‘I’m not Daniel Andrews’: Jacinta Allan on power, sexism and the path to treaty | Victorian politics #Daniel #Andrews #Jacinta #Allan #power #sexism #path #treaty #Victorian #politics

Jacinta Allan had her whole week planned out.

It was late September, the end of the school holidays, and she had travelled to Melbourne from her home in Bendigo for work. Her husband and two children had planned to meet her in town to go to the Royal Melbourne Show.

And then the phone rang.

“It literally stopped me in my tracks when he rang to say that he was announcing he was going to step down,” she says of her Tuesday morning phone call from Daniel Andrews, who later that day abruptly quit as premier, after nearly nine years in office.

“There was a slight change of plans that included a last minute trip to Government House on the Wednesday. The timing was absolutely unexpected.”

Since then, Victoria’s 49th premier admits she’s hardly had a moment to sit at her new desk at 1 Treasury Place. There’s been a flurry of press conferences, meetings, parliament sittings, weekly protests over the Israel-Palestine conflict and a scathing report into the culture of the state’s public sector – all rounded out by national cabinet in Canberra on Wednesday.

But in an interview with Guardian Australia, Allan is upbeat.

“It’s busy, yes, but it’s an amazing privilege,” she says.

Treaty on track despite voice defeat, Allan insists

Among the first issues Allan had to navigate was the federal voice to parliament referendum defeat, two weeks into her premiership. While Victoria recorded the best result for the yes campaign compared with all other states, the proposal was still resoundingly defeated as 55% of the eligible population voted no.

The result prompted leaders in other states to reconsider plans to negotiate a treaty agreement with local First Peoples. But Allan denied Victorians delivered her a mandate to do the same.

“In Victoria, we are in some ways well ahead of the voice,” she said, noting the state has already enacted the voice and truth aspects of the Uluru Statement of the Heart, via the democratically elected First People’s Assembly and the Yoorrook Justice Commission, which oversees the state’s truth-telling process.

“There’s the work that’s also continuing with the First Peoples Assembly on the next stage of the treaty negotiations, off the back of legislation that passed through the parliament with bipartisan support [in 2022].

“It’s really important that here in Victoria, we hold together that collective momentum that has been in place now not for the last couple of weeks or couple of months, but for years.”

Treaty negotiations are on track to begin in early 2024 but Allan would not provide a timeline for when they are expected to be completed. She confirmed legislation would have to pass parliament once a treaty – or several treaties – is agreed to.

“I’m not going to come to the table wanting to prejudge the outcome,” she said.

‘Sexualised’ cartoon a ‘blow to the stomach’

A couple of weeks later, she faced another challenge, in the form of a cartoon depiction of her as a nude catwalk model, published in the Herald Sun.

The cartoonist said it was a reference to the Hans Christian Andersen fable about the Emperor’s New Clothes but Allan called it out at a press conference as “sexualised imagery”, telling reporters she had never seen a male politician depicted as a nude catwalk model.

She recalled that when she first saw the cartoon, it took the wind out of her.

“It was like a blow to the stomach. I was really disappointed,” Allan said.

“I had a choice then: I could either ignore it or I could say no, this isn’t right and the reasons why.”

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Allan says she has been guided to speak out by the experiences of Julia Gillard.
Allan says she has been guided to speak out by the experiences of Julia Gillard. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian

Allan said she was guided to speak out by the experiences of Julia Gillard, who she said had been subjected to sexism during her time as prime minister, as well as the young women who spearheaded the #MeToo movement in Australia.

“What’s changed since Julia was PM versus my time [as premier] – is the #MeToo movement,” she said.

“For women of my generation, there were a lot of battles you had to work through. But for young women now, what the #MeToo movement did was it said that we have no tolerance for any of this behaviour. It called it out and said it was unacceptable and demanded change.”

She said she has also received some advice from Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, whom she met for the first time at national cabinet this week.

“Annastacia gave me some really good advice that I won’t disclose, but she was really supportive in helping me navigate my way through my first national cabinet,” she said.

Living with the legacy of Daniel Andrews

Andrews’ presence continues to loom large. An ombudsman report released this week painted a picture of his leadership style, with decision-making centralised in his office, independent advice ignored and experts from within the public sector cut out in favour of consultants – including during the development of plans for the Suburban Rail Loop.

The ombudsman, Deborah Glass, was most disturbed by the “fear” among public servants to speak out or provide the government with frank and fearless advice – but Allan has refuted this characterisation of the sector.

“This broad sweeping reference to a culture of fear – that’s just not my experience,” she said.

“Annastacia gave me some really good advice,” Allan says of the Queensland premier.
“Annastacia gave me some really good advice,” Allan says of the Queensland premier. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian

Allan also brushed off Glass’ concerns on the Suburban Rail Loop. The 90km underground railway line running between Cheltenham in the south-east and Werribee in the south-west via Melbourne airport has been the subject of persistent criticism, including from the state’s auditor general, transport experts and academics, as well as infrastructure bodies.

Allan said the focus of commentary had been on the “small number” of people who opposed the loop, when there were many who advocated for it. It just so happens those that are fans – Allan cites Monash University, Deakin University, Box Hill hospital, the Monash Health precinct and the shopping precincts of Cheltenham through to Box Hill – all stand to benefit from it.

Andrews also spoke out against accusations of politicisation in a podcast interview published on Friday, in which he also lashed “absolute pretenders” in the media and derided Sky News Australia’s “after dark bullshit”.

Allan said she was yet to hear the interview but understood Andrews’ “frustrations” with the media, particularly during the 120 consecutive press conferences during Covid-19 lockdowns.

But her message is clear: “I’m a different person. I’m not Daniel Andrews”.

#Daniel #Andrews #Jacinta #Allan #power #sexism #path #treaty #Victorian #politics

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