SYDNEY (Reuters) – New prime minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday Australia faces significant economic headwinds, turning his attention to domestic affairs after a first few days in office dominated by international security.
“I want an economy that works for people, not the other way around,” Albanese told ABC television.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Wednesday described the fiscal situation he inherited as “dire”, warning that family budgets would be under pressure as interest rates rise to deal with a spike in inflation.
Albanese was sworn in as the prime minister on Monday so he could attend a meeting of the Quad security grouping in Japan. China sees the Quad, which includes the United States, India and Japan, as an attempt to push back against its growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Albanese blamed the previous government led by Scott Morrison, for “dropping the ball” on the Pacific, where as China is seeking pacts on security and trade with several Pacific states..
Albanese sent his foreign minister, Penny Wong, to Fiji on Thursday.
With votes from Saturday’s election still being counted, the prime minister’s centre-left Labor Party is two seats short of a majority of 76 in the 151-seat lower house, with five seats too close to call, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Morrison, who stood down as leader of the Liberal Party after one of its worst election showings, has promised to support his successor.
“I leave not with regrets but with a great sense of gratitude,” he told radio station 2GB in his first interview since the election drubbing.
Outgoing Defence Minister Peter Dutton, a former policeman from Queensland, was shaping up as favourite to lead the Liberals.
Albanese criticised comments from Tanya Plibersek, tipped to become minister for women and education in the new government, for likening Dutton to the Harry Potter villain Voldemort. Plibersek has apologised for her comment.
“Let’s discuss policy differences … I want to change the way that politics operates,” Albanese told Channel Seven.
(Reporting by Renju Jose and Byron Kaye; Editing by Robert Birsel)