Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is working hard to bury his ‘dictator donation’ tag and rebuild himself in the lead-up to November’s election.
The tag dogged Mr Andrews during Victoria’s repeated Covid-19 lockdowns, which went on and off for almost two years.
In November, Victorians will go to the polls to cast their votes in the first election as they spend a world-record-breaking period locking themselves in their homes on the orders of the Premier.
Soft side: Premier Daniel Andrews is in campaign mode throughout 2022
Grace Andrews, Daniel Andrews, Catherine Andrews, Joseph Andrews and Noah Andrews attend the Melbourne premiere at Hamilton Her Majesty’s Theater on March 24.
Mr Andrews went public with the death of his beloved cat Felix
By then, the dark agony of winter and the state’s world-record-breaking lockdown will be a distant memory for many.
This year Mr Andrews has tried to portray a softer side to his persona, taking jibes at WAG Beck Judd when she expressed fears of crime in her slim suburb, and appearing almost human in tweets celebrating her 50th birthday.
When he returned to work after a bad fall, he comically wore his The North Face jacket – a jacket Victorians had come to loathe during the frequent lockdowns.
In March, a smiling Mr Andrews appeared on the red carpet with his family at the premiere at Her Majesty’s Theater in Hamilton.
In April he announced the death of his beloved cat Felix.
Melburnians were relieved of their sixth lockdown on October 21 last year.
Since then, most of the familiar faces of their political lock-in occupiers have been forgotten – or suppressed.
Four senior Victorian government ministers have resigned their portfolios ahead of the next election on November 26.
Those ministers include former Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Sports Minister Martin Pakula.
Each of whom played an important role in closing down Victoria for 262 long days.
Premier Daniel Andrews went to war with WAG Beck Judd after she hit out at the crime in Brighton
Premier Daniel Andrews wore his infamous The North Face jacket when he returned to work after the fall. It was a jacket that plagued the Victorians in the early lockdown
Clearing the decks: Lisa Neville and Martin Foley were Dan Andrews ministers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Their departure had nothing to do with blotting the memory of the Victorian public leading up to the election, they all agreed.
‘I didn’t feel like going out. I was good to go back to work, not to do what I started, but to finish what we started,” Mr Andrews said at the time.
‘There’s change and refresh and renewal, and that’s critical for any team, especially if it’s going to be the best team it can be.’
Everyone had watched and forgotten how Covid-19 broke out of the state’s quarantine hotels, forcing Victorians to curfews, home schooling and bans on children from playgrounds.
While the Andrews government’s disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic will live forever in the history books, it has come under scrutiny in the months since it forced the state into billions of dollars in debt.
Voters don’t seem to care.
‘Tyrant Dan’ made it illegal to go to the beach – arguably the safest place to escape the cold
Professor Brett Sutton has been benched until mid-2022 as Premier Daniel Andrews wants Victorians to forget what happened to them.
Mysterious disappearance of face during covid lockdown
Dr. Brett Sutton
After becoming a household name and a minor sex symbol during Victoria’s years of lockdown, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton is rarely seen.
Analyzing a year of media appearances, the Australian Media Diary found that Professor Sutton averaged 250 mentions a month in Australian media this year, compared to around 1800 mentions in August 2021 alone, according to research by media monitoring service Stream.
Last month Mr Andrews was forced to answer allegations that the CHO had been gagged by him.
‘I am not his press secretary. He is fully capable of answering your questions,” the Prime Minister said.
Professor Sutton went on a strange media tour a week later.
Like Professor Sutton, Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar was never far from a television screen during the lockdown.
Like the CHO, he soon became a distant memory for the long-suffering Victorians.
He resurfaced last month after taking over as chief executive of the Victorian Commonwealth Games organizing committee.
Her role is seen as a reward for Mr Andrews’ ruthless implementation of tough Covid-19 restrictions.
Only last month it was revealed that Andrews’ government was facing a new corruption investigation, exposed by court convictions linked to Victorian Labor and his own Socialist Left faction.
The head of the independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission, Robert Redlich, told the AFR he was ‘extremely disappointed’ that he could not reveal further investigations were underway.
“There are other investigations that I’m unfortunately not able to talk about yet that shed light on these issues,” Mr Redlich said.
These included ongoing prosecution and conviction cases for ‘several electoral offices’.
It comes hot on the heels of public IBAC hearings into allegations of branch stacking within the Andrews government.
The AFR reported that Mr Andrews was involved in a number of corruption investigations in addition to the WorkSafe investigation into allegations of bullying in his private office.
Despite serious concerns about Mr Andrews’ reign at the top, his chances of re-election are boosted by his weak, arrogant and equally dubious opposition.
Just last week, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was forced to defend himself against corruption charges after it was revealed that his chief of staff, Mitch Catlin, had sought more than $100,000 in payments from party donors to his private business.
Mr Keta, who had been referred to the police by the state government over the matter, became enraged after Mr Andrews’ batons told him to ‘come clean’ on the matter.
‘We value integrity… I will not be lectured on integrity by this government,’ Mr Guy told a heated press conference.
‘I will not be lectured by a fundamentally corrupt government.’
On Wednesday, Mr. Andrews hit another home run when Mr. Guy’s communications director suddenly quit.
Then on Thursday his diary manager became the third member of his team to quit.
Premier Daniel Andrews is still facing scrutiny over several investigations into corruption in his government
Matthew Guy had every opportunity to clean the floor of Labour, but failed to live up to expectations
The Liberal Party has had its own public relations nightmare over the past two years.
Former party leader Michael O’Brien was accused of taking pot shots from the cheapest seats during Victoria’s lockdown before he was sacked late last year, according to Mr Guy, who impressed the public with some impassioned lockdown speeches.
The Opposition will present Mr Andrews again shortly after Opposition Attorney-General Tim Smith drunkenly drove his car through the bar.
Last month, a Roy Morgan Snap SMS poll suggested Labor would win another term with 59.5 per cent of the vote based on two-party preferences.
The survey results show a 2.2 percent increase in support for the ALP from the 2018 election, which it won with 57.3 percent of the vote based on the two-party preference.
This is the month when it was revealed that the anti-lockdown ‘rebels’ who were arrested, imprisoned and fined during the lockdown were left silent in the run-up to the elections.
Reasons given by prosecutors mainly revolved around the lack of ‘public interest’ in prosecuting the case.
A lawyer suggested it had more to do with Mr Andrews erasing the history up until November.
He said, ‘An attempt has been made to calm the community’s anger towards the strategy of the police during the epidemic that is progressing ahead of the elections,’ he said.
‘A jury trial would remind people’.
On Thursday, Mr Andrews’ beloved The Age newspaper published a scathing opinion piece reminding Victorians of how harshly he had underfunded his pandemic response.
The piece was accompanied by a photo of Victoria Police officers watching an elderly man sit alone on a beach.
And an image that the ‘tyrannical Dan’ Victorians are fighting hard to forget.
Police use gas grenades and rubber bullets against protesters in the gardens surrounding the Temple of Remembrance during a demonstration against Covid-19 regulations in Melbourne on September 22.
Police sprayed a Daily Mail Australia photographer in the face as he covered a lockdown protest
Lest We Forget: Dan Andrews Activates Covid-19 Protesters With Extreme Force