SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Labor Party ousted the conservative coalition at an election on Saturday, returning the centre-left party to government after nine years in opposition.
One of the first items on the agenda for incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is a summit of the “Quad” grouping in Tokyo, where he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Albanese said that he, deputy Labor leader Richard Marles, and three key shadow ministers – Penny Wong in foreign affairs. Jim Chalmers as treasurer and Katy Gallagher in finance – would be sworn in on Monday to enable the Quad trip.
Following are some details on Albanese, Chalmers and Wong, who will hold some of the most senior roles in the government.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER
* Born in Sydney’s inner suburbs 1963, Albanese grew up in public housing with a single mother on disability pension. He entered student politics while completing an economics degree and began working for the federal Labor party at 22.
* Albanese’s marriage to a state Labor politician ended in 2019, making him Australia’s first divorced prime minister. He is also the country’s first prime minister of Italian background.
* He entered parliament in opposition in 1996, aged 33, and often supported progressive causes that resonated in his working class, largely overseas-born electorate: higher wages, immigrant rights, transport infrastructure.
* When Labor won office in 2007, his first cabinet role was as infrastructure minister. He became party leader after Labor lost the 2019 election.
* Albanese has been portrayed by opponents as a left-wing ideologue but in recent years presented himself as a pragmatic centrist. He ran Labor’s lower house business during a minority government from 2010 to 2013, which required him to negotiate with opposition and independent lawmakers to pass laws.
JIM CHALMERS – TREASURER
* Jim Chalmers was born in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1978. He has a political science PhD on reformist former Labor prime minister Paul Keating, which argued that Australian leaders must court the media and public to maintain authority in their party.
* Chalmers began working as a Labor party researcher in 1999 and was a senior adviser to former treasurer Wayne Swan from 2007 to 2013. His 2013 book, Glory Daze, complained that “hyper-partisan” politics had spoiled Australia’s achievement avoiding a recession in the global financial crisis, when Labor was in power.
* He was elected to parliament in 2013 as Labor entered what would be nine years in opposition and remains a largely unknown quantity to many Australians despite holding the shadow treasury portfolio since 2019.
* After Labor lost the 2019 election despite being ahead in the polls, Chalmers told The Australian newspaper: “Our task has to be to make change safe and to be reassuring.”
PENNY WONG – FOREIGN MINISTER
* Born in Malaysia in 1968 to an Australian mother and Malaysian father and who moved to Australia as a child, Penny Wong is the first Asian-born person to hold an Australian cabinet position. She is also Australia’s first openly gay female parliamentarian.
* A senator since 2002, Wong has a high profile in Australian politics with a reputation for plain language and maintaining composure during heated debates.
* After Labor won government in 2007, Wong became minister for climate change, then finance minister. In 2013, she became Australia’s first female government leader in the Senate.
* Since 2016 she has been the shadow foreign affairs minister. In a 2021 speech, she said Australia faced unprecedented challenges including “a more assertive China” and called for an overhaul of foreign policy with “the key task of maximising our influence in the reshaping of the region”.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by William Mallard)