Politics Analysis

Dan Andrews retires on top despite relentless, mindless media abuse

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(Image by Dan Jensen)

This week, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews resigned. And the mainstream media suffered a collective conniption.

What will they ever find to write or complain about? (On second thought, give them a few days to circle in on another victim.)

He leaves office with the latest poll indicating a commanding two-party preferred lead for Labor of 56.5-43.5 — an increase on its 55-45 lead at the last election. 

Unsurprisingly, Andrews has done it in his own time and on his own terms — a feature of his premiership. Not for Andrews the wishy-washy, let’s try to please everybody, starting with the media, approach. He knew – as all progressive politicians would do well to note – there is no pleasing Australia’s rabid media cabal.

Back when the state needed to come together during COVID, the Murdoch-led rags and shock jocks sided with the Liberal Opposition rabble to attack every state public health measure.

Of course, the more Andrews refused to engage with their relentless attacks, the more enraged the media mafia became. They ramped up the crazy to collaborate with "cookers". They invented conspiracy theories on a daily basis, contriving wild sub-plots of cover-ups behind everything from the serious accident in which Andrews suffered a broken back to a car accident involving his wife back in 2013.

And proving once and for all that the national broadcaster can mix it with the right-wing media gang, ABC’s News Breakfast chose UAP Senator Ralph Babet, along with The Australian's Rachel Baxendale to share their “insights” on Andrews’ departure.

Baxendale's blatantly hateful and puerile attacks on the Victorian Premier became a regular feature of Spring Street press conferences. The Murdoch employee refers to those Victorians who reelected Andrews for a third time with an increased majority as the "Dan Andrews cult" and will likely win a Walkley for her "incisive" interviewing skills. 

Such as when she asked the Premier why intimate partners didn’t have to wear masks when others did, to which Andrews patiently responded:

The very nature of a platonic relationship between two people who are coming together to spend time with each other, that’s very different to intimate partners who by the very virtue of the fact that they are intimate partners, their contact is of a different nature.

I can’t quite believe I’m having to explain that. But I am.

And this inspired line of questioning:

BAXENDALE: I’ve been told that [then-Victorian deputy chief health officer] Allen Cheng has resigned, is that true?

ANDREWS: No, that is not true.

BAXENDALE: But you said he was taking some time off, surely you can see that looks like he’s resigned, wouldn’t you agree?

ANDREWS: No, that is just not correct.

Cheng took a total of one week's leave. 

Brilliant interrogations such as these notwithstanding, Dan Andrews somehow managed to turn up every day during the pandemic.

He fronted a hostile press pack, enduring what can only be described as feral attacks on a daily basis.

He faced an Opposition focused on getting the dirt on the Premier instead of providing a credible alternative government.

There were death threats from emboldened far-right nut jobs.

And a bellicose Federal Coalition Government and later, Opposition, who, even as late as this month, blamed Andrews for all that is wrong with the nation – nay, the world – plus a couple of things that probably haven’t happened yet.

It was an unrelenting, coordinated misinformation campaign, in which conservative forces threw everything they had at the Victorian Premier for nine years, insisting Victorians wanted him out.

And the more unhinged their attacks towards him while Andrews stared them down, the more voters turned away from the whole circus, returning the Andrews Government to power with an increased majority each time.

It has been a long-held position of this publication that all non-conservative, let alone progressive, politicians should stop cosying up to their tormentors. It only ends in tears.

With the announcement of Rupert Murdoch’s retirement this week, sitting Labor MPs, while they haven’t waxed lyrical about the man, have hardly been openly critical, with many choosing to give him credit for building a media empire. Which is a bit like thanking Dr No for creating jobs for MI6. 

It would have been refreshing to see a sitting Labor MP step up and acknowledge what only ex-PMs, like Malcolm Turnbull (though not while he was Prime Minister), seem bold enough to admit about the media mogul.

Turnbull listed the U.S. Capitol insurrection, the Trump Presidency and climate change denial among the many terrifying consequences of Murdoch's involvement, and described his legacy as one which:

“…has done enormous damage to the democratic world.”

Turnbull also noted, unlike many of his party’s ebullient praise for the Murdoch dynasty, that the passing of Rupert’s media monstrosity helm to son Lachlan, will probably not see any change for the better.   

An accurate if sobering thought.

Andrews leaves the top job in the state as the fourth-longest-serving Victorian premier.

His legacy is one of significant social reforms such as a Treaty with Indigenous Victorians, the Safe Schools program and Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation. 

The Andrews Government infrastructure program has transformed Victoria and included the revival of the State Electricity Commission, the metro rail link, railway level crossing removals, the suburban rail loop, a range of road extensions and upgrades, plus a comprehensive plan to build 800,000 affordable homes over ten years.

Andrews' policy platform actively embraced renewable energies rather than fossil fuels and, in a first for Australia, permanently banned fracking and coal seam gas exploration.

Most recently, the Victorian Premier decided to scrap the outdated Commonwealth Games and ignored the backlash, saying simply:

What's become clear is that the cost of hosting these Games in 2026 is not the $2.6 billion, which was budgeted and allocated...

I will not take money out of hospitals and schools to host an event that is three times the cost estimated and budgeted for last year.

But not everyone will agree with that.

Of course, Andrews isn’t the only successful Labor leader in recent history to have survived the Murdochracy.

Mark McGowan, the WA Labor Premier who all but destroyed the Liberal Opposition in that state, such that they almost didn’t qualify as a political party, had a similar approach to Andrews. He, too, led on his own terms, sticking to the plan and letting that state’s media ramble on without effect until he was good and ready to stand down.

Interestingly, neither leader can be said to be a beacon of radicalism, which hints at the level of progress Australians are happy to embrace.

Nonetheless, Andrews and McGowan are tangible evidence that Australians are sick of spin. They are tired of being played by the Murdochs and Costellos and Stokes’ of the world and they are fed up with political grifters who suck up to them for personal gain. Voters want political leaders who prioritise decisions based on the needs of the people, not to placate media moguls and assorted corporations.

"But not everyone will agree with that."

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter – usually only available to subscribers – and may be read online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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