Anger and disappointment over Andrews’ award: Former Labor minister sides with Covid victims’ families

12 June, 2024

The award of the highest national honour to former Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has caused widespread anger and disappointment, particularly among the families of the Covid 19 victims. The reaction comes after a Herald Sun poll found 95 per cent of its readers did not think Andrews deserved the honour.

Amid the backlash on Monday, the committee responsible for selecting the recipients clarified that one of its members who worked under Mr Andrews was not present when the controversial former premier was chosen.

The poll, which was overwhelmingly negative, showed that the majority of readers blamed Andrews’ leadership for fatal mistakes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Similarly, only four in ten respondents to a similar poll on The Age’s website thought the award was justified.

A former member of Andrews’ cabinet, speaking to the Herald Sun, empathised with the families of those who died during the state’s deadly second wave and acknowledged their justified anger at the award.

Speaking anonymously, the former Labor leader, now out of parliament, said: “I’m not sure the 768 people who died in Dan’s failed hotel quarantine, or their families and friends, would think he deserved the award.

The office of Australia’s Governor-General, David Hurley, refused to reveal who nominated Andrews, saying the final recommendation came from the Council for the Order of Australia, a 19-member “independent” body.

Jeremi Moule, the Secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Council’s representative in Victoria, was appointed to his $700,000-plus role by Mr Andrews. The Governor-General’s office clarified that Mr Moule was “not in the room when the appointment was discussed”, thus allaying concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s longest-serving Labor premier, was recognised for his “distinguished service to the people and parliament of Victoria, to public health, to political and regulatory reform and to infrastructure development”.

However, families of pandemic victims strongly condemned the award in light of the 768 deaths resulting from the failed hotel quarantine program and mishandled contact tracing system under Andrews’ government.

Sebastian Agnello, whose mother Carmela died of Covid during the outbreak at Epping Gardens Aged Care, criticised the award, saying it made a mockery of the honour system.

“Daniel Andrews was the Premier in charge and there was no accountability for anything he did,” Agnello said. “You are responsible for your actions. He was the Premier, he was responsible and he made the decisions, but where is the accountability? I’m disappointed. There’s no accountability.”

Premier Jacinta Allan defended Andrews, saying: “Daniel Andrews has made an enormous contribution to public life and to shaping the state of Victoria. He was the longest serving Labor Premier in the state’s history and the fourth longest serving Premier. Dan led through some of the most challenging and demanding times.

Premier Anthony Albanese also expressed his support, saying: “Both Daniel Andrews and (former Western Australian Premier) Mark McGowan were very successful.

Asked if he understood why Covid victims’ families were angry about Andrews’ honour, Albanese said: “I respect everyone’s right to have an opinion. Politicians never have 100% support and neither do former politicians”.

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