Australian Prime Minister hopeful Albanese had a humble start in life

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – As the son of a single mother who raised him on a pension, Anthony Albanese had a humble start in life for an aspiring Australian prime minister.

But despite his disadvantaged upbringing in Sydney council housing, the man known since childhood as Albo has risen to the top of the centre-left Australian Labor Party and is now just one election away from potentially realizing his ambition to to run the national government.

On Sunday Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for general elections on May 21st.

To spare Albanese the scandal of being “illegitimate” in a working-class Roman Catholic family in socially conservative 1960s Australia, he learned as a young child that his Italian father, Carlo Albanese, had died shortly after marrying his ethnically Irish-Australian mother Maryanne Ellery in Europe.

His mother, who retired because of chronic rheumatoid arthritis, told him the truth when he was 14: his father was not dead and his parents had never married.

Carlo Albanese had been a steward on a cruise ship when the couple met in 1962 on the only foreign voyage of their lives. She returned to Sydney nearly four months pregnant from her seven-month journey across Asia to the UK and continental Europe, according to Anthony Albanese’s 2016 biopic Albanese: Telling it Straight.

When her only child was born on March 2, 1963, she was living with her parents in their local government-owned house in inner-city Camperdown.

Out of loyalty to his mother and fear of hurting her feelings, Albanese waited until after her death in 2002 before searching for his father.

In 2009, father and son were happily reunited in Barletta, southern Italy, the father’s hometown. The son was in Italy for business meetings as Australian Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.

Anthony Albanese has been in power as Labor Minister for the last six years, reaching his highest office – Deputy Prime Minister – in the last three months of his government, which ended with the 2013 general election.

“It says something great about our nation that the son of a (single) parent raised in a Sydney community center could become Deputy Prime Minister of Australia,” Albanese said. He had just defeated the son of a former deputy prime minister in a vote with other MPs for the post.

But Albanese’s critics argue that it is not his humble origins but his left-wing politics that make him unsuitable for the post of prime minister.

The Conservative government argues he is the most left-wing Australian leader in almost 50 years since crash-or-crash-through reformer Gough Whitlam, a flawed Labor Party hero.

In 1975, Whitlam became the only Australian Prime Minister to be ousted from office by a British monarch’s representative in a so-called constitutional crisis.

Whitlam had introduced a power-free university education during his short but turbulent three years, which enabled Albanese to pursue an economics degree at Sydney University despite his meager financial resources.

Albanese’s supporters argue that although he belonged to Labour’s so-called Socialist Left, he was a pragmatist with a proven ability to deal with more conservative elements in the party.

Albanese had undergone a so-called makeover over the past year, opting for more fashion-forward suits and glasses. He has also lost 18 kilograms (40 pounds) in what many see as an attempt to make himself more attractive to voters.

Albanese says he believed he would die in a two-car crash in Sydney last January and that it was the catalyst for his healthier life choices. He had briefly reconciled himself to what he once thought was his father’s fate.

After the accident, Albanese spent a night in a hospital and suffered external and internal injuries that he did not describe. The 17-year-old boy at the wheel of the Range Rover SUV that collided with Albanese’s much smaller Toyota Camry sedan has been charged with negligence.

When asked who he was at the National Press Club of Australia in January, Albanese replied that he was the son of a pensioner who had grown up in the safety of a home provided by the local government.

Albanese said he was 12 years old when he took part in his first political campaign. His council flatmates successfully repelled a local council proposal to sell their homes – a move that would have increased their rent – in a campaign in which they refused to pay the council in a so-called rent strike.

The unpaid rent debt was forgiven, which Albanese described as a “lesson for those who weren’t part of the rent strike: solidarity works.”

“Growing up, I understood the impact government could have to change people’s lives,” Albanese said. “And most importantly, the opportunity.”

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