Why Victorian Opposition MP’s bizarre Daniel Andrews conspiracy did not go to plan



See all newsletters, #springst, June 7, 2021

The Premier Daniel Andrews has been off work since March. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Daniel PockettSource:News Corp Australia

COMMENT

Make no mistake, Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien knows exactly where the line is — and when a member of his own party crosses it.

He knew when outspoken Kew MP Tim Smith stepped over the line in May last year by calling the Premier Daniel Andrews “loony” and he publicly rebuked the comment.

“I think that term ‘loony’ was not an appropriate one and I’ve conveyed that appropriately,” Mr O’Brien said.

It didn’t work — that same month Mr Smith launched into the Premier again with a tweet that described him as a “dictator”, a “friendless loser” and “Lurch” — a reference to the fictional character from The Addams Family.

But what Mr O’Brien had done by pulling one of his own MPs into line was set a minimum standard for others in the party to adhere to.

Which is why you might have thought he would react in a similar manner when Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley aired her unfounded conspiracy theories about how Mr Andrews hurt his back in March.

See all newsletters, #springst, June 7, 2021

Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has been accused of sanctioning Louise Staley’s conspiracy comments. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew HenshawSource:News Corp Australia

But he did nothing of the sort. Instead, he joined her on the frontline of a fight that ended in embarrassment for the entire party.

In case you missed it, Ms Staley issued a press release on Monday that hinted that a “cover up” could be the reason Mr Andrews has been on sick leave for more than 90 days.

She questioned the official line that the Premier had fallen down stairs getting ready for work, fracturing five ribs and suffering an acute compression fracture of the T7 vertebra.

“Nobody’s got footage of the stairs. Nobody’s got footage of where it happened,” she told reporters breathlessly.

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Victorian Liberal Party MPs were reportedly embarrassed by the wild claims. The ABC’s state political reporter Richard Willingham tweeted that her colleagues thought it was “madness at a time when the state is in a fourth lockdown”.

Some Vic liberals are just shaking their heads about Staley’s questions about the Premier. They think it’s madness especially at a time when the state is in a fourth lockdown. Damages their credentials, they say. #springst

— Richard Willingham (@rwillingham) June 7, 2021

But the party’s leader stepped up to pour fuel on the fire.

“Clearly I think there are some questions that are in the public interest to be cleared up at some point,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I think it is true,” he said of how Mr Andrews’ injured his back. “But it’s not necessarily the whole story.”

Well, it is. As Ambulance Victoria made clear this week, there is no conspiracy to be found.

In a statement, a spokesperson said responders received a triple-zero call at 6.36am on March 9 regarding a patient (Mr Andrews) who had fallen on steps at a house in Sorrento.

“Based on information provided during the call, the case did not require any immediate lights and sirens (life-threatening emergency response) and the call underwent secondary triage,” it reads.

The ambulance arrived at the home at 7am that day.

“The patient was assessed by treating paramedics as having suspected fractured ribs, and pain relief was provided,” the statement reads.

“The patient requested to attend a local hospital in order for the attending crew to remain within the area once cleared from the case.”

See all newsletters, #springst, June 7, 2021

Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley addresses the media at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Sarah MatraySource:News Corp Australia

Victoria’s Police Chief Shane Patton also ruled out Ms Staley’s other theory — that police had been involved and the Premier had been forced to answer questions about what happened.

Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne’s Mornings, Commissioner Patton confirmed to host Virginia Trioli police were not called in relation to the Premier’s accident, nor was he interviewed formally or informally.

“What you’ve got is a tragic accident that’s left a person severely injured, who happens to be the Premier of the state. That’s not a matter the police would be involved in,” he said.

The whole thing has backfired spectacularly for the Victorian Liberals and rewarded the government with countless free kicks.

Labor MP Martin Pakula said: “Mad conspiracy theories are not worthy of a person that wants to be Treasurer, of a party that wants to be government”.

Acting Premier James Merlino said: “It is a very poor reflection on the Opposition and the Liberal Party that they are focused on what are just bizarre conspiracy theories.

“I think it’s a poor reflection on the Liberal Party, the leader of the Opposition, the fact that they are doubling down on these nuthead conspiracy theories, as I think it’s a great disappointment to the people of Victoria.”

He laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of Mr O’Brien.

See all newsletters, #springst, June 7, 2021

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews posted a photograph from hospital in March, writing: ‘Good to get out of ICU and settled in new digs. Thanks for all your messages and well wishes. It really means a lot.’Source:Supplied

“This is clearly sanctioned by the leader of the Opposition and I think that is a disgrace,” he said.

Even the Greens dug the boot in. Victoria’s Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam said: “In the middle of the pandemic, it beggars belief that they’re peddling conspiracy theories about the Premier instead of doing what they should be doing in this parliament.”

The theories had, until this week, been circulating only within fringe conspiracy groups and on blogs.

That didn’t stop Ms Staley from forging ahead with her pursuit of the truth on Monday. Among the questions she demanded Mr Andrews answer about the fall were:

• What time was the ambulance called?

• Who called the ambulance?

• Did the police attend?

• Has Daniel Andrews been interviewed either formally or informally by the police in relation to anything that occurred over that long weekend?

Those questions have been answered now.

We can only wonder whether the matter is put to bed once and for all. Ms Staley certainly isn’t saying — questions news.com.au put to her this week went unanswered.

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith

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