Daniel Andrews and a Refusal to Prosecute

In the lower house of Victoria’s parliament on June 20, 2023, Daniel Andrews did what he does best, which is to bring any institution he or his minions oversee into disrepute. In this instance it was the parliament itself, whose members were treated to the Premier’s appraisal of a female member of the opposition as “a halfwit grub”, a remark he subsequently withdrew  at the Speaker’s insistence but which, characteristically, he has since defended while point-blank rejecting any possibility of apology. Low as that insult was, it was slightly more civil than a foul wisecrack about “shitting in a plastic bag” allegedly directed at another female Liberal who happened to be battling bowel cancer. Andrews denies ever saying that, and with tears no less. But then, having had plenty of practice since his ascension to the premier’s office in 2014, he is an accomplished denier of everything and anything when confronted by accusation, evidence and his own purported words.

Why should he apologise for the most recent eruption of Danism? Andrews, as admirers and apparatchiks note with some glee, is Victoria’s supreme and absolute power. Not the courts, not royal commissioners, not the Governor and certainly not the rule of law. Down here beside the Yarra, the law is what Daniel Andrews says it is at any given moment. Underlings and other beneficiaries of his patronage know it too, and as far as outside observers can discern, they act accordingly. Consider as but one example the inquiry into the hotel quarantine mess conducted by retired coroner Jenny Coate, a solid party girl and onetime member of the Monash University Labor Club, of which Andrews was president. That investigation struck many as an exercise in suppressed curiosity; indeed, it wasn’t until Peta Credlin began turning up at the Premier’s daily COVID press conferences, a rare inquiring mind amongst the stenographers, that the full extent of the debacle’s cost (and who bagged those lucrative security contracts) could be dragged out into the sunlight.

Such is Andrews’ suzerainity that even the most penetrating sunlight, supposedly the great disinfectant, now elicits no more than the public-stage equivalent of a ‘get lost’ shrug. It is the template for a  familiar response, the contempt near palpable. The confirmation that Labor’s electoral operatives had plundered the public purse for partisan gain, the so-called Red Shirts scandal, was exposed in all its cheap tawdriness, yet no charges were laid and nobody was called upon to make recompense for the roughly half a million dollars stolen from taxpayers.

The latest injury to public trust and symptom of Andrews-style governance came today with the announcement by former High Court justice Geoffrey Nettle that he could see no point in continuing as the Special Investigator appointed to determine if charges should be laid against current and former senior police officers implicated in the Lawyer X affair. And the reason he can see no point? Well, let Mr Nettle explain (emphasis added):

In light of the [Director of Public Prosecutions’] past refusal of permission for OSI [Office of the Special Investigator] to file charges of relevant offences, and the Director’s recent identification of considerations likely to result in her refusing to permit OSI to file any other charges of relevant offences, I consider that there is no longer any point in OSI persisting with investigating and determining whether there is sufficient evidence to establish the commission of relevant offences.

The Nettle Report in Word format, can be read in full here

He also had this to say:

I had concluded that the chances of Director approving Charlie [the investigation of multiple police] or any other charges that OSI might submit were now effectively nil, which made it a waste of time and money for OSI to persist.

Those who appreciate courtroom dramas will be disappointed that no hearings are in the offing, as we can safely assume the spectacle of senior police in the dock would have been most entertaining. Lockdown protesters beaten and/or hit by VicPol’s rubber bullets under the Andrews government’s iron-fist policies during the COVID panicdemic, not to mention those arrested in their homes for daring to dissent via Facebook posts, would have particularly enjoyed it. And so, one intuits, would Mr Nettle, who concludes his report thus:

…it has become clear that my assessment of the strength of the evidence necessary to establish the commission of relevant offences and the Director’s approach to the matter stand considerably apart and are unlikely to coalesce.  If, therefore, the Government or Parliament decides that OSI should continue to investigate and analyse evidence of relevant offences, it will cease to be appropriate for me to remain as Special Investigator.  In that event, I shall resign…

It is easy to grasp why he is miffed. His report begins by detailing the case, blocked by the OPP, for perjury charges against an unnamed former senior officer. To his regret, after repeated efforts to launch the case were scotched and fruitless rounds of correspondence with the OPP

…the suspected offender departed the jurisdiction making it pointless to proceed with the brief.

Victorians have grown accustomed to much that is disquieting over the past few years, not least the Premier’s autocratic style and what many see as his propensity to punish enemies. The Ombudsman and the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) each completed reports (follow the links) Andrews & Co did not like one little bit. In the recently tabled state budget, neither agency received more than pennies by way of increases to their operating budgets. As for the media, Victoria’s two mainstream news organs, The Age and Herald Sun, were recently floored to learn the state government would no longer be buying advertising space in their pages. The idea, though, that a policeman might have perjured himself and that a prosecution brief to the effect was filed in the OPP’s rubbish bin breaks new and deeply worrying ground.

Policing is supposed to be done by men and women of upright character, the standards of honesty and behaviour to which they are expected to subscribe significantly higher than those of garden-variety citizens. If Fred Nerk is thought to have perjured himself in, say, an insurance claim, it might be reasonable to accept that the sheer cost of prosecuting such a relatively trivial matter argues against launching proceedings. But to let a cop off the hook, to investigate and have the charges spiked, because expense is deemed a major factor in that decision, as Mr Nettle’s report notes and quotes, is deeply shocking. All very well and good for Caesar’s wife to be immune to reproach, but the benefit of the doubt simply cannot be extended to his Praetorian Guards. To do so speaks of a cancer in the polity that is eating away at integrity and, if history is any guide, apt to spread into all branches of government. Many will share their suspicions that in Victoria under Daniel Andrews corruption has metastasized.

The classic antidote for a toxic government is a vigorous parliamentary opposition. In Victoria we have the Liberals led by John Pesutto. He is better than nothing but not by much.

To see how bad things are in the Garden State, long ago the Liberals’ heartland and homeland, read Geoffrey Nettles’ report. Outside Victoria it might amuse. Inside Victoria the appropriate reaction should be fury.

16 thoughts on “Daniel Andrews and a Refusal to Prosecute

  • Paul.Harrison says:

    In a somewhat broader sense, methinks something stinks in the United States of Australia. I’m in sunny Queensland and the stink from Vicbloodytoria is wafting this way on the breeze. I, of course, know and understand that the campaign causing this stink, of which Andrews is merely a bit-player, began just on 50 years ago, when our Comrade in Arms, Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns, landed in the heartland of the enemy, Hanoi, in North Vietnam late in 1973. He was offering aid and comfort to the Communists while our good and close allies the Americans were battling against the enemy, aided only by our loyal South Vietnamese friends. I will never forget that stupid jingle, ‘It’s Time’, upon which Whitlam rode to Government, and it was he who despatched Cairns to North Vietnam. I have a digitised version of the recording, made by ABC TV News, broadcasting from the airport in Hanoi as Cairns descended the stairs of the aircraft, with arms outstretched and he was wearing a beaming smirk of victory as he stepped into the open welcoming arms of our common enemy, the Communists. The National Archives have slapped a ‘not for public viewing’ order on me, but I’m now 71 and old and no one listens to the elderly anyway, we’re all mad or demented. So I say, “Bring it on”. In the words of that mongrel Whitlam, “Well may Andrews say, “But I am the Chairman of the Party”, but nothing will save him from the wrath of the people.

  • Stephen Due says:

    The psychology of Daniel Andrews is precisely that of the tyrant. He sincerely believes that his rule is essential for the welfare of the people he tyrannises. If challenged he becomes pugnacious, then actively belligerent, and finally emotional. He is rather like a drunk in a pub. If he thinks his opponent is weak, he insults and abuses them. If he thinks the opponent is strong, he bursts into tears and gives every appearance of being deeply hurt that anyone should doubt his beinign, fatherly intentions.
    Anybody who seems likely to be effectively arguing against the Premier is liable to be called a “bigot” and a purveyor of “hate speech”. Meanwhile Andrews himself is a perfect model of bigotry and hatred, frequently treating reasonable opposition with contempt. He has become used to being all-powerful, and genuinely expects, in view of the blessings he imagines himself to be showering on the people, to be revered and loved by all. The Liberal opposition is pitiful, unfortunately. It is disappointing that nobody with ability and the necessary connections seems willing to step up and take Andrews on.

    • lbloveday says:

      It is indeed “disappointing that nobody with ability and the necessary connections seems willing to step up and take Andrews on”, and as RF wrote: “John Pesutto. He is better than nothing but not by much”.
      But to me it is very understandable. Technology has enabled minute scrutiny of everything one has said and done virtually all one’s life and for it to be invariably reported in a misleading, negative light; false accusations are hurled and reported as if true….
      Even if I had the required goods, I would not be a political leader for $1 million per year as long as I could earn $100,000 in another occupation.

  • Ian MacKenzie says:

    Andrews really is the Richard III of the Victorian polity. The government he leads has corrupted the state to the point that police don’t understand that it is wrong to pervert the course of justice and then try to cover it up using taxpayer funds. That two out of three appeal judges they appointed don’t understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty. That heroin addicts shouldn’t be encouraged to congregate close to schools. The list goes on and on and on. Sadly there is no Henry VII in the Victorian Opposition.
    Now is the lockdown of our discontent……

  • pgang says:

    ‘That investigation struck many as an exercise in suppressed curiosity’
    Haha. That nicely describes all things ‘establishment’ these days.
    I’m not sure whether to thank Mr Franklin for this illuminating piece, or to wish I had never read it. Rest assured it does not amuse outside of Victoria.

  • DougD says:

    The only thing that has saved QLD from following Andrews’s path is the sheer and complete incompetence of Premier Palaszczuk, her ministers and her totally politicised public service.

  • rosross says:

    If only the Liberal Party could pull itself together and offer alternatives grounded in common sense to counter the Labeen (Labor/Green) waffle in which this nation drowns.

  • Stephen Ireland says:

    It’s a longish quote but maybe Solzhenitsyn was prescient in a more general sense than USSR level politics only:

    The Great Ruler, aroused by great thoughts, strode mightily about his night study. Music swelled within him; an enormous brass band provided the accompaniment to his march.
    Discontented, eh? Let them be! They always had been discontented, and they always would be.
    But Stalin had a passing acquaintance with an uncomplicated version of world history, and he knew that given time people will forgive all bad things, indeed forget them, or remember them as good. Whole nations behaved like Queen Anne in Shakespeare’s Richard III : Their wrath was short-lived, their will infirm, their memory weak, and they would always be glad to give themselves to the victor.
    . . . . . . .
    The reason why he had to live to ninety was that the struggle was not over, the building was not finished, the times were uncertain, and there was no one to take his place.
    He must wage and win the last world war. Exterminate like gophers the Western Social Democrats and all the persistent pests throughout the world. Then, of course, he must raise the productivity of labour. Solve all those economic problems. In short, build Communism, as the phrase went.
    In that context, by the way, completely incorrect ideas had entrenched themselves. Stalin had thought it over recently and reached clear conclusions. Naïve and short-sighted people pictured Communism as a kingdom of plenty, of freedom from necessity. But that would be an impossible social order, at that rate Communism would be worse than bourgeois anarchy! The first and main characteristic of true Communism must be discipline, total subordination to authority, and strict execution of orders. (The intelligentsia must be kept under particularly firm control). Second, “plenty” must be modest plenty, not even sufficiency in fact, because over-prosperous people fell into ideological disarray, as could be seen in the West. If a man does not have to worry about food, he escapes the material pressure of history, being ceases to determine consciousness, and everything is topsy-turvy.
    So, when you came to think of it, Stalin had built true Communism already.
    This could not, however, be announced, or people would be asking, Where do we go next?
    . . . . . . . .
    Obviously it would never be possible to announce that the Communist society had been built. That would be a methodological error.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn In The First Circle 2009 pp 144-5

    PS I left Victoria in 1954

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    What a pity Kerri Judd KC was not the DPP when George Pell was prosecuted.
    Because of the efflux of time, surely she would have refused to prosecute and saved the consequent revelation of a meritless case and Supreme Court embarrassment.
    Although, if a Royal Commission had found any evidence against Pell and actually pressed for investigation and evidence taking, maybe she would have still prosecuted.
    It seems contradictory that in the Pell case there was no evidence other than the recollection of ‘The Kid’,there was a charge from the last century and no Royal Commission promptings, so evidence was hard to obtain,yet the DPP thought it proper to prosecute despite ‘efflux of time’.
    With such a clear precedent in the Victorian justice system, perhaps the KC may reconsider her decision and test the best of the evidence, now, before the efflux of time, not an issue in the Pell trial for the then DPP, actually kicks in.

    • Sindri says:

      LPB, apropos that appalling miscarriage of justice, the Pell conviction. No, she was not DPP when he was charged; she became DPP in March 2018. However, she occupied the office during his trial, his subsequent appeals, and in fact appeared for the Crown in the High Court.

  • Pablo07 says:

    State is me

  • Daffy says:

    When one is stuck with a stoma and bag, as I once was, its best to get in first and frighten the squeamish about it…works wonders. And here’s the rebuttal: ‘at least with the bag, I control when I go to the toilet, not like you Dan, who just has to ‘sh*t’ when your guts fill up.

  • norsaint says:

    I can’t understand why ridicule hasn’t been used to discredit Andrews. He is a truly ridiculous figure, what with his Quasimodo hump and elephant ears. Without making a claim to prophecy, I remember saying to the person I was with at the time when we first spotted his grotesque mug on the idiot box, “that is the face of evil”. Occasionally you get one right.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Nicely done there, RF, but I’ve one quibble. That piece of parma ham who leads the Libs in Victoria is an insult to thinking women anywhere. Nothing would be considerably better.

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