Daniel Andrews with his wife Cath and their children.
Daniel Andrews announced his resignation as premier with his wife Cath and their sons beside him. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

‘Time to step away’: Labor on backfoot as Andrews walks

September 26, 2023

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews leaves behind a legacy of reforms and scandals following his shock resignation after almost a decade in the job.

Mr Andrews, who oversaw one of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns, hinted he would take time off and move into the private sector after stepping down as the state’s leader and member for Mulgrave effective 5pm on Wednesday.

“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 said on Tuesday.

“I’m also proud to think of all that we have achieved over these nine years in good times and always working hard to do what’s right, not simply what’s popular.”

He made the announcement during a snap press conference at state parliament with his wife Cath and their sons beside him.

Members of his cabinet watched on, including presumed successor Jacinta Allan and Treasurer Tim Pallas.

“Recently in talking to my kids and Cath, thoughts of what life will be like after this job has started to creep in,” Mr Andrews said.

“I have always known that the moment that happens, it is time to go and to give this privilege, this amazing responsibility, to someone else. 

“It is not an easy job being premier of our state, but that is not a complaint – that is just fact.

“It requires 100 per cent from you and your family, that of course is time-limited and now is the time to step away.”

Mr Andrews became premier in November 2014, booting out a first-term Liberal government, and led Labor to two more victories in 2018 and 2022.

Politicians who were watching on laughed as Mr Andrews spoke of bracing for a period of adjustment when he leaves such a fast-paced job.

He gave the speech at a rooftop terrace at parliament and faced questions from a large media pack as staffers crowded around windows to watch the spectacle.

Mr Andrews was first elected to parliament in 2002 and spent 13 years leading the Victorian Labor Party, which he describes at the most progressive branch in the country.

In his time as premier Victoria became the first state in the country to introduce euthanasia laws and other progressive legislation, including abortion clinic safe zones, decriminalising sex work and banning gay conversion practices.

He achieved gender equality within the ministry, started the popular rail level crossing removal project, set the state on the path to treaty with Indigenous Victorians and recently unveiled sweeping housing reforms.

But his time was not without controversy.

Victoria endured the harshest COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and a disastrous hotel quarantine program that led to the virus spreading despite six lockdowns.

From the time Labor was elected it came under scrutiny for the “red shirts” scandal for misusing $388,000 in public money towards the 2014 election campaign.

Mr Andrews was interviewed over multiple anti-corruption probes, he sacked former Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek from the ministry twice and recently drew condemnation for cancelling the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

His government was elected on a platform of scrapping the East-West link, which cost taxpayers more than $1 billion, while his ambitious construction agenda that includes major highways and tunnels remains divisive and has been plagued with cost-blowouts.

The state’s net debt is predicted to climb to $226.2 billion by mid-2027.

The resignation came hours after more than 1000 United Firefighters Union members marched against a pay deal offered by the government, a stark turnaround from 2014 when the union was considered a key ally.

A by-election will soon be held in his seat of Mulgrave in Victoria’s east.

During the 2022 election campaign and in the subsequent months, Mr Andrews repeatedly said he would stay for the full four-year term.

On Tuesday he said the change of heart was a recent decision.

“It was true then but I changed my mind,” he said.