Daniel Andrews

The Future After Dan

26 October 2023


The announcement by Daniel Andrews that he was retiring as Premier of Victoria after nine years in office and 13 as the leader of the state Labor Party came as a shock to many, despite rumours that he would leave office. Having promised that he would serve the four-year team, the premier has left office after just ten months.

It will take some time to unravel a full assessment of Mr Andrews’ period as state premier, but some preliminary observations can be made.

First, the positive. His government has made a significant contribution to the state’s infrastructure in the removal of dozens of rail crossings, the building of roads, and the expansion of freeways. This construction will be his legacy.

It was also his ticket to repeated victories. Ordinary Victorians who benefitted from the infrastructure rewarded Labor at the polls. They made Mr Andrews the longest-serving Labor premier of Victoria.

Mr Andrews spoke of his new housing policy as a legacy, but it is unlikely to be fulfilled, let alone ease the property crisis in the state.

However, these matters are outweighed by a series of policy missteps and a record of disastrous economic management.

Decades of Damage

At the top of the list in the minds of many Victorians was his handling of the Covid pandemic. The constant hectoring, the devastating lockdowns, the destruction of businesses and jobs and the hundreds of deaths still touch the raw nerves of many people.

With the retirement of Mr Andrews, only Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk remains as a Covid-era state leader. There has been speculation that she too may retire before the next election.

More significantly, Mr Andrews’ lasting legacy is a massive debt. Victorians will owe $171 billion within three years, a higher debt than Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania combined. They pay $22 million a day just to cover the interest bill. The $4 billion per year in interest payments will double to $8 billion in three years’ time. Debt-fuelled expenditure saddles the state.

The 6.8 million Victorians will be paying off the Andrews government debt for years and years, if not decades.

The Labor government has introduced nearly 50 new or increased taxes. Victorians are now paying the highest taxes in Australia — $5,638 per person.

Yet waste has been enormous. A billion dollars not to build a freeway; $380 million (at least) to not stage the Commonwealth Games; and $30 billion in cost blowouts.

The hospital system is creaking under the weight of waiting lists, and ambulance queues are unacceptable.

The state trails Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland on economic performance.

There are many policy disasters. His courting of China, contrary to the position of both the Australian government and his own federal colleagues, was one of the most egregious.

Control and Corruption

Many observers of Victoria wonder at how Mr Andrews’ Labor Party continued to dominate the state’s politics.

There are a number of reasons. First, Andrews was perhaps the most ruthless political leader, state or federal, ever in Australia. He used every opportunity to accrete power to himself. When branch stacking was alleged in the right wing of the Labor Party, the normal democratic structures were suspended.  Branch stacking in Mr Andrews ‘left faction was ignored. Andrews became all-powerful; opponents were discarded and supporters rewarded.

The sobriquet ‘Dictator Dan’ stuck because it resonated with many people, including MPs in his own party. Access to the premier was restricted. He colonised almost every government institution and agency with his supporters.

Secondly, Andrews controlled the political narrative and shaped the zeitgeist. He achieved this by a combination of factors, including controlling the message, dominating social media, and refusing to engage with critics. He refused to participate in talkback radio with hosts who questioned his policies. He simply refuted as untrue any proposition with which he disagreed.

It is difficult to believe that the fact and timing of his departure was not carefully researched. Every decision his government has taken has been informed by polling and focus group research, even the decisions taken during COVID-19. It is also just a week since the Albanese government announced that the actions of state government will not be examined by the Covid inquiry.

Mr Andrews’ departure will change Victorian politics.

The premier’s successor will have a Herculean task. She will have to re-engage with Victorians to change the hubristic image that Mr Andrews created.

The sudden retirement provides an opportunity for the Opposition, if they can grasp it. Labor has been adept, especially in the states, of replacing a leader successfully.

Part of Andrews’ success is due to a dysfunctional and divided Opposition. Unless this changes, Victorians will continue to re-elect Labor.


Originally published in The Epoch Times Australia. Photo by Tiff Ng.

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