© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Anthony Albanese, leader of Australia’s Labor Party, addresses supporters after incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Scott Morrison conceded defeat in the country’s general election, in Sydney, Australia May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Ja

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia’s Labor Party leader, Anthony Albanese, was sworn in as the country’s 31st prime minister on Monday, promising a “journey of change” as he vowed to tackle climate change, rising living costs and inequality.

Labor returns to power after nine years in opposition as a wave of unprecedented support for the Greens and climate-focussed independents, mostly women, helped end nearly a decade of rule by the conservative coalition in Saturday’s general election.

Although votes are still being counted and the makeup of government has yet to be finalised, Albanese was sworn in so he could attend a key meeting of the “Quad” security grouping in Tokyo on Tuesday.

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 national capital, Canberra.

“It’s a big day in my life but a big day for the country, when we change the government,” Albanese told reporters outside his Sydney suburban home ahead of the ceremony. “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.”

Australian financial markets offered a muted reaction to the election verdict on Monday, with the outcome already priced in and no radical change in economic course expected.

“Our economic forecasts and call on the (Reserve Bank of Australia) are unchanged despite the change of national leadership,” economists at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (OTC:) said.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles and three key ministers – Penny Wong in foreign affairs, Jim Chalmers as treasurer and Katy Gallagher in finance – were also sworn in, with Wong to join Albanese on the Quad trip.

Albanese said he spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday night and was looking forward to meeting him alongside the prime ministers of Japan and India on Tuesday. 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,” Albanese said in a statement.

Labor’s campaign heavily spotlighted 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 under way on Sunday.

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