Curfew-bound Victorians angry at Stage 4 lockdowns and record coronavirus deaths are sparking questions about the future of Daniel Andrews as Premier.
His dissatisfaction rating has soared as Melburnians are banned from being outside after 8pm.
The Labor caucus has a potential replacement should their leader, dubbed ‘Chairman Dan’, prove to be even more of a political liability.
Jacinta Allan, the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, is one of the state government’s strongest performers but has hardly been seen during the pandemic – because she doesn’t hold the thorny health portfolio.
She was elected to Parliament in 1999 when, at age 26, she defeated a sitting Liberal MP more than twice her age in the rural city of Bendigo.
Two decades later, she is longest-serving female cabinet minister in the history of Victorian politics despite being only 45, and could soon revive a long Australian political tradition of a woman taking over from a man who struggles in the top job.
A woman could save Victoria by taking over from Daniel Andrews as Premier with the surge in coronavirus cases destroying his political standing. Pictured is the Premier with his possible successor Jacinta Allan
Jacinta Allan, the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, is one of the embattled Labor state government’s strongest performers but has hardly been seen during the pandemic – because she doesn’t hold the thorny health portfolio
Were she to step up as leader, she would be the first Victorian Labor premier in 88 years to represent an electorate outside of Melbourne.
She would also be the first woman to lead the state in almost three decades.
With 14 years under her political belt juggling portfolios, the mother-of-two certainly isn’t short on experience.
By happy coincidence she has the same initials as New Zealand’s Labour Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – who is expected to win re-election in a landslide in next month’s poll.
Labor’s federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said Ms Allan had broad appeal across the state.
‘She’s already appealing very well to the rest of Victoria because of the high profile of her job,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘She’s been a fantastic minister, a senior minister in the state Labor government.’
When it came to Mr Andrews, Ms Chester was more lukewarm with her praise.
‘Daniel Andrews is the current Premier of the state – he’s doing a good job considering the circumstances,’ she said, adding the Labor leadership was ‘ultimately a matter for the Victorian Labor Party caucus’.
Monash University political professor Paul Strangio said Ms Allan had ‘proved to be an effective, articulate and deft minister in major portfolio areas’.
With 14 years under her political belt juggling portfolios, the 45-year-old mother-of-two certainly isn’t short on experience and even has the same initials as New Zealand’s popular Labour Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She is pictured in 2013 with her daughter Peggy
Monash University political professor Paul Strangio said Ms Allan had ‘proved to be an effective, articulate and deft minister in major portfolio areas’. Ms Allan is pictured in 2013
‘Allan has serious claims to be the next in line as Labor leader,’ he told Daily Mail Australia, adding she wouldn’t be the only contender.
Before the pandemic struck and threatened to cripple the Victorian economy, Ms Allan was the face of a popular $8.3billion program to replace dangerous railway crossings.
Her success in replacing 38 level crossings to date was a major factor behind the government’s November 2018 re-election, which saw Labor win more than double the seats of the Opposition Liberal and National parties combined.
Less than two years later, her boss is under pressure, despite Twitter plaudits from the likes of actor Russell Crowe.
In just two months, Mr Andrews’ approval rating in Newspoll plunged from 75 per cent in April, when he was riding on the crest of approval for his handling of the bushfires, to 57 per cent in mid-July.
While 57 is still a healthy number, his dissatisfaction rating more than doubled from 17 per cent to 37 per cent in the same period, even before Melbourne and the neighbouring Mitchell Shire were placed into a strict Stage 4 lockdown.
Business leaders have called for Mr Andrews to resign as premier, with the once-thriving and now-struggling Chapel Street shopping precinct in the upmarket inner-city suburb of Prahan last month demanding that he go.
Chrissie Maus, the general manager of the Chapel Street Precinct Association, predicted Labor would dump Mr Andrews before the 2022 election.
‘All I will say is that the Victorian Labor Party will leave Andrews up there to charcoal like a beyond-burnt steak and pin every single thing that has gone wrong in the pandemic on him, and then come out with a shiny new toy replacement close to the election,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Should Ms Allan take over, she won’t be the first woman to replace a struggling male premier in Victoria.
‘I’m sure in the future we will have another fabulous Labor woman step up to be premier,’ Ms Chesters said.
‘We are a progressive state.’
On this day 30 years ago, Joan Kirner became Victoria’s first-ever female premier, after the old State Bank’s merchant banking arm Tricontinental lost $2.7billion and destroyed John Cain’s political authority.
He quit after winning three elections for Labor, and ending its 27 unbroken years in the political wilderness.
Just six months earlier Carmen Lawrence made history as Australia’s first-ever female premier, taking over the leadership of Western Australia after the WA Inc scandal, involving the likes of disgraced billionaire tycoon Alan Bond, caused Labor’s popularity to sink.
Should Ms Allan take over, she won’t be the first woman to replace a struggling male premier in Victoria. On this day 30 years ago, Joan Kirner (pictured) became Victoria’s first-ever female premier, after the State Bank’s merchant banking arm Tricontinental lost $2.7billion and destroyed John Cain’s political authority
Macquarie University gender studies expert Professor Catharine Lumby said women were often better communicators during times of trouble.
‘It’s not some essential part of being female – we’re not born with empathy,’ she told told Daily Mail Australia.
‘What happens to women is that they are conditioned to be better communicators and to be more caring on the whole because of the way in which they are socially positioned in relation to families, in relation to children.’
Like those other female premiers of three decades ago, Ms Allan also hails from Labor’s left wing.
The member for Bendigo East comes from the same Socialist Left faction as her boss, Mr Andrews, and like him was a political staffer before being elected to Parliament.
Her second husband Yorick Piper, like her, was a political adviser to Labor politicians, and at one stage even worked for his future wife.
They have a daughter Peggy and a son, Cormac Kevin.
Her second husband Yorick Piper (left), like her, was a political adviser to Labor politicians, and at one stage even worked for his future wife. He is now a director of the Victorian Fisheries Authority, with a government website hailing his ‘deep knowledge of government and stakeholder engagement, industrial relations’
Her husband was previously an official with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, before becoming a senior adviser to former Labor premier John Brumby.
He is now a director of the Victorian Fisheries Authority, with a government website hailing his ‘deep knowledge of government and stakeholder engagement, industrial relations’.
‘In addition, Mr Piper is passionate about fishing, fishing policy development and the importance of education in this Authority,’ it said.
Should Ms Allan become premier, this would create the untenable situation of having a spouse within the public service.
She could learn from what happened in Queensland when the state’s first female premier Anna Bligh in 2007 appointed her husband Greg Withers as head of the Office of Climate Change on a $220,000 salary.
Ms Allan, the woman who could succeed Mr Andrews as Premier, however, isn’t without controversy
Ms Allan, the woman who could succeed Mr Andrews as Premier, however, isn’t without controversy.
Two years ago, she ordered the removal of Sky News from Melbourne city railway station billboards after the News Corp-owned subscription TV service had aired an interview with far-right activist Blair Cottrell.
‘I’ve directed @MetroTrains to remove @skynewsaustralia from all CBD station screens. Hatred and racism have no place on our screens or in our community. #springst,’ she tweeted.
As Sky News presenter Laura Jayes, however, pointed out the interview with Cottrell, a founder of the United Patriots Front, was never shown on the Sky News public transport broadcasts.
‘This interview never went to air at train stations so that is a lie,’ she said.
Two years ago, she ordered the removal of Sky News from Melbourne city railway station billboards after the News Corp-owned subscription TV service had aired an interview with far-right activist Blair Cottrell. As Sky News presenter Laura Jayes, however, pointed out the interview with Cottrell, a founder of the United Patriots Front, was never shown on the Sky News public transport broadcasts
In a subsequent train wreck interview, Ms Allan admitted she had wrongly been told the Sky News updates on Metro Train billboards had featured the Cottrell interview.
‘You’ve obviously gone and done a lot of checking on this this afternoon and I will go and check the advice,’ she said.
Sky News reappeared at Melbourne city train stations a year later.
Still, that minor controversy two years ago was nothing compared with her colleague Jenny Mikakos’s poor handling of the health portfolio during the COVID-19 crisis.
The botched quarantining could see up to 400,000 Victorians lose their job and wipe up to $12billion from the Victorian economy, the federal government estimates.
With numbers like that, Ms Allan could soon find herself in a new job involving a lot more than level crossings, with COVID-19 a much scarier freight train than the usual locomotives.
Victorians don’t go to the polls again until November 2022 but Professor Strangio said Mr Andrews may quit before then, despite being a dominant party leader.
‘At the same time, by 2022 he will have been premier for eight years which is a lengthy incumbency in the contemporary era,’ he said.
‘It is possible that he may decide to step aside at some point.’