Australia's new PM Anthony Albanese heads to Quad summit after being sworn in

Labor Party leader says his country's relationship with China would remain 'difficult'

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese boards a plane in Canberra to attend the Quad summit in Tokyo, Japan, after being sworn in on May 23, 2022.  AAP via Reuters
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Australia's Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese was sworn in as the country's 31st prime minister on Monday, promising to bring the country together after a fractious election campaign as he vowed to tackle climate change and inequality.

Labor returned to power after nine years in opposition as a wave of unprecedented support for the Greens and climate-focused independents, mostly women, helped to unseat the conservative coalition in Saturday's general election.

"I look forward to leading a government that makes Australians proud, a government that doesn't seek to divide, that doesn't seek to have wedges but seeks to bring people together," Mr Albanese said during his first media briefing as prime minister.

Although votes are still being counted and the make-up of government has yet to be finalised, Mr Albanese was sworn in by Governor General David Hurley at a ceremony in the national capital, Canberra, so he could attend a meeting of the "Quad" security grouping in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The US, Japan and India are the other members of the Quad, an informal group that Washington has been promoting to work as a potential bulwark against China's increasing political, commercial and military activity in the Indo-Pacific.

Mr Albanese said the country's relationship with China would remain "a difficult one" before the summit with US President Joe Biden and the prime ministers of Japan and India.

His foreign minister, Penny Wong, who was sworn in along with Jim Chalmers as treasurer and Katy Gallagher as finance minister, will accompany Mr Albanese to the summit.

Labor's campaign focused on Mr Albanese's working-class credentials as a boy raised in public housing by a single mother on a disability pension, and on his image as a pragmatic unifier.

The centre-left party was leading in 76 seats in the 151-seat lower house, with a few races too close to call, according to the Australian Electoral Commission. Independents or Green party candidates looked set to win more than a dozen seats as counting of postal votes continued.

So-called "teal independents" campaigning in affluent, Liberal-held seats on a platform of climate, integrity and equality, could yet hold significant sway.

Independent Monique Ryan said climate was the most important issue to constituents in her seat of Kooyong in Melbourne, which outgoing treasurer Josh Frydenberg formally conceded on Monday.

"We listened to what people wanted, we listened to their values and their desires, and we put together a platform that reflected those," Ms Ryan said.

Mr Albanese said he hoped Labor would win enough seats to govern on their own. However, he added that he had struck deals with some independents for them not to support no-confidence motions against his government.

Mr Albanese said he would act swiftly to fulfil his election promises after his return from Japan, including setting up a national anti-corruption commission and a A$15 billion ($10.6bn) manufacturing fund to diversify Australia's economy.

The swearing-in of his full cabinet will be held on June 1, he said.

Updated: May 23, 2022, 8:38 AM