Wednesday, 07 Dec 2022

The Daniel Andrews paradox: the enduring appeal of Australias most divisive premier

The Daniel Andrews paradox: the enduring appeal of Australias most divisive premier


The Daniel Andrews paradox: the enduring appeal of Australias most divisive premier

On 27 February 2003, the new MP for the outer suburban Melbourne electorate of Mulgrave rose to his feet to deliver his first speech in the Victorian parliament. Maiden speeches are traditionally where a new MP lays out their core motivation and their vision, but Daniel Andrews eschewed stirring prose or self-revelation.

There was nothing in this first outing to indicate that, 19 years later, he would become Australia's longest-serving incumbent government leader and one of the country's most significant politicians.

Politics, he said, was "an honourable profession".

A former senior public servant who has worked closely with Andrews says, "I doubt if he would change the tenor of that speech today." He would not add any grand words: "He thinks there is a limited market for visionary leaders".

Andrews' political methodology is a hard-boiled, pared down, practical and sometimes ruthless exercise of power, rather than the product of intellectualising or rhetorical flourish. He thinks in big pictures, but talks small and concrete.

The former public servant says: "He is a visionary. But he is a visionary without a guiding philosophy."

On 26 November, Andrews will seek another four years as Victorian premier. If he succeeds, as all the polls and pundits expect him to do, he will go on to lead the state for a total of 12 years. This is the kind of longevity that changes societies, dominates notions of the politically possible, and defines communities.

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