What to Know About Anthony Albanese

More than 17 million voters will head to the polls on May 21 to decide who Australia’s next prime minister will be: incumbent Scott Morrison of the center-right Liberal Party or Anthony Albanese, leader of the center-left Labor Party.

The campaign is largely being fought over the economy and the cost of living, but healthcare, climate change, and relations with China will also be on voters’ minds. The campaign was a close-fought one with lots of bickering.

Labor supporters charge Morrison of lackluster leadership. He has been Prime Minister since 2018. Under the slogan “Liberals” have run several commercials. “It won’t be easy under Albanese,”The country is facing a challenging economic future if the opposition wins.

Whichever party gets a majority in the House of Representatives—76 of 151 seats—forms a government. According to polls, Labor has a slight advantage. That means that Albanese could unseat Morrison, to become Australia’s next leader. Here’s what to know about him.

What is Anthony Albanese’s background?

This 59-year old politician has been a parliament member for over two decades. He was a cabinet minister under the governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and he was appointed as Rudd’s deputy prime minister in 2013. Since 2019, he has served as the leader of Australia’s opposition.

Born in Sydney, he was raised in the public housing estate by his single mother. “He comes from this sort of underdog, Labor battler background,” says Stewart Jackson, the chair of the department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. “He’s your working class man.”

Albanese stated that he believes in three major faiths: The Catholic Church, Labor Party, and South Sydney Rabbitohs (a professional rugby league club).

Continue reading: Climate Could Change the Course of Australia’s Election

What is the significance of an Albanese government for Australia

Albanese promised to increase gender equality, make childcare more affordable, strengthen the public health system, address aged care issues, and improve the quality of the workforce. He’s also pledged new, more secure jobs and better pay.

“During the campaign, he’s presented himself as a fairly safe pair of hands, especially in terms of economic policy,” says Zareh Ghazarian, a political scientist at Monash University in Melbourne. “He comes from the left faction [of the Labor Party], which tends to be more socially progressive and tends to favor more socially progressive policies.”

However, the differences between Australian political parties are less than those in the U.S. where there is a growing ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats.

“By and large, they agree on much of the basic structure of society,” says Jackson. “Basic liberal democracy, basic free markets, basic capitalism. Medicare is largely accepted as being important.”

What does a Labor win mean globally?

Australia is a close U.S. ally, and that isn’t expected to change. “He will follow along the well-trodden footsteps of many previous Labor leaders and will be a good friend of the United States,” says Jackson.

Recent years have seen a decline in relations between Australia and China. Australia demanded that an inquiry be conducted into COVID-19’s source in 2020. China responded by placing sanctions on certain Australian exports such as beef and barley. According to some experts, the Labor Party could seek improved relations with Beijing. “They do want better trade relations, more stable trade relations,” says Jackson.

He also said that the South Pacific dynamic might be altered by a Labor government. Recently, a security pact was reached between China and the Solomon Islands. This could see a Chinese military base built in an area Canberra has traditionally considered its territory of influence. “That dynamic for Albanese will be about using diplomacy, not aggressive talk,” says Jackson.

Continue reading: The Solomon Islands are the latest scene of tensions between U.S. and China

Global concern about climate change means that a shift in government could have an effect. Australia has so far been slow to take action on climate change. Although climate advocates have not been impressed by Albanese’s promise to approve new coal mines, he is expected to be more climate-friendly than Morrison.

“I’d expect there to be a different approach, perhaps a more explicit, more forceful approach, towards climate change and climate change policies,” says Ghazarian. “In the past they’ve criticized the government on this…They have to demonstrate that they’re being proactive in this space”

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