Biden, Albanese swap jokes in first meeting

US President Joe Biden and Anthony Albanese swapped banter, reminiscences, and even sleeping advice in their first meeting since the Australian’s election win.

The light-hearted exchanges came as the two men met in Tokyo where they were attending the Quad summit —  a grouping that includes Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

Biden, who has deepened US ties with Australia as part of a strategy to contain China, called the US-Australian alliance “an anchor of stability and prosperity” in the Asia-Pacific.

According to a readout from the White House, their behind-doors discussions covered topics such as the AUKUS security pact between Australia, Britain and the United States, and efforts to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

In public exchanges, however, Biden opened by joking that his counterpart, elected just last weekend, has “been on the job a long time”.

He expressed admiration that Albanese decided to fly to Tokyo for the Quad meeting so soon after his election win, saying it showed Australia is “all-in” on the relationship.

Then, instead of the more typical good-luck wish to the newbie leader, Biden suggested good night.

“You were sworn in and got on a plane,” Biden said, admiringly.

So “if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK, because I don’t know how you’re doing it. It’s really quite extraordinary — just getting off the campaign trail as well.”

Albanese showed no fatigue as he launched into his own banter.

Lauding how the two countries are “great friends”, he recalled visiting the United States many years ago as a “young fellow” on a State Department invitational programme to experience the country.

While on the trip, he conducted research into the diversity of US society, studying groups ranging from the National Rifle Association gun lobby to Planned Parenthood, which promotes abortion access.

It was, Albanese said to laughter, “the full kit and caboodle across the spectrum”.

“You’re a great man,” exclaimed Biden, who has tried with varying success to battle against deepening right-left divisions in US society.

Albanese noted that he would host the next Quad summit in Australia in 2023, but said he hoped to be “visiting the US before then”.

Biden suggested they “work out a time sooner than later”.

Returning to his concerns over Albanese’s travel schedule, the US president added: “But you’re probably going to have to be home at some point.”