Australian PM-elect Albanese says Quad meeting in Tokyo 'absolute priority'

Incoming Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday vowed to reset Australia's relations with the world and sweep aside the country's reputation as a climate laggard, as he raced to form a government in time for a key Tokyo summit.
Fresh from a victory that ended a decade of continuous conservative rule, Albanese signaled an era of fairer, greener and less pugilistic politics for Australia.
The 59-year-old Labor leader said Saturday's election was a "big moment" in his life, but insisted he wanted it to be "a big moment for the country."
"I do want to change the country," he said as he waited to see whether his Labor party can command a majority in parliament or will need help from climate-minded independents.
Images of smoldering eucalyptus forests, smog-enveloped cities and blanched-out coral reefs have made Australia a byword for climate-fueled destruction.
Under conservative leadership, the country -- already one of the world's largest gas and coal exporters -- has also become synonymous with playing the spoiler at international climate talks.
But Albanese, nicknamed Albo, put the world on notice that it should now expect a change.
He and key ministers are expected to be sworn in on Monday, just in time to attend a summit with Japanese, Indian and U.S. leaders -- the so-called Quad.
"Obviously, the Quad leaders meeting is an absolute priority for Australia," Albanese said in his first post-election event Sunday. "It enables us to send a message to the world that there is a change of government.
"There will be some changes in policy, particularly with regard to climate change and our engagement with the world on those issues."
Albanese said he will also use the visit to Tokyo to have one-on-one meetings with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"I will return to Australia on Wednesday, and then we'll get down to business," he added.
Foreign leaders welcomed Albanese's election, most notably 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.
The issue had plagued Australia's relations with the region, where China is rapidly expanding its interests.
Albanese has vowed to end Australia's "climate wars", adopt more ambitious emissions targets, introduce a federal corruption watchdog and extend to indigenous people a constitutional right to be heard on national policy-making.
He also pledged to transform the country into a renewable energy "superpower".
But he has so far refused calls to phase out coal use, or to block the opening of new coal mines, mindful of the pro-coal and mining union factions of the Labor party.

© 2022 AFP
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