Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

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SYDNEY – When Anthony Albanese attends the Quad Summit in Tokyo on Tuesday, the newly sworn in Australian Prime Minister will meet with the US President in a variety of mirror images.

Like Joe Biden, Albanese is a Catholic with an affinity for the working class, an experienced center-left party, and a popular if unspoken preacher who stumbles upon a divisive opponent.

But there is a significant way where there is a difference between the two leaders. Biden, 79, began planning to become president when he was a teenager, and he ran for the first White House at the age of 44. At that age, the 59-year-old Albanese said he had no idea who the leader of the Labor Party was, let alone the prime minister.

Political historian Paul Strangio said, “I did not imagine myself as a leader until the end of 2013.” “Now he is here, the prime minister of the country for only one term as the Leader of the Opposition. It’s very interesting. “

Biden called to congratulate Albanese on his victory and thank him for attending the Quad Summit, which brings together leaders from the United States, Australia, Japan and India. The Albanians were receiving foreign briefings the day after the election. He will be sworn in on Monday before leaving for Tokyo with his foreign minister, Penny Wong.

Despite his victory in the polls, Albanese could be Australia’s most unexpected prime minister. Until this weekend, his political career was slowly burning. A defeat can throw him as too cautious or kind to reach the top. Instead, Albany’s narrow victory makes him look like a cunning strategist who could reshape his country in a way that his more personally ambitious predecessors did not.

Its humble roots, meanwhile, could help Albany connect with its American rivals and keep countries on a more parallel path in the fight against climate change.

Australia ousts Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, backs action against climate change

“I think there is potential for a significant personal relationship between Biden and the Albanians,” said Michael Fulilov, executive director of the Loy Institute, a think tank in Sydney.

“They are both people of modest backgrounds who have lived extraordinary lives,” he said. “And for Biden, the personal is political.”

Albanese touched on the origins of his working class in his winning speech.

“It says a lot about our great country that the son of an unmarried mother who was a disabled pensioner who grew up in public housing down the street in Camperdown can stand before you tonight as Prime Minister of Australia,” he told a rousing crowd. .

He has often said that he grew up with three faiths: the Catholic Church, the Labor Party and the South Sydney Rabitos, a professional rugby team based in a traditionally working-class neighborhood where the Albanians grew up.

As a child, Albanese was told that his mother had met his parents while traveling abroad, and that his father had died shortly thereafter. As a teenager, his mother told him the truth.

“We sat down one night after dinner,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I think it was very painful for him to tell me that in reality this did not happen, my father might have survived, that he had met her abroad, got pregnant with me, told her and she said, basically, that someone from an Italian city. She was married to where she was from. “

“I think the whole crime involved in marrying a young Catholic woman in 1963 was a big deal,” she said. “Therefore, he went to great lengths to get my father’s name. She wore an engagement ring and a wedding ring. He – the whole family believed the story. “

Albanese cites the story as a source of his empathy for others. As a Catholic schoolboy, he attended local Labor Party meetings with his mother and grandparents. He joined the party as a teenager, was active in college and then went to work as an old man in the progressive wing of the State Party. He was elected to Parliament on his 33rd birthday. (Biden entered Congress at the age of 29.)

According to biographer and journalist Karen Middleton, unlike Biden, who kept his desire to run for president a little secret, Albanese has not shown interest in leading his party or country for nearly two decades. He was constantly promoted, helping to keep the minority labor government together. When Labor lost the 2013 election, a senior figure in the party called for a crackdown on leadership, but Albanese lost. In 2019 he got one more chance, after the labor crash.

“The team was so frustrated that no one else was willing to raise their hand,” Strangio said.

Last year, Albanese compared his own opportunity to that of Biden, who had just been inaugurated.

“There were people in this room who predicted that Donald Trump would win re-election,” he told a news conference. “But a man who was a former deputy leader and an experienced politician, who had a wide portfolio and who was despised by some, is now the president of the United States.”

Like Biden, he was criticized for being happy to let the election be a referendum on his opponent. And he was interrogated for running a small-scale campaign where he pushed back some of his party’s more ambitious policies, including reducing carbon emissions.

Albany’s moderate climate strategy hit him with some voters on election day and helped the Greens and independents get into parliament. But it did enable Labor to retain some important coal-land seats that, until Sunday, seemed like a small majority.

“It was a gamble,” Strangio said. “But the gamble paid off.”

It remains to be seen how ambitious the Albanians will be with the climate, especially if it does not need the help of its green and climate-centric independents. During the campaign he took up the issue both ways, calling for investment in renewable energy but supporting new coal mining.

In Australia’s quiet climate election, the independents can make noise

Even if he were cautious, his climate policy would be more ambitious than the outgoing Conservative Scott Morrison, whose slow move to commit to net zero by 2050 frustrated the Biden administration.

“Biden will commend an Australian government that has more ambitions about climate,” Fulilov said. He said the president would also welcome the resumption of relations between Australia and France – the countries that fell under Morrison because of a deal struck with Britain and the United States for nuclear-powered submarines.

Fulilov said it was important to see if Biden and Albanese “reconciled” when they spoke one after the other at the Quad Summit.

“Since Biden is an old school politician, I think the first meeting is important,” he said.

Australia finds itself at the forefront of new geopolitics. The Biden administration sees it as a key ally, pushing back growing Chinese resilience in the region. China started a trade dispute with Australia two years ago. And it recently hit a security deal with the Solomon Islands that some analysts fear could be a Chinese military base about 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia. (China and Solomon Islands deny this is a possibility.)

“An Australian historian famously said that we are suffering from the oppression of distance,” Fulilov said. “But now, in fact, we are facing the plight of proximity. The world is rushing towards us. ”

The world is now rushing towards the Albanians, who will meet the American president on the second day in his office.

“It’s quite an initiation,” Fulilov said.

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