy in 2009, four years before he died, said his last name and that of new Senate Government Leader Penny Wong, which is of Chinese descent, reflected a modern style and multi-cultural Australia.
“I think that’s fine… someone with a non-Anglo-Celtic surname is the leader of the House of Representatives and someone with a surname like Wong is the leader of the government in the Senate,” did he declare.
Labor has promised more financial aid and a strong social safety net as Australia grapples with the highest inflation since 2001 and soaring property prices.
The party also plans to raise the minimum wage and, on the foreign policy front, it has proposed establishing a Pacific Defense School to train neighboring armies in response to China’s potential military presence in the Solomon Islands. at the gates of Australia.
He 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 step down as Liberal leader.