SYDNEY – Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held his first meeting as leader with U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday, prompting Biden to jokingly stage a mock walk-out as the Labor Party leader recalled his first visit to Washington.
In a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Quad summit in Tokyo, Biden expressed his appreciation at Albanese flying to Tokyo so soon after being sworn in on Monday and after a gruelling six-week election campaign.
Albanese said that when he was a young man in his 20s, he was a guest of the U.S. State Department for a 5-week programme, and had chosen to learn about the interaction of groups with the U.S. government.
He said he spent time with an array of organisations, “everything from the National Rifle Association, to the Sierra Club, to Planned Parenthood to the full kit-and-caboodle across the spectrum.”
The organisations are involved in some of the biggest hot-button issues in the United States, from gun control laws and abortion to the environment.
Biden stood up from his chair and appeared to walk off. He then returned to say: “You’re a brave man,” shaking Albanese’s hand, before sitting down again.
“It was an opportunity to see the full diversity in the way the country operates,” said Albanese, adding he had immersed himself in the United States, including a trip to Las Vegas.
Albanese said his government was proud that the Australian alliance with the United States was forged by Labor leader John Curtin during World War Two, which led to a formal alliance in the post-war period.
“We have been friends ever since,” he said, adding the United States had been important for national security for Australia and in the region.
Albanese said he had been part of a Labor government that brought U.S. Marines to Australia’s northern city of Darwin, and he looked forward to strengthening the relationship with the Washington.
Biden said he looked forward to inviting Albanese to the United States “sooner than later”, but noted Albanese would need to go home to Australia at some time.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)