Anthony Albanese says he was surprised when Daniel Andrews told him that he was resigning from politics, but that the Victorian premier can be proud he “did not waste a minute”.
Andrews announced on Tuesday that he would step down as premier after almost nine years, saying it was time to go and he did not want to begin to resent his job.
He will official retire from politics on Wednesday, after becoming the state’s longest-serving Labor premier earlier this year.
The prime minister said Andrews informed him of his decision to step down on Tuesday morning, saying he was “surprised by the date of the resignation” and that they planned to have “one or two beers” together soon.
“I wasn’t completely shocked, but I didn’t expect it to happen,” Albanese said.
“We’ve been friends for 25 years and we will remain friends in the future.”
In a statement, Albanese described Andrews as a person of deep conviction, and a “builder” in education, health, infrastructure and housing,
He pointed to reforms in Tafe, early childhood education, investment in infrastructure and public transport and the government’s housing statement released last week.
He said Andrews’ leadership had been tested by some of the “toughest times” during Covid.
“In the relentless pressure of a once-in-a-generation pandemic, Dan never shirked the hard decisions. He fronted up, he stood up and he did everything in his power to keep Victorians safe,” Albanese said.
The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, says Andrews’ resignation marked the end of “one of the greatest contributions to Australian politics.”
“Dan is a giant,” he said in a statement.
“He has led our state through some of the most difficult periods in recent history. His leadership through both the Black Summer bushfires and the Covid pandemic has made us stronger and see us get through to the other side.”
But the state’s opposition leader, John Pesutto, hit out at Andrews, saying he was resigning because “things are falling apart” in the state.
Speaking to 3AW radio, Pesutto said Andrews was stepping down because “things have become so bad”.
“Whether it’s debt, whether it’s interest, whether it’s taxes going through the roof to plug the budget blackhole,” he said.
“Whether it’s the Commonwealth Games debacle that saw at least $600m torched for no good reason – which could all have been avoided had the government just done its job.”
Past and present state premiers, including former New South Wales Liberal leader Dominic Perrottet, praised Andrews for his service.
The former Victorian Labor premier Steve Bracks said Andrews had made an important mark on the state through infrastructure projects and social reforms.
Bracks, who led Victoria between 1999 and 2007, said Andrews’ legacy included infrastructure projects such as the Metro tunnel, and leading Victoria to become the first state to legalise voluntary assisted dying.
“I think it will be the hallmark of his time as premier, overseeing one of the most progressive governments Victoria has ever had,” he told the ABC.
“But doing it in a way that brings people with him and brings people with him as he develops and grows the state.”
Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett said it was too early to assess Andrews’ legacy.
“Daniel’s legacy will not be determined today or tomorrow. It will be determined over the next three or four years and might be determined over the next 20 years,” he told Nine News.
Federal Victorian Liberal MP Dan Tehan claimed on Sky News that Andrews governed like a “dictator” and argued the state opposition had a “real opportunity now”.
The former Victorian health minister Martin Foley, who served in state parliament between 2007 and 2022, said Andrews was a “strong leader” who would never ask a colleague to do something he was not prepared to do himself.
“He redefined what political leadership meant, had a strong, firm view about reshaping what a state government could achieve,” he told the ABC.
Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly also praised Andrews for his commitment to an Indigenous treaty.
The assembly – the democratically elected Indigenous body – will begin negotiating a state-wide treaty with the Victorian government in the coming months.