The Sunday Herald Sun’s front-page photo of the stairs which broke Daniel Andrews’ back was a “low point in journalism”, Anthony Albanese said on Wednesday as the Victorian premier’s exit was farewelled with brickbats in much of the media.
Andrews’ electoral popularity over nine years was a “cult” and his legacy was nothing but a state “deep in debt”, according to the front pages of two major critics: Murdoch’s Herald Sun and national broadsheet the Australian.
“Dan cult over, bill left behind”, read the Australian front page. “Debt Man Walking”, said the Herald Sun.
The Nine-owned Australian Financial Review’s coverage was in the same vein as its News Corp rivals, with the headline “Business cheers as divisive Andrews out early”.
The enmity of the media towards Andrews was described by the prime minister in an interview with the ABC broadcaster Raf Epstein as a “level of vitriol” which set a dangerous precedent for public life.
“I think that a low point in journalism was the publishing of a front-page photo,” Albanese said on ABC Radio Melbourne. The “extraordinary” treatment at the hands of the press was the sort of “nonsense” which “will put off people going into public life”.
“The bloke had an accident, as can happen, with real consequences for his health and to have to put up with that sort of nonsense that was going on at that time I just found quite extraordinary,” Albanese said.
“It’s just unfortunate that some people who ought to know better helped to push that sort of activity.”
The most popular news website in the country, Murdoch’s news.com.au, chose to include a reaction from the Hollywood actor Rob Schneider, an anti-vaxxer, who claimed “there was no other leader more full of hate and vengeance for his own people than Victoria’s Hitlerian Premier ‘Herr’ Dan Andrews”.
The Melbourne shock jock Neil Mitchell did not hold back on the man he has criticised relentlessly for nine years on Nine’s 3AW, saying “Let’s hope we don’t see you in public life again.”
The Nine-owned newspaper the Age was measured on its front page, simply saying “Dan Stands Down”. In an editorial, the Age acknowledged that as a politician “none [was] more divisive than Andrews” but that he “remained unflappable” in the face of anger and always showed up. “For 120 days running, he told us how many had died, how many had been infected,” the Age said of his Covid response. “We listened closely to every word.”
“The evidence of his nine years in power is there for everyone to see: the enormous tunnels and sky rails and freeway expansions; the immense changes to social policy; the electoral marginalisation of the opposition parties; debt on a scale beyond anything previously racked up by a state government,” the paper’s chief reporter, Chip Le Grand, said.
The Sky News Australia host Peta Credlin had only harsh words for the man she loved to hate.
“The man who made Melbourne the world’s most locked-down city, the man who gave Victorians the most miserable two years of our lives, got off scot-free,” the former Liberal staffer said.
“In his wake, he leaves a state that’s still broken, a CBD struggling to get back to where it was, a legacy of mental health harm, and small businesses that will never recover.”