opinion

Dan Andrews stuck with an unpopular decision. Now, the silence is deafening.

In five months Victoria has gone from recording 700 new COVID-19 cases daily to recording 31 days of 'donuts'.

That's how jovial 'zero case days' have become. How celebratory and commonplace the daily update, when compared to the devastating reality of only a few months ago.

We're only just starting to comprehend the damage one of the harshest lockdowns in the world had on the mental health and livelihoods of the millions that call the southern state home. But there's no denying that it also saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

For the last five months, one man has shouldered the brunt of the country's criticism as the state blindly fought its way through an emergency being fought the world over, using a tactic torn apart by the masses. 

Watch: As the lockdown stretched on, Victorians started to lose patience.


Video via Sky News.

And yet as the cries of 'Dictator Dan' grew louder, Daniel Andrews stood up every single day, for five months straight, and stood his ground. Determined to push forward with his controversial approach.

In recent months, as The Age reports, there have been almost as many mentions of the name 'Daniel Andrews' as that of 'Scott Morrison' in the public discourse, as the entire country watched him fight, sometimes seemingly alone, for what his government thought would get them through the coronavirus storm. 

In daily press conferences, the exhausted premier would field questions designed to trip him up and create 'gotcha moments' that media organisations could transform into juicy headlines to feed a public hungry for news. It was his government, after all, that is also being investigated for the bungled hotel quarantine scheme that landed them in their COVID-19 mess in the first place.

Then he'd spend the rest of the day getting pressure from above, with the prime minister and his government publicly expressing "profound disappointment" in the state's decisions. 

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And from the side, with Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien and Liberal MP Tim Smith throwing punch after punch with cries of "friendless loser," "control freak" and "loony."

As the weeks turned into months, and Victorians grew restless, anger at Andrews only grew with the state divided into #IStandWithDan supporters and anti-Dan detractors. Even those in support started questioning their faith in their leader as they got weary from a life lived in captivity.

Read: 120 consecutive days at work with 3 kids at home: Everything we know about Dan Andrews.

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And yet while the country was quick to hold Andrews up as the sole 'dictator' through Victoria's fight, now that the war has been won he barely rates a mention. 

Today, as the coronavirus crisis accelerates in Europe and America, Victoria's "zero new cases" has become the envy of the world. 

On August 5, Victoria had 533 daily new cases, and Italy had 384. By September the Italians had tripled those numbers and in November they're recording more than 30,000 new cases some days. They're consistently also announcing more than 500 new deaths every 24 hours as the country scrambles to keep up with a virus running rampant.

By way of comparison, Victoria celebrated "elimination day" on Friday, after successfully surpassing two whole incubation periods with not a single new case. It was decided that the state had effectively eliminated the virus altogether, surpassing even its own benchmarks. 

It was Victorians that did this of course. They sacrificed their sanity and their lives. They home schooled, and watched their businesses wither away. They were the ones that suffered, and the ones responsible for killing the virus by staying in and staying home. 

But they were also led by a leader who refused to bow to pressure. A leader who played the 'bad guy' in the hope of a happy ending. 

Only now that happy ending is here, he's been punted to the background as celebrations take centre stage. 

According to an October Roy Morgan survey, 71 per cent of Victorians approve of the way Andrews handled his job, but if you've been watching the political, social and public conversation over the last 31 days there's been a subtle steering away from any praise of the premier. 

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Political colleagues and media commentators are happy to thank the state for their hard won fight. But you'll be hard pressed to find many willing to single out the man who got them there.

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The Andrews government's approach should be held up to the light and examined. It wasn't perfect, and it had severe and potentially deadly downsides. 

But there will be more chairs around the table in Victoria for Christmas lunch this year thanks to the elimination of the virus in the Victorian community. 

Thankfully, we don't have to witness what might've happened if Andrews had taken a more relaxed approach like that of our European counterparts. 

The least his detractors could do is give credit where credit is due.

Feature image: Getty.

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