Anthony Albanese, also known as “Albo”, who is set to become Australia’s next prime minister, is a pragmatic leader from a working class background who has pledged to end divisions in the country.
“I want to unite the country,” the Labor leader said after Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat in an election on Saturday.
“I think people want to come together, to look after our common interests, to look at that feeling of common purpose. I think people are divided enough, all they want is to come together as one nation and I want to lead it.”
Labor’s election campaign has highlighted Albany’s working-class credentials and its image as a realist integrator.
Albanese, 59, entered parliament in 1996 – just as Labor entered the first of two decades of anti-Labor patches. When the party returned to power from 2007 to 2013, he openly criticized both sides over leadership disputes.
Those years forged his reputation as an associate willing to work outside the ideological line, as the leader of the House where he conducted government business in Parliament.
After losing the 2010 election, Labor jumped on the bandwagon with the country’s first minority government in 70 years, seeking the support of conservatives or independents to pass legislation.
But by a measure cited by political commentators – the number of laws passed compared to the number of days spent in office – it has become Australia’s most productive parliament.
“There was an attempt to create chaos here, but what Anthony (as Leader of the House) did was to make sure that the work of the government went ahead,” said Craig Emerson, who was the commerce minister in that government.
At the age of 12, Albanese helped organize a rent strike that prevented his mother from selling her public housing property to developers. Those who know Albanese say he is truly inspired by a mixture of realism and concern for the social justice he achieved during his childhood struggles.
“It gave me a strong determination every day, to help people like me, growing up, to lead a better life,” Albanese said at the National Press Club in January, recalling how he sometimes relied on neighbors for food. His mother, who was dependent on a disability pension, was unable to provide for him.
Albanese was the first in his family to attend university, where he studied economics and became involved in student politics.
At age 22, he was elected president of Young Labor, the party’s youth wing, and served as a research officer under the economic reformist government of Labor’s longest-serving prime minister, Bob Hawke.
“Anthony … has the power to look beyond the party’s political alignment,” said Robert Tickner, a former Labor member who accepted teenager Albanese’s call about his mother’s stove.
“(He) believes in the idea that there are well-meaning people in the community,” Tickner said in a phone interview. “He is not a sectarian.”