Addendum: So Andrews is going, going, gone. Umbrella will be looking at his legacy in more detail soon. In the meantime, here’s an update on some recent developments, over our earlier article and prediction that he would be gone soon, as it happened, much sooner than even we expected.
Jumping deeper into big projects with an uncertain outcome, Daniel Andrews has announced plans to pull down 44 public housing residential towers across Melbourne and replace them by 2051 with 30,000 ‘dwellings, of which number 11,000 will be set aside for social housing at a time (July 2023 figures) more than 55,000 people are already on the government’s social housing waiting list.
Asked why there couldn’t be more ‘dwellings’ for social housing, Andrews said, “If you don’t have a partnership with the private sector, where will the money come from?” Having run the state into debt that future generations will be paying off for decades, no-one knows the answer better than Dan: “Not from us because we haven’t got any.”
The first five towers, in the inner city, are scheduled to be pulled down by 2031 (but don’t hold your breath). There is no detail of what kind of ‘dwellings’ will be built or where the present residents will be housed when their towers are pulled down.
The demolition of the towers is only part of a housing policy the government is packaging as the biggest in Australia’s history, consisting of the construction of 800,000 homes in a decade, 80,000 every year, with 2.24 million built by 2051, by which time those throwing this propaganda-filled pie into the sky will be long gone. To smooth the path the government intends to override the right of local councils to object to high-density housing projects they and their ratepayers don’t like.
As there is apparently no shortage of rental apartments across Melbourne (nearly 3000 listed on realestate.com.au in late September), a central problem seems to be rents that people cannot afford. ‘Affordability’ is the worst for 30 years. This situation will not be alleviated by the cash-strapped government’s 7.5% levy on Airbnb, although it will, however, give it a handy $50-$70 million a year. Charles Dickens’ artful dodger has nothing on these people.
The Greens say the towers project is the end of public housing in Victoria and even the ‘Age’, faithful throughout the long years of the state’s Dandemic, has jacked up, running an opinion piece saying the government’s housing plans are an attempt to manufacture a crisis to achieve the radical removal of citizen rights.
Moving on to another grandiose project, the architect Norman Day has described the planned redevelopment of the 3.3 hectare Jolimont railway yards (Federation Square East) as a “large, ugly execrescence that risks wrecking Melbourne for decades to come.” Only architecturally, he means, of course, as Melbourne has already been wrecked in so many other ways.
Daniel Andrews is the ultimate politicians’ politician. Described once as a “political titan” he has dominated Victoria in his nine years as premier. He is ruthless, aggressive, full of himself, dissembling, endlessly scheming and could talk the hind legs off a dog. Although he claims to be responsible for everything, he has been held personally responsible for nothing. From the Coate inquiry into the hotel quarantine shambles to IBAC investigations into government and party corruption, he has wiggled his way out of every threatening situation. The cherry on the cake is that he wins elections. As a politician, what is there not to admire?
After the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games and the latest scandal involving the ALP, this time over the signing of membership forms for people who were dead, in the electorate of Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, the word ‘integrity’ has finally crept into media discourse where Andrews is concerned.
Yet it was obviously an issue even before Andrews became Premier in December, 2014. In January, 2013, a teenage bike rider was almost killed when hit by the Andrews family car at Blairgowrie. This issue has not gone away despite the failure/refusal of the ‘liberal’ media to follow it up and Andrews’ attempts to sweep it under the carpet as something that happened long ago and can be forgotten. It remains the most serious personal issue involving a premier in Victorian history and needs to be resolved with a proper police inquiry,
Callously, Andrews blamed the boy for causing the accident even as he lay seriously injured in hospital. He insisted that the bike hit the car, but a recently revealed Ambulance Victoria report on the accident says it was the other way around – the car hit the bike.
The report also contradicts the claims of Andrews and his wife that the car was moving slowly from a stationary position at an intersection. It says the car was travelling at 40-60 kph when it hit the boy’s bike. As the intersection was only 25 metres away, the driver would have had to be accelerating quite hard to reach this speed, especially if the car had stopped at the intersection. Furthermore, police photos published late last year show that the car was not T-boned by the bike as Andrews claimed. On the contrary, the car hit the bike hard on the left hand front, throwing the boy into the windscreen before he fell badly injured on to the road.
The statements made by Andrews and his wife are incompatible with the truth as revealed in photos of the damaged car and the evidence of ambulance paramedics. The failures of the police include the failure to investigate where the family had been before the accident, at the beach, as Andrews said, by implication all the time, or having lunch at a “sailing club” before driving home. This is what Jane Crittenden, the first witness on the scene of the accident, now claims Andrews told her, in an interview with Herald Sun reporter Michael Warner published in late August. The Herald Sun is the only news outlet to pursue Andrews over this issue and Warner’s reporting over the past year has been exemplary.
Ms Crittenden also said that “I have a recollection of her [Catherine Andrews] sitting in the vehicle at the time I was attending to the child. She was sitting in the front passenger seat.” Ms Crittenden has never been interviewed by police about the accident. Catherine Andrews, who was driving the car, according to her and her husband, was not breathtested. Neither was the accident scene taped off or the collision investigated on the spot by the Accident Investigation Unit. The further claims made by Ms Crittenden have now been referred to IBAC (Independent Broad-based Anti Corruption Commission).
The failure to breathtest Catherine Andrews was a breach of police regulations. The police also allowed Andrews to drive the car away, again in the breach of the law– first, by moving the car from the scene of a serious accident and second, by driving an unroadworthy vehicle. Had the police done their job, Andrews’ political career might have ended at that point. Fortunately for him, they did not do their job. Within a year he was elected premier and leading Victoria into the darkest period of its history.
The centrepiece, of course, was the government response to Covid-19. Propaganda poured out of the premier’s office day after day. Important information – what people really needed to know – was withheld from public knowledge or suppressed by the media. Shock headlines fed an atmosphere of panic and fear. Police violence on the streets was unprecedented in the state’s history. Declaring a state of emergency, Andrews effectively became the government. Victoria was turned into a police state under the rule of one person.
For all this, Victoria’s handling of the health situation was the worst in the country. The government’s administrative incompetence was brought to public attention by the Coate inquiry into the failure of the hotel quarantine scheme. The witness appearances of Andrews, his senior ministers and bureaucrats were simultaneously abysmal and contemptible. None of them knew anything or decided anything. Hundreds of elderly people had died in aged care homes but no individual was held responsible.
Economically, Andrews’ predeliction for jumping into large scale projects without costing them properly has led to cost blowouts and cancellations. This particular track began in 2015 when Andrews cancelled the East West Link at a cost to the taxpayer of $420 million, so Andrews said, making “more funding available for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project.” In December 2015, the state auditor-general sent a highly critical report to parliament. It put the real cost of the cancellation at $1.1 billion, referred to a waste of public money and said the project had been cancelled without full consideration of continuing it.
As for the metro rail project, by 2019 the cost of the early work construction phase had blown out by $100 million, 31 per cent of the original budget. By 2020, the $11 billion cost of the rail link had blown out by $2.74 billion, $1.37 billion to be paid by Victorian taxpayers. Another rail project, the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL), was originally budgeted to cost $50 billion. In August 2022, however, responding to an inquiry by the opposition, the Independent Parliamentary Budget Office put the real cost of the first two stages of the SRL at $125 billion.
Now we have the Commonwealth Games cancellation which Andrews said would cost the state (i.e the taxpayer) $380 million and “not a dollar more.” Time will tell if this is all it will cost the Victorian taxpayer– given the number of local governments and sports groups who have already spent time and money on this project. While having to pay the cost, the confidentiality clause in the agreement with the Commonwealth Games Federation, inserted at the request of the Victorian government, will prevent Victorians from knowing what went on beyond closed doors. How the cost could have jumped in a year from $2.6 billion to $6-7 billion is the great unknown. Andrews is refusing to give evidence at the senate inquiry into the cancellation. The political question being asked is whether taking the games on was wholly or partly a ploy to win votes in country Victoria, where all the events would be staged, ahead of last year’s state elections.
Victoria is now the most heavily indebted state in Australia. The state debt in 2019 was about $25 billion. By June 2023, it was $116 billion. Treasurer Tim Pallas said would rise to $127 billion by June 2027, almost 25 per cent of gross state product (compared to 9.5 per cent of GSP in 2019). The parliamentary budgetary office forecast a state debt of $305.3 billion by 2032, or 31.9 per cent of GSP, an outcome that would be “problematic” for Victoria’s global ratings. The state tax burden of 5.8 per cent of GSP is higher than all other states but then most of Victoria’s metrics are worse than other states. In 2023, interest on the state debt will cost the taxpayer $3.9 billion or 4.7 per cent of total government revenue. According to the Treasury, this will rise to $7.4 billion by 2025/6, or eight per cent of total revenue.
Victoria has lost its AAA rating with both Standard and Poor (now AA) and Moody’s (Aa2). Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2022/3 show that Victoria is the only state with fewer business registrations than the year before, a drop of 7606 compared to an increase of 11,031 for NSW and 8147 for Queensland.
Finally, there is the string of IBAC investigations into government or party corruption, some implicating Andrews personally. In 2022, the Operation Watts inquiry into branch stacking ended with the sacking of Cabinet minister Adem Somyurek. The inquiry focussed only on branch stacking in the right faction. Somyurek admitted his guilt but said the obvious, that branch stacking was common in all factions.
In 2023, Operation Daintree homed in on the government’s $1.2 million grant to an ALP-affiliated union. After the report was released, Stephen Charles KC, a founder of IBAC, remarked that “this government has given away integrity in government … they’ve allowed IBAC to fall into decay, they underfund it, they have imposed over it an oversight committee dominated or controlled by Labor.”
Robert Redlich, the head of IBAC during the Operation Daintree investigation, also focussed on the government’s lack of integrity.
Ignoring this, Andrews described IBAC’s findings as “educational” and referred to Redlich as “a bloke who used to do a job.” He was equally dismissive of Charles, “a former justice whom I’ve never met.” In fact, “this bloke” Redlich and the “former justice” Charles are two of the most senior and respected legal figures in Victoria.
Further IBAC inquiries involve Andrews in deals made with the Firefighters Union and a $3.4 million grant given to the Health Services Union by Andrews and former Health Minister Jill Hennessy, against the advice of the Department of Health. Andrews’ relationship with a property developer has been another of IBAC’s targets. Now the latest claims made by a witness on the scene of the 2013 car crash have been referred to IBAC .
The scales are finally falling from eyes previously unable or unwilling to see the damage Andrews has done to Victoria, materially and, it can be said, psychologically. A Roy Morgan poll in July, after the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games, showed Andrews had a disapproval rate of 55 per cent, up 7.5 per cent from a May poll. This was the first time since he became premier that more people disapproved of Andrews than approved. The poll also showed 33 per cent support for the ALP government, down nine per cent since May.
In public, Andrews dismisses opinion polls but no need to take this seriously when he employs a large personal staff to monitor his public standing. Everything he does or says is calculated to maintain voter support or win more of it. Nevertheless, at the November state election the ALP won only 37 per cent of the primary vote, compared to 42.8 per cent in 2018. This and the recent public opinion polling figures are more than straws in the wind but rather solid indications that most Victorians have had enough of Daniel Andrews. With the next elections three years away he has time to contemplate his options, but it is only a question of when he steps down as premier, not if. If the party decides he will win no more elections, it will remove him anyway.
What is remarkable in this saga is how Andrews got away with so much for so long. Media support by the media, in particular the ‘Age’ and the ABC, is crucial in understanding how the garden state was led up the garden path.
Andrews and his minions terrorised the people into compliance with whatever he wanted them to do. The premier abused and threatened people who disagreed with him, and showed a callous disregard for the small businesses damaged or destroyed by six lockdowns. He set police and an anti-terrorist squad on to civilian demonstrators, he locked people in their homes (and when they were allowed out made them sit in circles on the grass) and encouraged them to snitch on each other. He drove businesses out of Victoria and brought the state to the verge of economic ruin. All this for the bargain basement price of Dan’s salary, $481,190 and not a dollar more.