politics

When Anthony Albanese was 14, he learnt his mum had lied about his father's death.

As a teen, Anthony Albanese sat down with his mother for dinner.

It was just the two of them, as it always had been. Albanese’s father had died in a car crash before he was born.

Or at least, that’s what he thought until that dinner. His mother told him his father was most likely alive and living in Italy.

She had met him overseas and fallen pregnant – that part of the story he’d known his whole life was true, but Albanese’s father was engaged to an Italian woman and had stayed with her. He’d never come to Australia.

More than four decades on from that fateful conversation, Anthony Albanese stood in front of the nation and said he believed he was the best choice to be the new Australian Labor Party leader, following the party’s shock 2019 election loss and Bill Shorten’s resignation.

His politics, his attitudes, his strong belief in equality and the importance of Medicare, all come down to having been brought up by a strong, single mother, he said.

Albanese (universally known as Albo) confirmed on Sunday he will contest the Labor leadership. Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, from the Labor right, has also announced he will run. There is speculation Labor MP Jim Chalmers, who also hails from the right, is weighing up his options. Labor deputy Tanya Plibersek has confirmed she will not run.

Albanese, who won the grassroots vote in 2013’s leadership vote but did not succeed in getting enough caucus support to beat Shorten, told ABC’s 7:30 on Monday his background and experience makes him the right man for the job.

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The 56-year-old father-of-one is the passionate face of Labor. He represents an inner Sydney seat and is a leading figure of the party’s left faction.

In January Albanese announced his separation from his wife of 30 years, ex-NSW deputy premier Carmel Tebutt. This separation has – rightly – barely been touched on since, as Albanese threw himself into Labor’s campaign.

Anthony Albanese’s upbringing.

Albanese has spoken often of his mother, Maryanne, who raised him alone in public housing in Sydney’s inner west while on an invalid pension.

For much of his childhood, Albanese believed his parents had met overseas, married and returned to Australia, where his father was killed in a car accident, but in his biography, Albanese: Telling it Straight, he revealed how he discovered this wasn’t true.

In 2016 he told ABC’s 7.30 that when he was about 14 or 15, his mother told him the real story was much more complicated.

anthony albanese
A young Albo. Image: Facebook.

"We sat down just after dinner one night and she - it was very traumatic for her, I think, to tell me that in fact that wasn't the case, that my father might still be alive, that she'd met him overseas, fallen pregnant with me, had told him and he had said, basically, that he was betrothed to someone from the town in Italy where he was from.

"I think that whole guilt associated with having a child out of wedlock in 1963 as a young Catholic woman was a big deal and, hence, the extent to which she had gone to in terms of adopting my father's name, she wore an engagement and a wedding ring, she - the whole family just believed this story."

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Anthony Albanese
A young Anthony Albanese. Image: Twitter.

In 2017, Albanese wrote an article for Mamamia about how much love and respect he had for his mother, who raised him on her own.

When his mother died in 2002, Albanese began his search for his Italian father with just one photo from the ship he had worked on.

With the help of friend Ann Sherry, who was the head of Carnival Cruises, and maritime historian Rob Henderson, Albanese succeeded in his 'needle in a haystack' search.

"It's a moment I'll never forget," he said. "I was in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, I was about to chair a dinner of the Australian Transport Council.

"I got this phone call just as we were about to leave and [Sherry] - it was very short conversation — she said 'we've found him', and it took my breath away because I didn't think that would happen."

anthony albanese
Image: Getty.
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Albanese travelled to Italy and with the help of the Australian Embassy in Rome, met his father Carlo and his half-brother and half-sister.

"He walked in and opened his arms to me and we embraced," Albanese said. "It was quite - it was incredibly generous of him, I think, and it was a very poignant moment."

Albanese continued to visit Italy and said his final goodbye to his ill father in the lead up to the tumultuous 2013 election.

"He died in January of 2014 and I was very pleased that I was able to have that final engagement with him. He was lucid and he told me - the last conversation we had was that he was glad that we had found each other."

Anthony Albanese's political career.

Albanese worked for the Commonwealth Bank for two years after high school, before studying economics at the University of Sydney.

His political life started in university. He then went on to work for Labor minister Tom Uren and NSW's ALP party machine before winning the seat of Grayndler in Sydney's inner west 1996, which he has held ever since.

He used his maiden speech in Parliament to signal his support for funding public infrastructure, multiculturalism, Aboriginal title, minimum wage and childcare.

He concluded by saying: "For myself, I will be satisfied if I can be remembered as someone who will stand up for the interests of my electorate, for working class people, for the labour movement, and for our progressive advancement as a nation into the next century."

Three years later he was in the Shadow Ministry and, after Kevin Rudd became leader, Manager of Opposition Business in the House. When Labor came to power in 2007 he became Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Leader of the House of Representatives.

He championed entitlement to superannuation for same-sex couples, trying four times over nine years to move a private member's bill that would've given them the same rights as de facto heterosexual couples. When the legislation was finally passed after Rudd's election in 2007, Albanese turned his attention to same-sex marriage.

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Anthony Albanese during the 2016 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. Image: Getty.

Albanese was emotionally upset by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd bloodbaths, although after Rudd's brief return to leadership in 2013 he became deputy prime minister.

After Labor lost office he and Shorten contested the leadership. He won the popular vote, but did not have the caucus numbers to beat Shorten.

The Labor stalwart threw his hat into the ring again after describing the 2019 election outcome as a "devastating result" for the Australian Labor Party.

"I believe I am the best person to lead Labor back into government," he said at during Sunday announcement to media.

"What you see if what you get with me," he said. "I'm a bit rough at the edges, but I think that Australians don't want someone who just utters talking points."

Albanese, who came second in the last leadership ballot in 2013, believes Labor needs to listen to people in the outer suburbs and the regions to understand why the party lost the election.

"We have not sold the message well enough, I don't think, that we are interested in jobs and economic growth as the priority, as well as the distribution of wealth in our society."

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