Australian election: who is new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese?

The 59-year-old, who hails from a humble background, campaigned on social assistance for the needy and an ambitious green agenda

Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, meets supporters after winning the general election at Marrickville Library and Pavilion in Sydney on May 22, 2022.  AFP
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Australians awoke on Sunday to a new prime minister-elect as Anthony Albanese, the centre-left Labor Party leader, gave a victory speech to thousands of cheering supporters in Sydney last night.

The 59-year-old career politician referred to his humble upbringing in the inner-Sydney suburb of Camperdown, while thanking electors for making him the country’s 31st leader.

“It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mum who was a disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in Camperdown, can stand before you tonight as Australia’s prime minister,” Mr Albanese said in his victory speech after succeeding the incumbent Scott Morrison to end nine years of conservative rule.

“Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had," he added. "My mother dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars."

The election delivered a clear rebuke to Australia’s traditional two-party system, both to Labor and the heavily defeated conservative coalition led by Mr Morrison.

The major parties lost votes to fringe parties and independents, such as in many seats considered to be Labor or coalition strongholds.

With the votes counting set to continue for many days as postal votes are tallied, it is not known whether Mr Albanese’s party could form a majority government. If it does not, it will have to rely on the support of an increased number of independents and minor party lawmakers who won seats in Saturday’s election.

Labor’s campaign focused on policies including financial assistance for first-time homebuyers grappling with soaring real estate prices and sluggish wage growth.

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

Australia's election has also brought in a wave of Greens and independent MPs pushing for aggressive targets to cut carbon emissions, who will pressure the incoming Labor government to step up its climate plans if it wants to pass any legislation.

Mr Albanese pledged in his victory speech to turn his country, one of the world’s biggest per capita carbon emitters, into an energy superpower.

The previous administration had stuck with the same greenhouse-gas reduction pledge it made at the Paris Agreement in 2015: 26 per cent to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Albanese’s Labor Party has promised a 43 per cent reduction.

Who is Anthony Albanese?

Mr Albanese's financially precarious upbringing in government-owned housing fundamentally formed the politician who has led his party into government for the first time since 2007. He is still widely known by his childhood nickname, Albo.

Free university education in the 1970s helped Mr Albanese to graduate from the University of Sydney with an economics degree, despite his lack of money.

As a young child, to spare Mr 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, died in a car accident shortly after marrying his mother, Maryanne Ellery, in Europe.

His mother, who suffered from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, told him the truth when he was 14 — his father was not dead and his parents had never married.

Mr Albanese said he was 12 when he became involved in his first political campaign. His fellow public housing tenants successfully defeated a local council proposal to sell their homes — a move that would have increased their rent — in a campaign that involved refusing to pay the council.

He is also a hero of multicultural Australia after being born to an Italian father and an Irish-Australian mother. Mr Albanese always described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed.

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

With input from AP and Reuters

Updated: May 22, 2022, 11:55 AM