Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has been getting a lot of brownie points, first for his role in coordinating responses to the bushfires that engulfed South-East Australia over Christmas and the New Year, and now for playing the ‘tough love’ leader fighting Wuhan virus. Daily he fronts the camera to announce another restriction here, a shutdown there, all the while telling Victorians if they don’t obey on staying at home and social distancing, thousands of Victorians will die. When the Prime Minister and the National Cabinet of leaders don’t agree with what he wants to do, he generally does it anyway. Putting Victorians first.
Even some who aren’t normally Labor or Andrews supporters have been extolling his virtues as a latter-day political saint, even comparing his crisis leadership with the even more sainted Jacinda Ardern.
Andrews’s messages about what we need to do to stop the spread of Wuhan virus are right. But his refrain that Victorians must always do the right thing can only be effective if the messenger is doing the right thing too.
So when hundreds of thousands of Victorians are been stood down for the duration or losing their jobs altogether, and medical and hospital staff, emergency personnel and all those keeping essential services going are working around the clock and risking exposure to Wuhan virus – and it’s being reported that a tenth of Victorian cases involve healthcare workers – on Thursday it emerged that Victorian MPs are keeping their 3.5 per cent pay rises coming due on July 1, and he and his ministers their nearly 12 per cent rises.
By contrast, the Australian reported Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is telling her Remuneration Tribunal to can her government’s pay hikes this year.
Even the Guardian Australia condemned this rise as naff when first announced late last year r. It highlighted that Andrews’s government has been resisting giving its own police, paramedics and train drivers – all essential in this time of trial – a measly two per cent rise. Asked whether this would pass the test, Andrews said then, “People can make their own judgment. Any pay rise would be considered excessive by some people. Other people would have a different view… Me and my team work as hard as we can every day to deliver against the commitments we’ve made. I acknowledge … we are well-paid for the work that we do”.
Now, with those essential workers facing the most daunting challenges of their careers and are the focus of all our hopes and prayers, the Andrews government is venally clinging to its pay windfall.
So, at the end of Thursday, the soon to be highest-paid state premier came up with a clever wheeze. Rejecting the LNP opposition’s call for the rise to be cancelled Andrews and his Labor ministers and MPs will still take the pay hike, thanks very much, but will donate the first year of it to a Wuhan virus-related charity.
Sounds like a noble thing for St Dan and his caucus to do? Then think about this: they’ll still pocket the extra dough in a year’s time. But far worse, if they donate more than $2 to a registered charity, in the meantime they can – and surely will – claim the donations as — wait for it — tax deductions.
Just because an independent body sets the rate, politicians aren’t compelled to accept its recommendations. If even a mediocre premier like Annastacia Palaszczuk can see what awful political optics are on show, Daniel Andrews is showing his prominent ears are made of the highest-grade tin.
Australians naturally distrust “do as I say and not as I do” politicians who call on them to tighten belts and make sacrifices. At this time where we are being asked – nay, demanded – to make huge sacrifices of our freedom, our privacy and above all our economy to fight this unwanted, deadly export from China and protect the most vulnerable from its scourge, a time when people are asked to trust absolutely in their political leadership as the world they’ve always known crashes about their ears, by refusing to do the honourable thing on his pay windfall Daniel Andrews is failing Victorians and failing all Australians.
Bar the put-out Anthony Albanese, no-one would seriously want to be the Prime Minister or a state premier just now, and they all are doing a very tough and demanding job in the toughest of circumstances as best they can. But in one gravely misjudged moment he’ll soon regret, Andrews reverted from being St Dan of Mulgrave to being just another grasping career politician.
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