With him, the Australians have “voted for change”. The leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, donned the costume of future Australian Prime Minister, Saturday, May 21, after his party won the legislative elections and ousted outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison from power. At 59, he puts an end to nine years of conservative rule over the immense country-continent. Here are five things to remember about his journey, before he takes office expected on Monday.
1He survived a road accident in 2021
Anthony Albanese is a miracle, who was hospitalized in critical condition last year after a collision between his car and an all-terrain vehicle driven by a teenager. “I thought it was the end”, he confided since. Nicknamed “albo” by his followers, he explained that his brush with death gave him the energy to change everything.
At the time, Labor lagged in the polls, far behind Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Conservatives. At 59, Anthony Albanian can today boast of a recovery on all fronts: he regained his health, lost 18 kilos and consolidated his authority at the head of his party. He is bringing Labor back to power after racing ahead in the polls, thanks to targeted attacks on the government’s handling of the pandemic and catastrophic fires in the 2020 austral summer.
2He had a humble childhood
Anthony Albanese was first elected to parliament in 1996. At the time, he dedicated his first speech to his mother, Maryanne Ellery, who had raised him alone in Sydney council housing, “in very difficult economic circumstances”. He was the first member of his family to study at university
A Labor activist since high school, he says his working-class background has shaped his worldview. “That says a lot about this country”he declared while voting on Saturday, his voice split with emotion, “that someone with my background can stand before you today, hoping to be elected Prime Minister of this country”
3He grew up without his father, who he thought was dead
After the birth of his only son, Nathan, in 2000, Anthony Albanese set out to find his father, Carlo Albanese, with an old photograph as the only clue. He eventually reunited with him in his hometown of Barletta, Italy, and reconciled with him before his death in 2014. “The last conversation we had was to say to each other that we were happy to have found each other”he confided.
“I was raised believing he was dead”he explained. “That says a lot about the pressure that was put on women.” Anthony Albanese said his mother, a Catholic, decided to name him after his father, even though they had never married and had never lived together. Anthony Albanese will be the first Australian head of government to bear a surname other than Anglo-Saxon or Celtic.
4He has a goofy image
After rising through the ranks of the Labor Party, “Albo” became transport minister in 2007, when Kevin Rudd came to power. He retained that portfolio under the next Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, then became Leader of the Opposition after Labor was defeated in the 2019 election.
Unable to travel the country during the pandemic, he nevertheless managed to make himself known to voters. During his campaign, he dried up in front of journalists who had trapped him by asking him what the unemployment rate in Australia and the key rate of the central bank were. ‘This is the kind of stuff prime ministers need to know’reveled his opponent Scott Morrison. “We have seen that he is not up to the task and it is beyond him.”
The person concerned had relativized this misstep. “Everyone makes mistakes in life. The question is whether we can learn from them. This government keeps repeating the same mistakes”he had said.
5He wants to green the image of Australia
In his victory speech, the future Prime Minister promised to turn Australia into a “superpower” renewable energies. Climate has been an important campaign issue, after years of Conservative support for the fossil fuel industry. Labor pledged to cut carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels, well above the current target of 28%. However, he refrained from saying whether he intended to give up coal or ban the opening of new mines, a sector on which the country’s economy still heavily depends.
Anthony Albanese promises other big changes after nine years of conservative government, whether it is measures to support purchasing power, the extension of the rights of indigenous populations or the fight against corruption. He thus intends to set up a federal anti-corruption monitoring body. “powerful, transparent and independent” by the end of the year. Australian governments are regularly accused of spending public money for electoral purposes in some hotly contested constituencies.