very personal terms what can be described as a ‘good death’ that I had some time I needed to reconsider my views on how we might provide for those who, without compassion, had a very ‘bad death’.
“Good death” or not, Andrews concedes an error — he needed time off.
It goes to his frantic schedule, driven in part by a slack pace he has been said to observe in some predecessors.
He returned to work soon after his father died because of a coming state budget. He should have had a few weeks off, he now says, but “I didn’t want to miss it, I didn’t want to be not part of it”.
His hardest role lay in the grief and confusion of the Bourke St rampage. Andrews was affected by his meetings with families of the killed.
“I made a promise to each of them,” Andrews says of the grieving families. “I said that we would have the toughest bail laws in the country and we got on and did that. It wouldn’t bring back their loved ones but that was what we had to do: learn from such a terrible act and make sure we were best placed to never see that sort of horror happen again.”
Law and order has dominated the headlines. It isn’t about to go away either, as Andrews agrees. He called youth crime a “significant challenge” in July after the explosion of African gang violence and the kinds of terror, such as home invasions and carjackings, which were once foreign to Melbourne.
His government — and Victoria Police — were widely accused of being soft on crime. He says some offenders need to be treated “harshly, firmly”, in describing a one-on-one approach that draws on different sectors, including police. He speaks of encouraging arrest rates and crime statistics, but agrees that more has to be done.
“We’ve been tough, and criticised for it, where we have needed to be,” Andrews says.
“We’ll continue that. The key point here is that you’ve got to be smart as well. That’s about investing not just in more police … but also making sure you’re investing in TAFE, skills and jobs and every resource available. Is it over? No.”
Andrews sounds most strident in his defence of the East West Link contract.
Critics decry a decision that cost the state $1 billion to not build a road. Andrews maintains the same decision saved the state billions of dollars by shelving a “booby-trapped contract”.
He says he is not frustrated by the enduring animosities of the UFU dispute, which erupted in early 2016 and triggered the resignation of emergency services minister Jane Garrett.
Volunteer fireys protested in a show of regional disenchantment.
Andrews says he has no control over — nor takes little notice — of news agendas.
He says people are free to determine what’s important to them.
On questions of infrastructure spending and debt, he argues that his government has delivered surpluses and retained triple-A ratings. “The economy is strong, the economy is growing, and that’s really important for livelihoods, for jobs, for people’s prospects,” he says.
It’s the sort of talk you’ll hear in coming weeks on the campaign trail, often with wife Catherine by his side. A veteran of the hustings, she’s looking forward to some together time, albeit shared with the rest of Victoria: “It’s quite nice because I get to spend a little bit more time with my husband, who’s incredibly funny and who I miss a lot,” she says.
Daniel Andrews with wife Catherine and children Noah, 16, Grace, 14, and Joseph, 11; and with Joseph (opposite page). Pictures: ALEX COPPEL We’ve got to keep building. We’ve got to keep getting things done, to keep pace, to stay ahead and turn growth from a challenge into a great opportunity for jobs, not just for today but for our kids and their kids. Our proven track record and our positive and optimistic agenda for the next four years.