Daniel Andrews, a prominent figure in Australian politics, recently bid farewell as the Premier of Victoria after a seven-year tenure marked by a mix of achievements and controversies. As Victorians reflect on his legacy, they must grapple with the complex impact he has had on the state.
One of the significant aspects of Andrews’ legacy is his commitment to infrastructure development. During his leadership, Victoria saw the initiation of major projects such as the Metro Tunnel, the West Gate Tunnel, and the Level Crossing Removal Program. These initiatives aimed to alleviate traffic congestion and enhance public transportation, contributing to the state’s long-term growth.
In the realm of social reforms, Andrews made strides by introducing the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act, making Victoria the first Australian state to legalize euthanasia, offering a compassionate choice to terminally ill individuals. Progress was also made in the areas of gender equality and environmental policy.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic played a central role in defining Andrews’ leadership. His swift and decisive actions to combat the virus earned both praise and criticism. While the stringent lockdown measures protected public health, they took a toll on the people of Victoria, particularly small businesses, which are still grappling with the repercussions, including mental health challenges.
Furthermore, Andrews’ economic legacy is marked by challenges. Victoria’s finances are strained due to the pandemic’s economic fallout and the substantial spending required to manage the crisis. The state’s mounting debt and lack of future investment available in certain sectors, especially for small businesses, pose ongoing challenges. Victoria’s debt approaching $200 billion has led to higher taxes and increased costs of doing business, making it less attractive as other states are actively competing to attract Victorian businesses due to these unfavourable conditions, posing a significant challenge that Andrews leaves behind.
Payroll tax, land tax, increasing insurance premiums and Workcover Premiums are burdening businesses. The number of registered businesses in Victoria decreased by over 7,000 in 2022/23 over while other states experienced growth. For Victoria, that is highly concerning.
As Premier Jacinta Allan takes the reins, the Geelong Chamber of Commerce and many others hope to collaborate on opportunities to support businesses and alleviate the financial burden placed on Victorians to repay the state’s debt. We call out the need for changes to create a more favourable environment for businesses, with the recent success of Invest SA serving as a stark example of the potential benefits but also, the constant competition for economic investment and economic development.
Daniel Andrews’ legacy in Victoria is multifaceted. His leadership brought about infrastructure development and progressive social reforms, but it is also marked by economic challenges, particularly high debt and costs for businesses. As Victoria transitions to new leadership, the state faces the task of addressing these challenges and steering its future in a direction that promotes prosperity for all.