Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ army of staffers has doubled since the pandemic began, meaning he now has more than the Prime Minister at his disposal.
New figures provided to the parliamentary public accounts and estimates committee have revealed there are now 286 full-time equivalent ministerial staffers employed by the Victoria Government.
A massive 86 of them report directly to the Premier’s private office – compared to 51 employed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office.
Treasurer Tim Pallas and Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan had the next biggest teams with 13 each.
The Herald Sunreports that the Premier’s office has refused to break down the roles of his massive ministerial team, but say it’s necessary to respond to state emergencies and the Government’s “ambitious policy agenda”.
“Responding to the coronavirus pandemic, bushfire recovery and other emergencies, along with an ambitious policy agenda and increased responsibility for priority reform has contributed to higher demand for staffing resources,” a spokesman said.
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The figures show ministerial staff costs hit $49.2 million in 2019/20 – up $3 million from the year before.
Victoria opposition MP James Newbury slammed the growing team.
“Daniel Andrews now has a giant office to match his ego, with almost one-third of the Government’s political staff working for the Premier,” he told the Herald Sun. “He has grown the number of political staff in the same way as he has exploded the size of the public service.”
The 48-year-old Premier is currently on six weeks’ leave to recover after he narrowly avoided permanent spine damage when he slipped on wet stairs at a holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula two weeks ago.
“I landed flat on my back and hit the steps hard directly below the shoulder blades, fracturing at least five ribs and sustaining an acute compression fracture of the T7 vertebra,” Mr Andrews said.
“These are serious injuries that require me to wear a brace throughout each day except when sleeping. My doctors also want me to get rest and undertake a comprehensive program of physiotherapy.”
Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters yesterday that Mr Andrews was on the mend.
“His doctors are happy with his progress, so I think that’s a good sign. As we’ve said it was a nasty, nasty injury and it’s a long and difficult recovery and rehab,” he said.