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Annie Guglitotta

Australia's new government: shake up at home, steadiness abroad

Anthony Albanese, Australia’s newly elected prime minister, hasn’t wasted any time since being sworn in on Monday. After taking the oath of office, he immediately boarded a flight to Tokyo to meet with Australia’s Quad partners – India, Japan and the US – to talk China.

Indeed, the unusually hasty political transition was not lost on President Joe Biden, who quipped that “if you fall asleep that's okay” – a nod to Albanese’s campaign trail hangover and/or jet lag. But Albanese fought the urge to nap because he has a jam-packed agenda, which includes bilateral meetings with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida as well as Biden.

Albanese, the son of a single mum who grew up in public housing in Sydney, takes the reins as the country’s economy is still reeling from the enduring pandemic. What does the election of his center-left Labor Party mean at home and abroad?

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Albanese addresses supporters in Sydney after winning Australia's election.

REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

What We’re Watching: Australia elects new PM, Poland hearts Ukraine, Saudis stand by Russia

Albo takes over in Oz

After his Labor Party won Saturday's parliamentary election, Anthony Albanese, known popularly as Albo, is set to become Australia’s new prime minister. But it remains unclear whether Labor has a parliamentary majority: if his party falls just short in the end, it'll be a minority government, so Albanese will need some support from the Greens and climate-focused independents to get laws passed. In a gesture toward both, Albanese announced Sunday that he wants to make Australia a renewable energy superpower — a sharp departure from Scott Morrison, aka ScoMo, his coal-loving conservative predecessor. While mail-in ballots are still being counted, Albanese was sworn in Monday as acting PM in order to attend the Quad Summit in Tokyo on Tuesday. Albanese will need to hit the ground running because Australia is also in the AUKUS security partnership, which China doesn’t like one bit. Just weeks after Beijing inked a deal with the neighboring Solomon Islands that'll allow the Chinese to gain a military foothold in the Pacific, expect the China question to continue dominating Australian foreign policy under the new government.

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Voting in Australia's federal election.

Annie Gugliotta.

What We’re Watching: Aussies vote, Turkey threatens Nordic states, elections loom in Israel

What will voters decide Down Under?

Aussie voters head to the polls on Saturday to decide whether to keep Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo) of the right-leaning Liberal-National Coalition in power, or to pass the baton to the Labor Party’s Anthony Albanese. Speak to any Aussie, and they’ll tell you that neither bespeckled, middle-aged candidate inspires much excitement. Still, someone has to win! After nearly two years under some of the tightest COVID lockdown restrictions in the world, Aussies appear ready for change: Albanese, a left-leaning centrist, is leading in national polls by 2%. That’s encouraging for ScoMo, who just two weeks ago was trailing by 8 percentage points. The election cycle has been dominated by the cost-of-living crisis currently plaguing many advanced economies. Though unemployment in Australia has hit record lows, inflation is outpacing wage growth. Albanese, a long-time politician with little cabinet experience, has made a series of gaffes recently about the economy that likely contributed to the narrowing margin. According to ABC, some 5-8% of Aussie voters are still undecided. That could be the difference between whether Labor comes out on top after nearly a decade in opposition government. As Signal’s resident Aussie (Gabrielle), I am off to vote!

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Ari Winkleman

A guide to Australia’s lackluster election

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australians will head to the polls on May 21 to decide whether to keep his Liberal Party in power. (Time was ticking on his first term and he had to call a vote.) He’s facing off against Anthony Albanese, the low-profile leader of the Labor Party, which has served in opposition for a decade. Labor is currently leading by around 14 points, according to the Roy Morgan poll.

Australians have gained a reputation abroad for being amiable and easygoing, reflecting the country’s fair dinkum spirit. But Australian politics are notoriously cut-throat, long defined by back-stabbing, ad-hominem attacks and accusations of bullying – on both sides of the aisle. (Morrison is the first PM to complete his full term in 15 years because most leaders have been ousted by their own parties.)

What agenda items will be at the heart of the election campaign over the next six weeks, and what – if any – are the foreign policy implications?

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Can gender quotas counter sexism in Australian politics?

In recent months, Australians have grown accustomed to stories of sexual impropriety by their politicians dominating the news headlines. Instances of groping, rape, and even a man masturbating on a female colleague's desk at Parliament House have become so ubiquitous that Prime Minister Scott Morrison called this week for a "shake-up" to address systemic sexism in Australian politics.

But what are the proposals currently dominating the political conversation, and where might they lead?

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