Daniel Andrews has announced his surprise resignation as premier of Victoria and will quit politics tomorrow.
"Today, I will again visit Government House and resign as premier and member for Mulgrave, effective 5 p.m. tomorrow," he told reporters.
"It's not an easy decision because as much as we've achieved together there's so much more to do.
"But when it's time, it's time."
Mr. Andrews has served as Victoria's premier for nine years, which he called an "honour and privilege" and a "good run."
He said the only way he knew how to do the job was to let it "consume" his life, dubbing himself "worse than a workaholic."
"Every waking moment is about the work and that takes a toll," he said.
"The moment you are not comfortable with that decision for you and the people you love, you have to step away."
When asked if he would have done anything differently in hindsight, Mr. Andrews declined to answer.
"I've never been about being 100 percent popular," he says.
"[If] you are essentially scared of doing anything that might upset anybody, you get precisely nothing done and then you finish up deeply unpopular.
"I worked that one out a while ago too."
He said he had very thick skin which was required to have for someone to properly do their job as premier.
Mr. Andrews said the party caucus will meet at midday tomorrow to determine his successor.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Mr. Andrews was a person of "deep conviction, great compassion, and fierce determination."
"Dan’s leadership was tested by some of the toughest times. 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," the prime minister said in a statement.
Mr. Albanese said it was a pleasure to work alongside an "old friend."
"Nearly nine years as premier is a remarkable achievement. Dan Andrews can be proud that he didn’t waste a minute," he said.
Mr. Andrew's resignation comes after similar moves by fellow Labor leaders former Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
Huge Debt Left BehindMr. Andrews became the leader of the Victorian Labor branch in 2010 and has led the party to three election victories, most recently in 2022.
During nine years in power, Mr. Andrews has left a significant legacy to the Victorian people, including the decriminalisation of sex work, establishing a drug injecting room, work towards a First Nation treaty, being first state to legalise euthanasia, and "Big Build" infrastructure project schemes.
Meanwhile, the latest state budget has forecasted that the state debt will reach $171.4 billion by mid-2027.
According to global credit rating giant Moody's, Victoria's net debt was projected to reach $226.2 billion by the same period. But Treasurer Tim Pallas assured the public the state's debt was under control.
A significant amount of blame was apportioned to COVID-19 borrowing and spending, but the state's budget says pandemic policies accounted for $31.5 billion of the total debt.
Debt issues were also cited as the reason behind Victoria's sudden withdrawal as host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
The Games were supposed to be held in regional areas of Victoria from March 17-19, 2026, after the state was awarded the right to host the event in 2022.
Speaking to the press, the premier cited a blowout in cost estimates as the main reason for the surprise decision, saying it would cost over $6 billion (US$4.1 billion) instead of the original estimate of $2.6 billion.
But Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips said it had been unclear how the Victorian government calculated its costs, which had not been shared with the Games organisers before the announcement.
COVID PoliciesMr. Andrews oversaw strict COVID lockdown and vaccine mandates in the state, which resulted in one of the world's longest lockdowns.
Discontent at the lockdown restrictions and vaccine mandates, which resulted in many job losses and business shutdowns, led to some of the biggest protests in the country.
Beijing's Belt and Road InitiativeMr. Andrews also oversaw the state's signing of two controversial deals with Beijing under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
In 2018, Victoria signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging cooperation in trade and policy cooperation in infrastructure under BRI.
Then-Foreign Minister Marise Payne also canceled a 2004 MOU between Victoria's Department of Education and Training and the Islamic Republic of Iran and a 1999 Protocol of Scientific Cooperation between the same department and the Syrian Arab Republic.
"I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations in line with the relevant test [under the Act]," Ms. Payne said in a statement.
The federal government's Foreign Relations Act also forced the Victorian state government to hand over documents related to a third secret deal signed between the state and the Chinese regime.
That deal was signed in March 2017, 18 months before the first BRI deal was signed. The secret MOU committed the state to work with Beijing on Victorian infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
But Mr. Andrews had maintained that deals with China, such as the BRI, posed no threat to national security and were about generating employment opportunities.