PM Anthony Albanese wraps up multi-country blitz after 7 weeks in top job
Anthony Albanese is due back in Australia on Wednesday morning, wrapping up a whirlwind week in Europe.
It’s the third overseas trip he’s taken since ascending to the country’s top role a little more than 40 days ago.
Between himself, his Deputy Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister, the trio have visited more than a dozen countries, seeking to strengthen relationships and assert the new government’s regional dominance.
Within 48 hours of his predecessor Scott Morrison conceding defeat, Australia’s 31st prime minister was in Tokyo for the Quad meeting, where he met with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Biden was so impressed with Mr Albanese’s presence so soon after the election that he told him he would have given him a pass for falling asleep at the table.
“You got sworn in, you got on a plane, and if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK. I don’t know how you’re doing it,” Mr Biden said at the time.
Mr Albanese said his government was “committed to working with your countries”.
That same commitment to working with other countries extended to Indonesia, where he visited a little more than two weeks later for the annual leaders’ meeting.
Indonesia was the first Indo-Pacific country Mr Albanese visited as prime minister.
He said Australia’s relationship with Indonesia needed to be strengthened in the face of escalating tensions prompted by China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
With senator Penny Wong alongside him, the two carried out a two-day diplomatic sojourn to shape a “critical” partnership with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Mr Albanese visited Mr Widodo at the Bogor Palace, where the two went on a bike ride through the grounds to discuss the war in Ukraine, regional co-operation and the rise of China.
While in Indonesia, Mr Albanese also became the first prime minister to visit the port city of Makassar.
Just a few weeks after returning to Australia, Mr Albanese set off on his third trip – this time to Europe, via a quick stop in the United Arab Emirates.
First-up was Spain for the NATO summit in Madrid that Australia had been invited to attend alongside other Indo-Pacific leaders such as New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
The attendance of the P4 leaders was critical given NATO’s unprecedented move in condemning China as a “serious challenge” to global stability.
During a speech to fellow world leaders, Mr Albanese used his time in Madrid to say Australia had been “economically coerced” by China.
“Just as Russia seeks to recreate a Russian or Soviet empire, the Chinese government is seeking friends, whether it be … through economic support to build up alliances to undermine what has historically been the Western alliance in places like the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
While in Madrid, Mr Albanese had one-on-ones with the likes of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Mr Albanese then flew to Paris for a highly anticipated meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in a bid to make peace following the Morrison government’s tearing up of a submarine deal.
Mr Albanese declared a “new chapter” in Australia’s relationship with France and said he would prioritise “trust, respect, and honesty”.
Mr Macron said Mr Albanese “was not responsible” for what had happened with the former government, and said the pair had spoken about “the future, not the past”.
“All of that marks our willingness to rebuild a relationship based on trust between our two countries, based on mutual respect … but also a relationship based on strategic and historical partnership,” Mr Macron said.
Mr Albanese then quietly headed to Ukraine, with travelling Australian media given a strict embargo not to report on his trip until he had safely arrived back in Poland.
However, the Kyiv governor and world media published his location while he was in the capital.
While in Ukraine, Mr Albanese toured hard-hit civilian areas where he condemned Russia yet again for their unjustified war.
Mr Albanese then met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and committed an extra $100m in aid.
Mr Albanese will return to Australia via a quick stop in Italy on Monday before heading to Fiji next week for the Pacific Islands Forum.
Later this year, Mr Albanese will head back to Indonesia for the G20.