Anthony Albanese Pitches ‘Safe Change” in Australian Election

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Anthony Albanese likes to talk about his modest upbringing: He grew up in public housing in Sydney’s inner suburbs, raised by a single mother on a disability pension, and was the first in his family to go to college.

Mr. Albanese, the leader of the opposition Labor Party and the man polling says is likely to become the next prime minister, has credited good government for keeping a roof over his head during his childhood.

It’s this kind of government — one that “holds no one back, and leaves no one behind,” in his words — that he has evoked as he has sought to connect with working-class voters.

The question, though, is whether this oft-told story has registered with voters. Although Mr. Albanese is one of Australia’s longest-serving politicians, many voters still say they know little about him or what he stands for.

Part of this is because Labor has run what has been called a “small target” campaign. Mr. Albanese took over as opposition leader after Labor’s upset loss in the 2019 election, which the party has attributed to a too-ambitious policy platform that left it vulnerable to a scare campaign by the conservative Liberal Party.

This time, Labor has sought to minimize differences with the government on several issues like national security and border protection, and it has proposed incremental changes on other issues like climate change.

As Mr. Albanese puts it, he is seeking “renewal, not revolution.”

“There’s a slight element of Joe Biden about Albanese — he’s an alternative which people are hoping for because they don’t like the incumbent,” said John Warhurst, an emeritus professor of politics at the Australian National University.

“There’s not an enthusiasm there,” he added.

A career politician, Mr. Albanese joined the Labor Party as a teenager. He got his start through student politics at the University of Sydney, after which he worked for Labor politicians and in party roles. He built up a status as a back-room power broker before being elected to Parliament in 1996.

When Labor won the 2007 election under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, Mr. Albanese became the minister for infrastructure. He weathered the subsequent years of internal party chaos in which Julia Gillard took over as prime minister before Mr. Rudd wrenched the post back. As one of Mr. Rudd’s key backers in the leadership fight, Mr. Albanese became deputy prime minister for two months before Labor was defeated in the 2013 election.

As a member of the Labor Party’s more progressive “socialist left” faction, Mr. Albanese spoke in favor of euthanasia, was a strong supporter of same-sex marriage and opposed his party’s support of policies that bar refugees from seeking asylum after reaching Australia by boat.

But in recent years, he has shifted to a more moderate stance, including falling in line with his party’s position on asylum seekers. During the campaign, he has sought to assure voters that he is a centrist, including with a front-page profile in a Murdoch-owned paper with the headline “I am not woke.”





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