Australia’s next prime minister came from humble beginnings

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Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese, centre-back, speaks to supporters at a Labor Party event in Sydney, Australia, Sunday, May 22, 2022, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat to Albanese in a federal election. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

PA

Australian Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese is a politician shaped by his humble start in life as the only child of a single mother who raised him on a boarding house in suburban Sydney.

He is also a hero of multicultural Australia, describing himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for Prime Minister in the office’s 121-year existence.

His friends pronounce his name “Alban-ez”, like Bolognese. But after being corrected several times over the years by Italians, the nationality of his absent father, he comes forward and is widely known as “Alban-easy”.

He shared the stage during his victory speech with Senator Penny Wong, who will become Foreign Secretary. Her father was Malaysian-Chinese and her European mother Australian.

“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,” Albanese said.

Australia has been criticized for its over-representation in Parliament of the offspring of British colonizers. Britain has not been Australia’s main source of immigrants since racist policies were dismantled in the 1970s. Around half of Australia’s multicultural population was either born overseas or has a parent born in Australia. foreign. Chinese and Indians are now immigrating in large numbers.

Albanese has promised to rehabilitate Australia’s international reputation as a climate change laggard with deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The previous administration had met the same commitment it made in the Paris Agreement in 2015: 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Albanese Labor has pledged a reduction by 43%.

His financially precarious upbringing in government-owned housing in the suburb of Camperdown fundamentally shaped the politician who led the centre-left Australian Labor Party into government for the first time since 2007. He is still widely known by his nickname childhood, Albo.

“It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mother who was a disabled pensioner, who grew up in council housing down the road in Camperdown, can stand before you tonight as Prime Minister of Australia “, declared Albanese during his electoral victory. speech Saturday.

“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 adds.

Albanese repeatedly referenced during the six-week election campaign the life lessons he learned from his deprived childhood. Labor’s campaign has focused on policies such as financial aid for first-time home buyers struggling with soaring house prices and slow wage growth.

Labor also promised cheaper childcare for working parents and better nursing home care for the elderly.

Albanese this week vowed to begin rebuilding faith in Australia when he attends a summit in Tokyo on Tuesday with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Albanese said he would be “completely consistent” with the current administration of Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Chinese strategic competition in the region.

But he said Australia had been put in the “wicked corner” of UN climate change negotiations by refusing to adopt more ambitious emissions reduction targets at a conference in November.

“One of the ways we are increasing our position in the region, and particularly in the Pacific, is to take climate change seriously,” Albanese told the National Press Club.

The Biden administration and Australia “will have a strengthened relationship in our shared vision of climate change and the opportunity it represents,” Albanese said.

Albanese blamed Morrison for “a whole series of damaged Australia’s international relations”.

He said Morrison had misled the United States by saying that a secret plan to supply Australia with a fleet of submarines powered by American nuclear technology had the support of Albanese’s Labor Party. In fact, Labor was only made aware of the plan the day before it was announced in September.

Albanese also accused Morrison of leaking personal text messages from Emmanuel Macron to the media to discredit the French president’s complaint that Australia had given no warning that a French submarine contract would be cancelled.

In November, France’s ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, described the leak as a “new low” and a warning to other world leaders that their private communications with the Australian government could be weaponized and used against them.

Labor also described a new security pact between China and the Solomon Islands as Australia’s worst foreign policy failure in the Pacific since World War II.

As a young child, to spare Albanese the scandal of being “illegitimate” in a working-class Roman Catholic family in socially conservative 1960s Australia, he was told that his Italian father, Carlo Albanese, was died in a car accident shortly after marrying his Irish-Australian mother, Maryanne Ellery, in Europe.

His mother, who became disabled in retirement due to chronic rheumatoid arthritis, told him the truth when he was 14: his father had not died and his parents had never married.

Carlo Albanese was a cruise ship steward when the couple met in 1962 on the only overseas trip of their lives. She returned to Sydney after her seven-month trip through Asia to Britain and mainland Europe, almost four months pregnant, according to Anthony Albanese’s 2016 biography, “Albanese: Telling it Straight “.

She was living with her parents in their local government-owned home in the inner suburb of Camperdown when her only child was born on March 2, 1963.

Out of loyalty to his mother and fear of hurting her, Albanese waited until she died in 2002 before searching for his father.

Father and son happily united in 2009 in the father’s hometown of Barletta in southern Italy. The son was in Italy for business meetings as Australia’s transport and infrastructure minister.

Anthony Albanese was a minister for the last six years in Labor Party rule and rose to his highest office – Deputy Prime Minister – in his last three months in government, which ended with the 2013 election.

But Albanese’s critics say it’s not his humble origins but his leftist politics that makes him unfit to be prime minister.

The Conservative government has argued that it will be the most left-leaning Australian leader in nearly 50 years since reformer Gough Whitlam, a flawed Labor hero.

In 1975, Whitlam became the only Australian Prime Minister to be ousted from office by the representative of a British monarch in what is described as a constitutional crisis.

Whitlam had introduced during his brief but tumultuous three years in university education without power, which enabled Albanese to earn a degree in economics from the University of Sydney despite his meager financial resources.

Albanese supporters say that while he belonged to the so-called Socialist Left faction of Labour, he was a pragmatist with a proven ability to deal with more conservative elements of the party.

Albanese had undergone what was described as a makeover over the past year, opting for more fashionable suits and eyewear. He also lost 18 kilograms (40 pounds) in what many assume was an effort to make himself more attractive to voters.

Albanese says he believed he was close to death in a two-car collision in Sydney in January last year and it was the catalyst for his healthier lifestyle choices. He had briefly resigned himself to a fate he believed had been his father’s.

After the accident, Albanese spent a night in a hospital and suffered what he described as external and internal injuries which he did not detail. The 17-year-old boy driving the Range Rover SUV which collided with Albanese’s much smaller Toyota Camry sedan has been charged with careless driving.

Albanese said he was 12 when he got involved in his first political campaign. His fellow public housing tenants managed to defeat a local council proposal to sell their homes – a move that would have raised their rent – ​​in a campaign that involved refusing to pay the council in a so-called rent strike.

The unpaid rent debt was written off, which Albanese described as a “lesson for those who were not part of the rent strike: solidarity works”.

“Growing up, I understood the impact government had, could have, in making a difference in people’s lives,” Albanese said. “And in particular, to opportunity.”

On election day, before counting began, he spoke of a benefit from his upbringing.

“When you’re from where I’m from, one of the advantages you have is that you don’t rush. Everything in life is a bonus,” Albanese said.

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