SYDNEY - Australia's Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese was sworn in as the country's 31st prime minister on Monday (May 23), ending nearly a decade of rule by the conservative coalition as he promised a "journey of change" vowing to tackle climate change and rising living costs.
Labor returns to power after national elections on Saturday when the Liberal Party was toppled in several urban strongholds by independents, mostly women, who campaigned for more action on climate change, integrity and gender equality.
While votes are still being counted and the makeup of the government has yet to be finalised, Mr Albanese was sworn in so he could attend a key meeting of the "Quad" security grouping in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Mr Albanese, raised in public housing by a single mother on a disability pension, was sworn in by Governor-General David Hurley at a ceremony in the capital, Canberra.
Along with Mr Albanese, deputy Labor leader Richard Marles and three key ministers in waiting - Ms Penny Wong in foreign affairs, Mr Jim Chalmers as treasurer and Ms Katy Gallagher in finance - were also sworn in.
Mr Albanese and Ms Wong will head to Japan later on Monday for the Quad meeting.
"It's a big day in my life but a big day for the country, when we change the government," Mr Albanese told reporters outside his Sydney suburban home.
"I want to channel the opportunity that we have to shape change so that we bring people with us on the journey of change. I want to bring the country together."
Mr Albanese said he spoke to US President Joe Biden on Sunday night and was looking forward to meeting him during the Quad summit on Tuesday alongside the prime ministers of Japan and India. He will return to Australia on Wednesday.
"This visit aligns with what the Albanese Government sees as the three pillars of Australia's foreign policy: our alliance with the United States, our engagement with the region, and our support for multilateral forums," Mr Albanese said in a statement.
Labor's campaign heavily spotlighted Mr Albanese's working-class credentials and his image as a pragmatic unifier.
Centre-left Labor still remains four seats short of a majority of 76 in the 151 seat lower house with about a dozen races too close to call, according to television channels.
Some predicted Labor might get enough seats to govern on their own.
Official results could be several days away, with the counting of a record 2.7 million postal votes still underway on Sunday.