A week, as they say, is a long time in politics. It was just a week or two ago that “Dictator Dan” was ruling Victoria with an iron fist. Dissenters were met with truncheons and a hail of rubber bullets and tear gas. Now Daniel Andrews is under scrutiny like never before. The chickens of the past decade are all coming home to roost, spectacularly, and seemingly all at once.
A sense of political crisis is starting to take hold of the Andrews government amid anti-corruption inquiries, soaring coronavirus cases and a potentially ill-prepared health and ambulance system.
The passing of Gladys Berejiklian’s premiership on the back of an ICAC investigation has supercharged the politics around two IBAC anti-corruption investigations into Dan Andrews’ government in Victoria.
The broader political story, however, is about the compounding effect of an imperfect pandemic response and an ageing government that has, elbows out, crashed through in a style not seen since Jeff Kennett ran Victoria from 1992 to 1999.The Australian
There’s a lesson, there: Kennett was the undisputed ruler of Victoria for two solid terms. Then it all blew up in his face. One minute, it was “Jeff rules” (an actual campaign ad), the next, Kennett was wiped out in a landslide. (In another harbinger of things to come, polls and pundits had Kennett as a lay-down misère to win.)
History not being absent a certain irony, Kennett is one of the chief prognosticators of Andrews’s doom in spite of polls. Kennett is vocally predicting that the Coalition will win the next federal election – which will create an opening for Matthew Guy’s Liberals in Victoria.
But whatever happens federally, Andrews’s woes are all of his own making.
Corruption, the CFA scandal, the Red Shirts scandal, the COVID lockdowns and hotel quarantine: everything’s coming up Andrews – but not in a good way. As well as not one, but two Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) investigations into his government, the Worksafe investigation into the hotel quarantine disaster is smouldering in the background.
But it’s IBAC which has blown up spectacularly, this week.
Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne says he, Adem Somyurek and Victorian Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan paid thousands of dollars to renew party memberships on behalf of others.
Branch stacking – paying big money to sign up hundreds of phony “memberships”, usually in ethnic communities – is an old Labor power tactic. Factions literally buy their chosen appointees a safe Labor seat. The bombshell, here, though, is that someone is actually taking the stand and admitting it. A familiar name has cropped up: Adem Somyurek, who was expelled from the party after he was recorded boasting that he ran the place, even picking the premier, should he choose.
Mr Byrne said former state MP Adem Somyurek was taking over the ALP, driven by “the sole objective of power and power alone”.
“I thought the party was completely out of control,” he said.
“I saw and heard things I just didn’t think I’d ever see in a modern Labor Party.”The Australian
Meanwhile, the other IBAC investigation has one of Andrews’s key allies in its sights.
Senior Labor minister Lisa Neville has emerged as another figure under the gaze of the secret anti-corruption investigation probing dealings between the Andrews government and the United Firefighters Union.The Australian
Now we know why Andrews, who had previously denied that his government was under investigation from IBAC, suddenly switched to blustering last week that it’s “not fair” to expect ministers and senior staff to stand down if they were under investigation.
Two corruption investigations, a Worksafe investigation, police crackdowns that have grabbed headlines around the world, the world’s longest-running lockdowns – and covid cases and deaths just keep rising.
It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the suddenly-embattled premier.
Ha – who am I kidding? It’s popcorn time, folks.
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