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Australian PM-elect Albanese vows to repair Canberra’s image overseas

Incoming Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (photo by AFP)

Australia’s incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has vowed to mend Canberra’s relations with the world and sweep aside the country’s reputation as a climate laggard.

Albanese made the remarks on Sunday, as he raced to form a government in time before attending a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with the leaders of the United States, Japan and India.

“I want to change the country,” he said. “I want to change the way that politics operates in this country.”

The 59-year-old center-left leader said the upcoming Quad summit in Tokyo is “an absolute priority” for Australia and an opportunity “to send a message to the world.”

The Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States that is maintained by talks between member countries. It is widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power. The Chinese government has responded to the Quadrilateral dialogue by issuing formal diplomatic protests to its members, calling it "Asian NATO."

He went on to say that partners overseas can expect wholesale changes “particularly with regard to climate change and our engagement with the world on those issues.”

Albanese said he would return to Australia on Wednesday after bilateral meetings with Quad leaders. "Then we'll get down to business."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he takes responsibility "for the wins and the losses” and will stand down as leader of the Liberal Party. His defeat ended eight years and nine months in power for Morrison’s conservative coalition.

Albanese seeks to unite the country. He has also vowed to adopt more ambitious emissions reduction targets and make the country a renewable energy superpower.

While it is certain that Albanese will be Morrison’s successor, it is not clear yet if Labor will form a majority government or minority, and there will be a hung parliament.

Albanese and key ministers are expected to be sworn in on Monday.

Meanwhile in Washington, President Joe Biden has called Albanese to congratulate him, according to a statement by the White House.

“President Biden expressed deep appreciation for... (Albanese's) early commitment to the alliance, reflected in his decision to travel almost immediately to Tokyo to attend the Quad Summit,” the White House statement said.

Notable among the foreign leaders who have welcomed Albanese’s election are those from Australia's Pacific Island neighbors, whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels.

“Of your many promises to support the Pacific, none is more welcome than your plan to put the climate first -- our people's shared future depends on it,” said Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Others will be watching closely to see if Albanese's premiership brings a less hawkish tone on China, and whether ministerial meetings with Beijing resume after a more than two-year hiatus.

The outgoing Australian leader was highly critical of China in particular and Asian countries in general.

Relations between China and Australia have strained since 2018, when Australia became the first country to ban the Chinese telecom giant Huawei from its 5G wireless networks.

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