Daniel Andrews’ legacy will loom large over state

Daniel Andrews quits as Victorian Premier

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been described as a leader with a “remarkable political antennae” whose legacy – for better or worse – will loom large over the state for years to come.

Andrews announced his shock resignation on Tuesday afternoon, saying he’d decided to call time on his near-decade run as Premier after his mind had begun to wander to what may come next.

“When it is time, it is time,” he said at a snap media briefing in Melbourne.

Labor caucus will meet on Wednesday to vote on Andrews’ successor, with Deputy Premier Jacinta Allen emerging as an early frontrunner for the job before a closed-door poll.

But whoever takes charge will inherit a state forever changed by Andrews’ political legacy after three straight election victories that  handed Victoria’s Labor Party a commanding Lower House majority.

University of Melbourne lecturer Dr James Murphy said such remarkable electoral success came despite a series of crises and political scandals, including a difficult time leading Victoria through the pandemic years.

In that period, Andrews was celebrated, on the one hand, as the Premier who made Triple J’s Hottest 100 list for hit track Get on the Beers, while also leading the government that breached the human rights of vulnerable Victorians in a brutal public housing lockdown.

Murphy said Andrews had an uncanny ability to ride political winds.

“Totally legit scandals afflicted Daniel Andrews at various times,” he said.

“But he had a really good read on the public and knew where to hold his ground … it’s a remarkable political antennae.”

Andrews’ politics to persist

Victorian Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari, who worked with Andrews during his time as health minister in the Brumby government, said his former boss has had a huge effect on the Liberal opposition, which faces an uphill battle to regain the political high ground.

“They’ve broken the Liberal Party in Victoria,” he said.

“They’ll be relieved to look over and not see Daniel on the bench, I’m sure, but they have such a long way to go [to dethrone Labor].”

Opposition Leader John Pesutto immediately looked to turn the corner on Andrews’ leadership on Tuesday afternoon, claiming the Premier had resigned because his government was “falling apart”.

But Murphy described the situation differently, suggesting “Danism” will persist after Andrews’ departure as the government continues with huge housing and health agendas.

“Danism has not left the premiership … spending big on infrastructure and having relatively socially progressive, interventionist policies will continue [under a new leader],” Murphy said.

“The ideological vibe of Victoria has changed in the last nine years Andrews has been in office.”

RedBridge Group director and former deputy state director of the Victorian Liberal Party Tony Barry thought the Opposition would need to contend with a “formidable successor” in Allan.

Barry also suggested Andrews’ resignation was true to form for a politician who sought to “control the narrative”.

“Every political leader cares deeply about their own legacy and Daniel Andrews is no different,” Barry said.

“Everything he’s ever done has been an exercise in controlling the narrative, including his exit from politics.”

Investigation into Melbourne's public housing lockdown

Source: YouTube/Victorian Ombudsman

COVID to dominate legacy

Victoria’s torrid experience with the COVID-19 pandemic will, whether he likes it or not, define Andrews’ political legacy.

Murphy said the financial fallout across the state’s budget would persist for Andrews’ successor.

But Hilakari said Andrews electoral victory in 2022 showed voters backed his “consistent” approach to COVID, which prioritised health.

“He said from the start that the pandemic was about saving lives and keeping people safe – he never backed off of that,” Hilakari said.

Murphy said such an uncompromising approach was picked up by Andrews during the controversy over the East West Link when he won his first election as leader after pledging to axe the controversial project.

He explained this willingness to “double down” earned Andrews respect among voters, who saw him as a “conviction politician”.

Andrews’ tenure as Victorian Premier ends at 5pm on Wednesday.

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