Today, after nine years at the helm, Dan Andrews quit as Victoria’s premier.
“Nine years ago, I visited Government House to be sworn in as the 48th premier of Victoria – it has been the honour and privilege of my life,” he told reporters.
“I’m also proud to think of all we have achieved over these nine years in good times, and always working hard to do what’s right, not simply what’s popular.”
However, not since Jeff Kennett has any Victorian premier garnered equal admiration and loathing from the citizens.
No grey space exists between the ‘We love Dan’ and ‘Dictator Dan’ camps.
For many, Dan Andrews will be seen as a towering and consequential leader. In contrast, for many others, he will be the man who ‘destroyed Victoria,’ as our office cleaner said on hearing of his resignation today.
Crossing the Rubicon – the die was cast
Andrews often took on the mantle of a national leader, particularly at the National Cabinet during the grinding years of the Covid pandemic.
In 2022 when Premier Dan Andrews last gave a lengthy interview to Neos Kosmos he said: “Tough decisions had to be made during Covid.”
People will endlessly debate Andrew’s responses to the Covid pandemic. What is clear is that Andrews crossed the Rubicon early.
His daily presser during one of the longest lockdowns in the world (about 276 days collectively) seemed to never-end. He stood up daily and confronted tough questions, many from Neos Kosmos.
Andrews will no doubt be known for Victoria’s ‘big build’, which includes some of the most significant infrastructure projects the state has seen in over 40 years.
On the flip side, his critics will point to him riding rough-shot over process. The Opposition calls it ‘corruption’ and points to a stack of reports and inquiries.
The state’s budget could be better as Victoria’s deficit outstrips the combined debt of NSW and Queensland .
At the pandemic’s start, the government’s communications with multicultural communities needed to be improved.
Andrews stepped into the breach after Neos Kosmos led a multicultural media campaign for more support to ethnic media, and he legislated five per cent advertising to ethnic media advertising to 15 per cent.
“We need vigilance to ensure that every department, everybody across government, is making sure that they’re speaking to every Victorian.”
He saw support for multicultural media as vital in modern political discourse, “The need for more voices, in terms of our political discourse, our public life, and our civil society, we need more thought and opinion.”
Andrews an ally to the Greeks and multiculturalism
Andrews saw the Greek Community and its Antipodes festival as “one of Victoria’s most significant” communities and cultural events.
“It speaks to what it is to be Greek Victorian, and it’s not just about celebrating great cultural heritage; just as important, it’s sharing great culture.”
The 2022 antiquities exhibition at Museums Victoria from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Open Horizons: Ancient Greek Journeys and Connections, was seen as “significant,” so the Victorian and Greek governments are preparing a Memorandum of Understanding.
On the the Greek language, he said: “There is something magical about Greek; it is such an influential culture globally and such a pivotal language in the history of our world.”
“Greek is the greatest inheritance any Greek family can give their kids and grandkids.”
At the end of that interview, Andrews, aware of symbolism, saw a copy of Homer’s Odyssey at the Greek Centre’s library and pulled it out.
“I had to read this at school and the Aeneid.”
Undoubtedly, Andrews took lessons from Odysseus’ ten-year journey home from the ashes of Troy.
Like the wily king of Ithaca, love him or loath him, Andrews will be known for his guts, authority, smarts (or cunning), and conviction.
Back in Ithaca, Andrews will have time to reflect, and we, the pundits, journalists, politicos, and ordinary citizens, will continue to debate his leadership.