Australian leader won’t say who might attend Tokyo summit

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not say on Wednesday who would represent the nation at a summit with American, Indian and Japanese leaders in Tokyo, just three days after Australian elections on Saturday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were “conventions in place” to deal with the election, but did not elaborate on how those conventions would work if the result was close.

“I’m sure depending on the outcome of the election this Saturday they will be implemented,” Morrison said.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has said he himself would be sworn in as prime minister on Sunday or Monday to attend the summit of the Indo-Pacific strategic alliance known as the Quad on Tuesday.

“I will visit the Quad and renew my relationship with President (Joe) Biden, but I will also meet, very importantly, with (Japanese) Prime Minister (Fumio) Kishida and (Indian Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, who are important friends of Australia,” Albanese said. he told The Australian newspaper.

Sydney University constitutional law expert Anne Twomey said Morrison would have to resign as prime minister before Governor General David Hurley could be sworn in at Albanese.

The interim conventions have limited what the government can do since April 10, when Morrison called for elections. But the conventions are not binding.

“If the result is not clear, then the prime minister remains the prime minister. He continues to be the prime minister and has all the powers of the prime minister until such time as he resigns,” Twomey said.

“Career conventions in those circumstances would normally dictate that you can’t go around doing meaningful things, making policy announcements and that sort of thing,” he added.

Morrison and Albanese could go to Tokyo together if the election outcome looks uncertain, he said.

Published conventions provide a variety of options for a caretaker prime minister to conduct a foreign visit or international negotiations.

The prime minister could adopt “observer status” at the Tokyo summit or seek opposition support for any negotiating position.

Opposition Australian Senator Penny Wong said she would accompany Albanese to Tokyo as foreign minister if her centre-left Labor Party wins.

“The first visit will be to Japan for the Quad leaders’ meeting which will also be attended by a number of foreign ministers,” Wong told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. last week.

“My hope would have been, and Anthony has said that if we were chosen, his first visit and certainly my first visit would be to Indonesia. But obviously his first visit abroad would be the Quad leaders’ meeting in Japan,” Wong said.

Indonesia is traditionally the first overseas destination for a new Australian Prime Minister to underscore the importance of that bilateral relationship.

Usually on Australian election night it is clear which party will win the majority of seats in the House of Representatives and form the government.

But opinion polls suggest the weekend’s election will be close and could result in a divided parliament in which neither the Conservative coalition nor the Labor Party hold a majority.

There is also an increase in mail-in ballots this election as voters avoid the risk of a pandemic at voting booths. Postal votes take longer to count.

It took Labor 17 days after the 2010 election to secure the support of enough independent lawmakers to form a minority government.

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