Australians woke up on Sunday with a new prime minister in Anthony Albanese, leader of the centre-left Labor Party whose rise to the top job in the country after growing up in public housing from a single mother on a disability pension, changed the fabric of the country today .
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.
However, it remained unclear whether Albanese’s party could form a majority government or will have to rely on the support of a larger number of independents and MPs from smaller parties, which won seats in Saturday’s election, which analysts described as extremely complicated and also the face reflected that of modern Australia.
With the count set to continue for many more days as absentee ballots are counted, the prospect has arisen that Albanese may need to be sworn in as acting prime minister – possibly as early as Sunday – to meet with US President Joe Biden at Tuesday’s Quad Summit in Tokyo to attend, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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 of parliament, the House of Representatives, to govern independently and, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. won 72 with 66.3% of the votes counted on Sunday morning.
The Liberal-National coalition had reached just 50 – drastically short of its sheer majority of 76 in the 2019 poll, in what analysts called a strong rejection of Morrison and his team, who addressed many issues over their three-year tenure, including climate, COVID-19 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.
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 success is seen in part as a rebuff from Morrison for his handling of gender issues, including sex scandals, that 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 in unity government, increase investment in social services and “end the climate wars”.
“My Labor team will work every day to bring Australians together. And I will lead a government worthy of the Australian people,” he said.
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.
Just ahead of Tuesday’s Quad Summit, Australian National University constitutional law expert Professor Donald Rothwell predicted Albanese could be sworn in as acting prime minister to represent the country at the Tokyo meeting.
Rothwell said Australia’s governor-general, representing Australia’s ultimate head of state Queen Elizabeth II, was not ready to swear in Albanese as prime minister as Labor had yet to secure a clear majority.
“In my view, the governor-general would only be willing to invoke Albanese as ‘acting prime minister’ until the results are much clearer,” Rothwell said in a press release.
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 also 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 intra-party coup in 2018, said he would step down as leader of the Liberals. His popularity had waned dramatically since his surprise 2019 election victory, including after a vacation to Hawaii during Australia’s devastating bushfires in the summer of 2019-20 and more recently amid the Solomon Islands’ strategic alliance with China.
Still, the former tourism marketing executive struck a defiant tone as he conceded defeat.
“We are handing over this country as a government in a stronger position than we inherited when we came to power (2013),” Morrison told a gathering of Liberal supporters in Sydney.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/ap-australia-scott-morrison-liberal-party-sydney-b2084517.html Albanese voted Australia’s leader after complex poll result