Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has hit out at the "vile stories" questioning his long absence when fronting his first media conference since a horrific fall in March, in which he fractured his spine and broke several ribs.
Donning a high-vis vest on Monday to spruik the building of Melbourne's Metro Tunnel, Mr Andrews responded to the spreading of rumours about his three-month absence.
In his absence, various unfounded rumours have circulated online and were fuelled by Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley when she called on Mr Andrews to answer 12 questions about his injury.
Before his return to work Mr Andrews did put out a video addressing the details of his fall but was asked on Monday why he didn't try and end the rumours earlier.
"You never get into an argument with a fool," he said.
Mr Andrews spoke about how his children were "taunted" at school regarding the conspiracy theories surrounding his fall.
"it is very, very hurtful when kids are being taunted at school," he said.
"It is very hurtful when you see some of this stuff printed and I’m not speaking for myself. I’m speaking on behalf of my family. Vile stories.
"And for people to try and turn that into a political weapon, well, I reckon they’ll be judged harshly for that, and I reckon they should be, but that’s about the extent of the time I spend wasted thinking about people like that."
In response to the unfounded conspiracy theories, Ambulance Victoria released a statement regarding the circumstances of Mr Andrew's fall, with his permission.
"What fed those rumours is nothing I've done," he said.
"What fed those stories is the vile, wicked nature of people who have put them around.
"And what's more the vile, wicked behaviour of those who've sought to turn them into a political weapon and that is not just one person."
At the press conference on Monday Mr Andrews said it was "best" to not argue with people who "make up their own facts".
"It's very difficult to win those arguments," he said.
"People know me, they know my work, they know my background. They know that I love my family and I love my state."
Daniel Andrews says spine has healed, but not ribs
He added he is determined to not waste time or energy on people who are irrelevant to the work he does.
The premier said he has spent the last four months doing rehab, getting healthy and fit so he could get back to work.
"That's what I'm doing, and that's what I'll do for as long as the people of Victoria want me to do that important work," he said.
He also said he does not intend on apologising for focusing on getting well over the past four months.
As for his injuries, Mr Andrews said his spine has now healed, however his ribs have not yet fully healed.
"It's not like a sprained ankle. You can't short-circuit this, you can't cheat it," he said.
"You can't get back quicker than it takes to get fit and well."
X-rays revealed Mr Andrews sustained an acute compression fracture of the T7 vertebra and broke several ribs, which caused the lower sections of his lungs to collapse.
Mr Andrews was placed on breathing machines for two days to provide oxygen. He said he avoided permanent, life-changing spinal cord damage by "1mm".
Premier assessed what is important to him
When asked about whether he thought about quitting politics after her fall, Mr Andrews admitted he did asses his life and what is important to him.
"I think it's only human when you have a big and traumatic event in your life, you look at what you're doing, you assess what's important, in many respects you're reminded of what's absolutely important," he said.
"I've said a few times now, obviously, my family are important to me, they're everything to me. But every Victorian families means a lot to me as well. That's the oath that I swore."
The premier received a warm welcome on Twitter, with 'IStandWithDan' trending on the platform.
“What a man, what a leader, wish you were the Premier of Tasmania,” one person tweeted.
“Glad to see you back, Dan.”
“@DanielAndrewsMP hasn’t lost his patience. Or sharpness. Or decency,” another said.
Victoria reported no new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases, while several parts of Australia grapple with outbreaks.
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