Is the Victorian premier embroiled in a culture war?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews Source: AAP

The ‘second wave’ in Victoria has seen anti-lockdown protests, the increased presence of ‘sovereign citizens’, and news of the state government’s mismanagement of COVID-19. These could be the ingredients of a culture war.

Victoria's coronavirus 'second wave' has made premier, Daniel Andrews, a central figure in an ongoing culture war. There has been both intense criticism and support which, have in recent weeks seen hashtags on social media trend from #IStandWithDan to #DictatorDan.

"Sadly, the whole world is devolving into a culture war or the perception of a culture war," Dr Stewart, senior lecturer in government and international relations at Sydney University, told The Feed.

On Thursday night, Victorian Liberal party MP, Tim Smith urged his followers on Facebook to send Daniel Andrews a message. He posted a photo with the caption "Should Daniel Andrews Resign?" with several reaction emojis signaling "yes" in the photo.

Reactions to the post actually showed positive support for the premier, with 20,000 Facebook users selecting a smiling face, heart emoji - not an option that Smith had suggested or hoped for.

Nine elected not to print Nine News' political editor, Chris Uhlmann's column criticising Andrews' extended lockdown in Victoria in their Melbourne paper.

"The Victorian solution punishes the many for the few. It preferences the very old over the young, mortgaging the future of the entire school and working age population. It is hard to imagine how you could design a policy that is more profoundly unfair or damaging to a society," the column read.

"Rejoice. Dan Andrews has destroyed the village to save it."

The Guardian reported that Age sources said the column was rejected because editors didn’t agree with the “Dictator Dan” viewpoint of their rival paper the Herald Sun, and believed Age readers wouldn’t have liked the column.

The column was criticised on social media. ABC radio Melbourne host, Virginia Trioli didn’t hold back with her opinion of the piece.

“The disease has also revealed long term, chronic health problems in otherwise healthy, young patients, with more yet to be revealed - all of which is a massive, long-term drain on the economy and the workforce. Model that, Chris,” she wrote on Twitter.

Former News Corp journalist, Tony Koch, called the piece “juvenile” saying, “I just read this, I can't believe Chris Uhlmann penned this unintelligent rubbish.”

How polarising is Daniel Andrews’ government?

The coronavirus ‘second wave’ has seen news emerge over the Victorian government’s mismanagement of hotel quarantine and contact tracing, as well as alarming videos of police misconduct. 

The Saturday Paper reported about the challenges Victoria’s health officials had with contact tracing which exacerbated the second wave, while The Age reported on Chief Medical Officer Brett Sutton being sidelined in their management by state health officials. 

However, Dr Stewart Jackson believes legitimate concerns regarding how the Victorian government managed COVID-19 is being drowned out by the phenomenon of the ‘sovereign citizen’ and anti-lockdown protests. 

"There's an element to the culture war that has been played out that actually is acting in Andrew's favor," he said.

"And that's around the sovereign citizens, which makes some of the lockdown protesters look foolish. If that's foolish and violent, therefore, we don't want to support that. Therefore, we will at least tacitly support what the government is doing."

Despite calls to resign from Liberal MPs, a number of polls have shown Andrews has a high level of support.

ABC's Media Watch looked at some issues with online polls that have had interference from Twitter bots while highlighting polls from the Victorian public that contradicted some of the coverage of Andrews' government's decision to extend the state's current lockdown measures.

Roy Morgan poll released on September 10 found 70 per cent of Victorians approve of the way the Andrews government is handling the second wave. Another poll released by Roy Morgan on Friday found the Victorian Labor Party support is at 51.5 per cent while the Victorian Liberal Party sits at 48.5 per cent. 

“I'm not surprised that they're still continuing support for what the government is doing, but a slightly lower level of support,” Dr Jackson said.

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 9pm and 5am. During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons. 

Between 5am and 9pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative. The full list of restrictions can be found here.

All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at