Inside Anthony Albanese’s VERY busy first weeks as prime minister

Whichever side of politics you’re on, there is no denying Anthony Albanese has hit the ground running.

He set the tone for his jam-packed first three weeks when he jetted off to Japan to meet leaders including Joe Biden just hours after being sworn in.

Since then his rammed schedule has included meeting President Joko Widodo in Indonesia and welcoming Jacinda Ardern to Sydney as well as battling a major domestic disaster in the form of an energy crisis.

He also appointed the largest number of women ever in an Australian cabinet.

Mr Albanese also held cabinet meetings regional Queensland in a sign he will focus on winning over the Sunshine State before the next election in 2025 after it overwhelmingly backed the Coalition on May 21. 

The new Prime Minister has shown enthusiasm and determination, two qualities he will need in abundance as he faces big battles ahead with inflation soaring and a potential recession looming. 

Here Daily Mail Australia takes a look at Mr Albanese’s first three weeks in power and the changes he has made so far.  

Anthony Albanese poses with the women that were sworn into his cabinet on June 1

Foreign policy

Mr Albanese’s first job was to attend a Quad leaders’ meeting in Tokyo alongside President Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 79-year-old US President, who famously fell asleep during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, was impressed that Mr Albanese seemed so alert just after the election campaign, saying: ‘If you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK’.

During the trip Mr Albanese assured the leaders that Australia’s commitment to the Quad remained steadfast despite the change in government. 

‘We have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change,’ he said.

Joe Biden praised Anthony Albanese's energy after the new Prime Minister flew to Tokyo on his first day in the job

Joe Biden praised Anthony Albanese’s energy after the new Prime Minister flew to Tokyo on his first day in the job

Last week the new Prime Minster made his first overseas bilateral visit: a trip to Indonesia to meet President Widodo (pictured together)

Last week the new Prime Minster made his first overseas bilateral visit: a trip to Indonesia to meet President Widodo (pictured together)

He also clarified there was ‘no change’ on the position of ‘strategic ambiguity’ on whether western allies would defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. 

Last week the new Prime Minster made his first overseas bilateral visit: a trip to Indonesia to meet President Widodo.

The nation of 273million people is developing rapidly and Australia wants to improve market access for its exports as a way of diversifying from China. 

Mr Albanese enjoyed a bike ride around President Widodo’s palace. Despite wobbling and later complaining the pace was too slow, he said he greatly appreciated the gesture and even took the bike back to Australia on the plane.

He then hosted New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern in Sydney where the two Labor leaders declared a ‘reset’ in relations.

Mr Albanese said he would consider her long-standing request to stop deporting Kiwi citizens who have committed crimes in Australia but have little or no ties to New Zealand other than their passports. 

Mr Albanese hosted New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern in Sydney where the two Labor leaders declared a 'reset' in relations

Mr Albanese hosted New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern in Sydney where the two Labor leaders declared a ‘reset’ in relations

The PM has also crucially made contact with China after two years in the wilderness.

He said he replied ‘appropriately’ to a congratulatory letter from Premier Li Keqiang and then publicly called for China to scrap its unofficial sanctions on Australian exports.  

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Penny Wong has also been jetting all over the region, with visits to Fiji and then Samoa and Tonga where she talked up Australia’s climate change ambitions.

The Pacific nations say climate change is their biggest concern because their lands could be swallowed up by rising sea levels as polar ice caps melt due to global warming. 

Senator Wong’s active approach marked a strong contrast with former foreign minister Marise Payne who was blasted for failing to visit Solomon Islands as the nation announced a security partnership with China.        

Welcoming migrants 

One of the new Albanese’s government’s first acts was to allow a Sri Lankan family who have been fighting deportation for years to return to the Queensland town of Biloela where they had settled.

Nadesalingam and Priya Murugappan fled Sri Lanka after the country’s civil war, arriving separately on people-smuggling vessels in 2012 and 2013. 

The couple met in Australia, married in 2014 and were both granted temporary visas settling in Biloela, where they had two daughters, Kopika, six and Tharunicaa, four.

One of the new Albanese's government's first acts was to allow a Sri Lankan family (pictured) who have been fighting deportation for years to return to the Queensland town of Biloela where they had settled

One of the new Albanese’s government’s first acts was to allow a Sri Lankan family (pictured) who have been fighting deportation for years to return to the Queensland town of Biloela where they had settled

The Coalition government tried to deport them in 2019 but a judge prevented it and they were detained on Christmas Island while their legal battled continued.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, acting home affairs minister before Clare O’Neil was sworn in, made the decision to let them return to Biloela where they were welcomed by the local community this week.

Mr Albanese visited them on Wednesday and wrote on Facebook: ‘So lovely to meet with the Nadesalingam family today. They’re finally home, Tharnicaa and Kopika are going to school, and the Biloela community have welcomed back a much loved family.’ 

However, three illegal immigrant boats have already arrived in Australia since the election, sparking concerns that Labor’s softer stance is encouraging people to make the perilous journey.

Kopika (left) and  Tharunicaa (right) were sent to a detention centre in 2018

Kopika (left) and  Tharunicaa (right) were sent to a detention centre in 2018

Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews warned Labor against scrapping temporary protection visas, one of the three key components of Operation Sovereign Borders which was implemented under Tony Abbott to stop the boats in 2013.

Mr Albanese has vowed to continue boat turn-backs but, with Sri Lanka in economic crisis, the Government could find itself needing to conduct lots more of them in coming months.  

Wage hikes 

One of Mr Albanese’s key promises during the election campaign was to improve wage growth after nine years of relatively low increases.

The prime minister declared during the campaign that he would ‘absolutely’ welcome a wage increase in line with the 5.1 per cent inflation rate.

Soon after taking office, his government made a submission to the independent umpire that sets the minimum wage, calling for a rise of at least that amount.

When the Fair Work Commission announced a 5.2 per cent increase in the minimum wage on Tuesday, Mr Albanese was able to take credit and remind voters the Coalition had not backed such a large increase.

In a carefully planned stunt he held up a one dollar coin representing the $1.05 hourly increase to the minimum wage and said: ‘I absolutely welcome today’s decision’.

‘It makes a difference to people struggling with the cost of living and it justifies our position that we took in making a different decision to the Fair Work Commission that said we do not want people on the minimum wage to go backwards.’

In a statement, the PM said the new government is ‘determined to get wages moving again’ after almost a decade of low wage growth.

‘For the last nine years, low wages were a deliberate design feature of the Liberal National Government’s policies. They never once advocated for low-paid workers to get a pay rise,’ he said.

‘That era is now over.’

Mr Albanese thanked the ‘heroes of the pandemic’ and said they deserved the rise. It represented a major win for the new government.

Australia's 2.7 million minimum wage and low-paid workers have received a pay increase of up to 5.2 per cent

Australia’s 2.7 million minimum wage and low-paid workers have received a pay increase of up to 5.2 per cent

But the move left a sour taste in the mouths of businesses owners who have to find the extra cash while their supply costs also increase.

Some have warned the wage increase will entrench inflation which is tipped to hit seven per cent in the June quarter. 

If inflation continues to skyrocket then the Reserve Bank will have to rise interest rates even faster, causing pain for debtors such as mortgage holders, and potentially the Albanese government’s political fortunes.

Mr Chalmers has already declared his October Budget will contain cost of living relief measures and the government has not ruled out energy bill subsidies. 

But the fuel tax break will almost certainly end in September, pushing up petrol by 22 cents a litre and causing more pain for motorists. 

Climate change and energy crisis

Mr Albanese has made climate change a key focus of his first three weeks in office, declaring the ‘climate wars are over’ after vicious political debate on the issue since Julia Gillard introduced a carbon tax in 2012. 

On Thursday he wrote to the United to Nations to notify the body of Australia’s increased emissions reduction targets.

Mr Albanese pledged to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, up from the Coalition’s target of 26-28 per cent. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signing of the letter to the United Nations

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signing of the letter to the United Nations

He was accompanied by Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen and industry stakeholders, including business groups, trade unions and energy advocates to sign the letter.

But at the same time, his government was battling an energy crisis which has seen power prices soar.

In an historic move on Wednesday, the national electricity market was suspended with the regulator taking control to avoid blackouts.

It blamed planned and unexpected coal power station outages, scheduled transmission outages, the early onset of winter and periods of low wind and solar output. 

Mr Bowen said the current crisis has ‘largely’ been caused by unexpected outages at coal-fired power stations and said the solution is an urgent investment in renewables and battery storage. 

But in a sign the climate wars are far from over, Opposition leader Peter Dutton said moving into renewables too quickly risked further power shortages down the track.

‘Labor is rushing toward a new system when it’s not at a sensible pace,’ he said.

The government wants cheaper renewable sources to supply 82 per cent of electricity by 2030, claiming this will save households $275 a year by 2025, and $378 by 2030.

But with prices shooting up, this pledge looks hard to achieve and the Coalition is ready to capitalise. 

‘They went into the election promising electricity bills would be cheaper and that is not going to happen,’ Mr Dutton said. 

Looking after the regions  

In just his third week in the job, Mr Albanese held a regional cabinet meeting in Gladstone, a coal-mining area in central Queensland which had backed the Coalition.

He declared he wanted to govern for all Australia – even the places that didn’t support him – and vowed to listen to local concerns outside the major cities.

In a Facebook post after the trip north, he wrote: ‘We spoke with hundreds of locals about their concerns and hopes for the future. We will govern for the whole country.’

On his trip to Queensland Mr Albanese also visited an aged care centre under construction and vowed to improve the sector

On his trip to Queensland Mr Albanese also visited an aged care centre under construction and vowed to improve the sector

A day later ALP National Secretary Paul Erickson admitted the party is targeting the electorate of Flynn, which contains Gladstone, in 2025.

Labor sources have told Daily Mail Australia the party leadership was bitterly disappointed they failed gain any seats in Queensland and even lost one to the Greens.

‘Queensland still hates us,’ one source lamented, saying the party’s reputation was still damaged by former leader Bill Shorten.

One of Mr Albanese’s biggest challenges as he seeks to secure a second term will be to win over the Sunshine State.

On his trip to Queensland Mr Albanese also visited an aged care centre under construction in Rockpool, Brisbane and vowed to improve the sector. 

He has also visited the Northern Territory where he announced the Australia will host the first commercial NASA rocket launch outside of the United States at the Arnhem Space Centre near Nhulunbuy.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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