Anthony Albanese: Australia’s new PM sworn in ahead of Quad meeting

Anthony Albanese has been sworn in as Australia’s new leader and will fly immediately to an international summit.

Mr Albanese’s Labor Party defeated Scott Morrison’s conservative government in an election on Saturday.

It remains unclear whether Mr Albanese will form a majority or govern with the support of crossbenchers.

The prime minister left for Tokyo on Monday to meet the leaders of the so-called Quad nations – the US, India and Japan.

Earlier in the day, he was sworn in with four key cabinet members, including new Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who is travelling with him to Japan.

Richard Marles is the new deputy prime minister and employment minister, Jim Chalmers is treasurer, and Katy Gallagher is attorney-general and finance minister.

It is Australia’s first Labor government in almost a decade. The party has won 72 lower house seats but counting continues to determine whether they can get the 76 needed to form a majority.

But the primary vote for both major parties fell – almost a third of Australians put the Greens, independents and other minor parties as their first preference.

The Quad group is seen as largely aiming to counter growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

It will meet on Tuesday following recent diplomatic tensions in the Pacific, after the Solomon Islands last month signed a security pact with China.

Penny Wong looks at Anthony AlbaneseIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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Penny Wong is the first overseas-born person to be foreign minister

The US and Australia hold fears the deal could allow China to build a naval base there.

In a statement ahead of the meeting, Mr Albanese said: “The Quad Leaders’ Summit brings together four leaders of great liberal democracies – Australia, Japan, India, and the United States of America – in support of a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific.”

Ms Wong – Australia’s first overseas-born foreign minister – signalled they would bring “new energy and much more to the table” on climate action, after “a lost decade”.

Climate change played a huge role in the election result, with a surge in support for candidates wanting urgent action.

Mr Morrison’s government had committed to a 2030 emissions reduction target of 26%-28% – about half that of the UK and US. Mr Albanese’s government has a target of 43%.

Greens supporters cheerIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

The Greens have picked up seats in Queensland, usually considered a conservative heartland

The Greens are expected to pick up four lower seats, adding to seven climate-focused independents. They could put pressure on Labor to take even stronger action, especially if it fails to reach a majority.

Mr Morrison’s unpopularity and his party’s stance on climate have been blamed by some Liberal MPs for wiping out their vote.

Losses included senior party figures, including deputy leader Josh Frydenberg, in traditional Liberal strongholds.

Mr Morrison stepped down as party leader on Saturday and former defence minister Peter Dutton is the favourite to succeed him.

Mr Dutton – from the party’s right – has been a controversial figure at times. Some question whether he could rebuild Liberal support in more progressive, metropolitan areas.

It’s been a busy few days for Mr Albanese. Since Saturday he has won an election, been sworn in as PM, and is now on his way to the Quad.

It’s fitting that Australia’s new leader would hit the ground running. There’s a lot to get to domestically and globally.

Mr Albanese has said the Quad alliance is an absolute priority for Australia. This meeting comes at a crucial and tense time in the region with a growing Chinese influence that’s making Australia and its allies nervous.

The recent China defence deal with the Solomon Islands is seen as a threat to Australia’s status as a strategic partner to Pacific nations. But there’s a fine balance Mr Albanese needs to strike.

He needs to address China’s expansion in the Indo-Pacific while also repairing a relationship with Beijing that’s fractured significantly since the beginning of the pandemic when Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the Covid virus.

China is now a very angry strategic trade partner. And the other Quad members will need to be reassured that Mr Albanese has a plan to manage the complicated relationship.

The prime minister says this trip is a chance for Australia to send a message globally that it is changing its approach on crucial policies such as climate change.

This is now being called the climate election. Mr Albanese wants to tell his allies and the world that under his leadership they’ll be dealing with a new and more globally-engaged Australia. BBC

How Penny Wong hopes to create friendly relations with China as she secures a top role in Anthony Albanese’s government

  • Penny Wong is set to become the new foreign minister following Labor’s victory
  • Ms Wong is hoping to repair the relationship between Australia and China 
  • She has urged the government to ‘stop playing of domestic politics’ on Beijing
  • The ALP emerged victorious, with Anthony Albanese named 31st Prime Minister 

Penny Wong will be looking to repair Australia’s damaged relationship with China when she becomes the foreign minister after Labor’s historic election win.

The ALP emerged victorious in a captivating contest on Saturday night, with Anthony Albanese named as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister.

Mr Albanese and Ms Wong, along with Richard Marles, Katy Gallagher and Jim Chalmers, are set to be the first ministers sworn in under the new government when they take the affirmation of allegiance at Government House on Monday.

Mr Albanese will then fly over to Tokyo with Ms Wong for a crucial meeting with the Quad leaders from Japan, the U.S. and India to discuss international matters.

Penny Wong (pictured) will be looking to repair Australia’s damaged relationship with China as she’s set to become the foreign minister after Labor’s historic election win

The ALP emerged victorious on Saturday night, with Anthony Albanese named as Australia's 31st Prime Minister. Mr Albanese and Ms Wong (both pictured with Jodie Haynon), along with Richard Marles, Katy Gallagher and Jim Chalmers, are set to be the first ministers sworn in

The ALP emerged victorious on Saturday night, with Anthony Albanese named as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister. Mr Albanese and Ms Wong (both pictured with Jodie Haynon), along with Richard Marles, Katy Gallagher and Jim Chalmers, are set to be the first ministers sworn in

China will likely be a point of discussion during the leaders meeting, as Penny Wong aims to repair relations with Australia’s largest trading partner.

Ms Wong has previously admitted the task of getting back on Beijing‘s good side will be ‘difficult’ amid an ongoing trade spat, as well as a whirlwind of threats by diplomats and communist party-run newspapers. 

But the senator has argued that it is possible for the bitter feud to simmer down if the government stops ‘playing on domestic politics’ with the external issue.

Ms Wong told the Guardian’s Australian Politics Podcast that tactics by Scott Morrison to paint Labor as soft on China had only made the situation worse.

The Prime Minister in February branded Labor deputy leader Richard Marles a ‘Manchurian candidate’ after he called for closer defence ties with China on a trip to Beijing in 2019.

Penny Wong says Labor will look to repair Australia's battered relationship with China if Labor is voted in next month

Penny Wong says Labor will look to repair Australia’s battered relationship with China if Labor is voted in next month

China under Xi Jinping have become increasingly aggressive in the region. Pictured: Chinese special forces training in Guangxi

Ms Wong said the extraordinary attack to portray the Opposition as weak on national security and a puppet of an enemy power, was an act of ‘desperation’.

‘It is also a trashing of Australia’s national interests because one of the things that makes us strongest is our unity,’ she said.

‘What we won’t do is play domestic politics with the China relationship.’ 

The once rosy political ties has spiralled downwards since April 2020.

Beijing reacted furiously to Australian government calls for an international independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic by imposing a range of tariffs and arbitrary bans of billions of dollars worth of key exports including barley, wine, beef, seafood, coal, copper and timber.

Prior to that in 2018, the authoritarian superpower erupted when Australia moved to ban Huawei from participating in the nation’s 5G rollout on the grounds of national security concerns.

Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea, crackdowns on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong and horrific human rights abuses against minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, have also been sticking points for the two nations – as well as intelligence that China had tried to ‘influence’ Australia’s political system through an thwarted espionage plot.

Ms Wong reiterated that Labor will not kowtow to China on any of these issues, adding that repairing the relationship is ultimately ‘a question for China’.

The senator admits it’s going to be ‘difficult’ to get back on Beijing’s good side amid an ongoing trade spat as well as a whirlwind of threats by diplomats and communist party-run newspapers

‘We can’t control how they behave,’ Ms Wong said. ‘If China chooses to continue to impose what are clearly coercive economic measures on Australia, then that’s going to have a consequence in terms of the relationship.’

‘We won’t be abandoning the positions that cause China concern – Australia’s position on the South China Sea, Australia’s right to determine who builds its 5G network and who is part of the NBN,’ Ms Wong said.

‘We’re not going to abandon our position on the UN convention on the law of the sea or human rights or foreign interference.’

Dr Wakefield, who heads up the Australian Institute of International Affairs as the national executive director explained that Labor has tried very hard to burnish its credentials on foreign policy and rising tensions surrounding China.

‘They want to create the impression there is no daylight between the two parties and that is very true,’ he said.

Beijing reacted furiously to Australian government calls for an international independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic. Pictured: Chinese President Xi Jinping (pictured)

What is a Wolf Warrior Diplomat?

Chinese diplomats around the globe have made headlines in recent years by making aggressive public statements against democratic nations – often in to the contrary of all available evidence.

Political observers say such statements are made to impress Communist Party bosses back home in Beijing so they get noticed.

The term Wolf Warrior is actually a Chinese action film franchise launched in 2015.

The plot of the 80s-style action films centre around a patriotic Chinese soldier who takes on enemies from all over the world and is fearless in the face of danger.

‘But Labor and the Liberals take a much different tone to the China issue and tone does matter when dealing with Beijing.

‘So that could encourage a feeling of mutual respect creating an opportunity for the relationship to be repaired.’

But he also added that there is a tendency to believe Chinese pressure on Australia is ‘all about Australia’.

‘That’s not always the case. In many ways it’s about sending a message to other countries in the region not to speak out,’ Dr Wakefield said.

‘So tensions may continue no matter who is elected or what stance they take.’

But this tactic by Beijing is starting to wear thin.

‘There is actually pressure on China from the international community and even domestically, to find some sort of off ramp for tensions with Canberra.

‘Their trade measures against Australia haven’t been particularly successful, nor has their wolf warrior diplomacy. It has received an international backlash.

‘So, it may be looking for some sort of reset and an election may be reset even if Australian policy towards China doesn’t actually change.’

Highlighting this point is that Foreign Minister Marise Payne met China’s new ambassador, Xiao Qian, in Sydney last month in what was regarded as a major breakthrough in relations.

Chinese diplomats have not even returned the phone calls of Australian officials in almost two years.

How China’s feud with Australia has escalated

2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.

April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.

April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.

April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.

April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.

April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.

May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.

May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.

May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.

June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.

June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.

June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.

July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.

August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.

August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.

October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.

November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.

November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.

November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia.

November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry.

November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia’s $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being ‘dumped’ or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers.

November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians.

December 12: Australian coal is added to a Chinese blacklist.

December 24: China suspends imports of Australian timber from NSW and WA after local customs officers say they found pests in the cargo.

January 11, 2021: Australia blocks $300million construction deal that would have seen state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation takeover Probuild. The bid was blacked over national security concerns.

February 5, 2021: China confirms Melbourne journalist and single mother Cheng Lei has been formally arrested after being detained in August, 2020.

February 23, 2021: China accuses Australia of being in an ‘axis of white supremacy’ with the UK, USA, Canada and NZ in an editorial.

March 11, 2021: Australia is accused of genocide by a Communist Party newspaper editor.

March 15, 2021: Trade Minister Dan Tehan announced he wants the World Trade Organisation to help mediate discussions between the two countries over the trade dispute.

April 21, 2021: Foreign Minister Marise Payne announces Australia has scrapped Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal with China using new veto powers.

May 6, 2021: China indefinitely suspends all strategic economic talks with Australia, blaming the Morrison Government’s attitude towards the relationship. The move cuts off all diplomatic contact with Beijing under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, freezing discussions between key officials below a ministerial level.

June 22, 2021: China tries to ‘ambush’ Australia with a push to officially declare the Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’

September 15, 2021: Australia, the UK and the US announce the AUKUS security pact which will give the Australian military nuclear-powered submarines to counter China growing aggression in the Indo Pacific. The move is met with seething anger in Beijing.

March 24, 2022: Details of a Memorandum of Understanding emerge which could allow Beijing to station warships on the Solomon Islands, just 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia. Canberra warns it is ‘concerned by any actions that destabilise the security of our region’.

April 25, 2022: Defence Minister Peter Dutton warns on Anzac Day that Russia and China’s resurgence means Australia must be on a war-footing. ‘The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war, and to be strong as a country,’ he said. ‘We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s.’

April 27, 2022: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrew says China is likely to send troops to the Solomon Islands, and was using the row to derail Australia’s Federal Election. She said Beijing was ‘clearly very aware we are in a federal election campaign at the moment.’  DAILY MAIL