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Wren's Week: Victorian Liberals hurl accusations to discredit Dan Andrews

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Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley has questioned Premier Dan Andrews over his injuries (Image by Dan Jensen)

The Victorian Liberal Party continues its vendetta against Premier Dan Andrews, this time questioning his recent spinal injury, writes John Wren.

THIS WEEK, we saw Australia’s most pathetic opposition, the Victorian Liberals, soil their own nest yet again. I usually don’t write about political irrelevancies, however, I’ll make a rare exception in this case as the irrelevancy of the Victorian Liberals is actually symptomatic of the Party as a whole, both federally and in other states. The recent WA State Election highlighted it by effectively rendering the WA Libs to minor party status. They are not even classed as the opposition in that state anymore.

The Victorian Opposition Leader, Michael O'Brien, is largely unknown outside of the state and is barely better known inside it. A commercial barrister before entering state politics, he stands out amongst his peers as having a marginally smaller talent deficit. Indeed, he is only in the position because his predecessor, the whiny and unpleasant Matthew Guy, was flogged at the last election and resigned to the backbenches and Guy’s only likely successor, John Pesutto, lost his once-safe Hawthorn seat in Labor’s landslide victory in 2018.

The Victorian Liberals only seem to stick their heads above the political parapets during lockdowns when they invariably call for the lockdowns to end, restrictions loosened or to critique the State Government on inevitable quarantine hotel breaches. Their pro-business, anti-people rhetoric is there for every Victorian to see. Indeed, many Victorians even hold them responsible for prolonging the long Melbourne lockdown of 2020 through their constant undermining of the actions of nearly every Victorian to see off last year’s second wave.

This last point is important. In 2020, Melburnians achieved something no other major city anywhere in the world has accomplished. We beat back a major second wave of COVID-19 and effectively eliminated it. Melburnians did this together. We supported each other, we pulled together to beat it. Just as we have done in other catastrophes — bushfires, floods, wartime and the depression. Throughout, we were ably led by Premier Dan Andrews, a much-loved, highly-respected genuine leader. But make no mistake — it was a victory by the people, for the people. The virus knows no political affiliation.

Egged on by the Murdoch press and to a lesser extent by Peter Costello’s outfit, the constant sniping and attacks on Dan Andrews were seen as an attack on every Victorian and the political polling of the Victorian Liberals reflects this. Attacking your own voter base is rarely a winning electoral strategy.

Rather than put forward policies and present themselves as a genuine alternative government, all they are seen as now are negative political opportunists. This brings us to this week’s event. A new low for the already subterranean Victorian Liberals.

Liberal backbencher Louise Staley unleashed an extraordinary attack on Dan Andrews. Now, Andrews, as every Victorian and most Australians know, suffered a major spinal injury in March when he slipped on some wet stairs at a holiday house he was renting with his family. His injuries were so severe he could have become a paraplegic. As a result of the injury, he has been off work since the accident as he recovers and goes through rehabilitative physiotherapy. Andrews’ accident and injury are not uncommon. Similar things happen to hundreds of Australians every year.

Staley unleashed a torrent of Trumpesque conspiracy nutjob questions, that implied there was some sort of cover-up regarding his injuries, that he could have been drunk, that he could have been assaulted. It was unhinged. It was appalling. She then complained that he had been paid while he was on leave. This alone highlights what the Liberals think about sick leave.

What made these insane accusations worse, though, was that other Liberals, both State and Federal (looking at you Dan Tehan), fell in behind Staley as though her accusations actually had merit. It is quite sad to see how far the once-respected Vic Liberals have fallen. Good governments need effective oppositions to hold them to account. Even the current Victorian Government, brimming with talent, needs a good opposition. Victoria has no sign of one and come the next state election, it will likely go the same way as the WA Liberals.

As stated above, an attack on Andrews is still seen as an attack on every Victorian. They are slow learners, these Vic Libs.

Even the Murdoch press ridiculed Staley’s claims. This in itself is telling — that Australia’s fake news leader could not even bring itself to support her. Both Victoria Police and the Ambulance Service also released statements that supported the well-established narrative of Andrews’ accident. This writer can even attest to the story first-hand from Andrews' close colleagues.

But back to the Liberals. Staley’s attack on Andrews was a direct call to arms to the right-wing extremist tin foil hat-wearing contingent that now makes up her Party’s residual core voting demographic. You know the type — they tune in to Credlin and Jones like clockwork and are still waxing lyrical about how Trump’s election was stolen from him. Chances are they won’t get vaccinated, either. This is the sad electoral rump that the Liberal Party, not just in Victoria but nationally, are now relying on. Their future is most definitely not assured.

And perhaps the Vic Libs are also distressed at the fact that even without Andrews present as leader, Deputy Premier James Merlino has proven more than an adequate stand-in. He has stood up to the nonsense and called it out. Merlino (and Andrews, of course) are backed by a very talented team. It is a talent pool that the Libs can only dream of. Victoria is in good hands despite what the Murdochistas decry.

And while all this was going on, Morrison, via his Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews (no relation to Dan), was withholding medical treatment from an Australian child on Christmas Island. She inevitably became so sick, she was medically evacuated to Perth. The Morrison Government is depraved.

Australia was once an equitable socially inclusive nation. A country of the “fair go”. What happened?

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