Sonia Hickey: Sydney Criminal Lawyers Blog

Social media went into overdrive last week, with memes and commentary, mostly in celebration at the surprise resignation of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. 

It’s not easy to reconcile the reaction, particularly from Victorians, who only 10 months or so ago elected Andrews to a third term, resulting in him spending almost 9 years in the top job. 

‘Dictator Dan’ 

And while there was no ‘rulebook’ for handling Covid, Daniel Andrews, will most likely be forever be remembered as ‘Dictator Dan’ – the Premier who instigated the world’s longest pandemic lockdowns, which severely impacted the social cohesion and mental health of Victorians and all but decimated the state’s economy. 

He also oversaw weaponised police brutality, which increased under Covid-19 – with some of the most horrific and violent arrests filmed and sent viral around the world, adding to Australia’s already damaged reputation for Human Rights. 

Most would also agree that he also leaves Victoria in worse shape than he found it with crippling debt – perhaps the biggest challenge facing his successor Jacinta Allen. 

There have also been insinuations about his reputation for bullying and turning a blind eye to the “toxic” culture of the Labor Party, both of which have surfaced in the past and been denied by Mr Andrews. 

A controversial legacy 

But news also emerged this week that the timing of Daniel Andrews’ resignation may be more premeditated than we’ve been led to believe. He has stepped down ahead of the findings of two important investigations – one into the politicisation of the public service and also an IBAC probe into the amalgamation of the state’s fire services.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry has been kept well under wraps. It is investigating potential corruption in the amalgamation of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Country Fire Authority into one body, Fire Services, and has involved a number of hearings behind closed doors. It’s been reported that the final report has, in fact, been subject to ongoing court action, to keep it secret. 

It’s not the first time that Andrew’s has been investigated by IBAC. 

Operation Daniel Andrews

Operation Watts investigated whether political staffers, including MPs, engaged in misconduct while working in public office to direct ministerial and electorate office staff to perform party political work. 

Operation Sandon looked at developer John Woodman’s influence over planning decisions through payments and donations.

Operation Daintree, handed down in April this year, investigated a $1.2m grant provided to the Labor-affiliated Health Workers Union ahead of the 2018 state election. 

No adverse findings were made against Daniel Andrews, however Operation Daintree did find 

That senior staff within the Andrews’ Government interfered and pressured public servants to ensure lucrative contracts were awarded to a key Labor Party ally without competitive tender. 

In its report, IBAC noted “a range of concerning conduct and omissions in breach of the public duties and ethical obligations of ministers and ministerial advisors”. 

Falling Short

It also identified “conduct by senior public servants that fell short of the required Victorian public sector standards.”

In particular, it coined the term, ‘grey corruption’ – which involves bending or breaking of rules, even if that might not amount to criminal behaviour. This of course, is a slippery slope, which erodes the standards of governance, and if left unchecked –  has the potential to increase the risk of corrupt criminal offending.

However the former IBAC Commissioner also noted before standing down last year that under current Victorian legislation IBAC is powerless to do anything about this type of corruption. 

And with Daniel Andrews now guaranteed a pension of up to $300,000 per year. And other retirement perks including a driver, and a car, we’re starkly reminded of the fact that while our politicians are remunerated well, it is very difficult to hold them to account for the decisions they make while in power, no matter how far-reaching the consequences of those decisions may be. 

Stories of pork barrelling, misconduct, along with breaches of trust and power underpinned by a real lack of transparency at both a State and Federal level which if the news headlines are anything to go by, seem to be escalating – make a mockery of democracy.