Mike Baird says the decision hasn’t been easy but it’s the right time for him to step down as the NSW premier.
‘It has taken a lot of deliberation – but I strongly believe it is the right decision. Really, there’s a couple of reasons for that. In my maiden speech, I spoke about wanting to come into public life to make a difference. I was frustrated by what I saw – a lack of action – and I was determined to try and get things done,’ said a visibly emotional Mr Baird.
‘After 10 years in public life, three years as Treasurer and three years as premier, I think now is the right time to do this,’ he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
‘Secondly, there is a strong personal cost that comes in public life.’
Mr Baird announced via Twitter just after 9am on Thursday that he was retiring from politics.
‘It’s been an honour to serve you, NSW,’ he tweeted.
’There is a strong personal cost that comes in public life. I’ve probably felt that more than any other time in the past few months.
‘My father and my mother and my sister are going through a very serious health challenge and, to be honest, at times I have been in pain not being able to spend the time that I should.’
Mr Baird said is leaving behind a great team which is going to do many more great things for the state.
Mr Baird touched on the economy, infrastructure, education and social welfare as his key legacies to the state.
‘The economy – remember what New South Wales was like? It was a basket case. It now has the strongest economic growth, it has got the strongest jobs growth, it has got the strongest and highest housing approvals in the nation, and the lowest unemployment rate.
‘Things that don’t happen by chance, but with a lot of hard work, and we were proud to do that,’ he said.
Mr Baird said he spent the summer reflecting on his decision to quit.
Mr Baird, who became premier in April 2014, said it was time to hand over the reins to a new premier for the state.
A new premier will be appointed next week.
Mr Baird’s sudden resignation comes two months after the Orange by-election loss was largely blamed on a backlash against his coalition government’s greyhound ban plan.
Mr Baird said he is confident the state of NSW will continue to surge ahead of the rest of Australia.
He also believes the coalition can win the next state election in 2019.
Mike Baird’s handling of the controversial NSW greyhound ban and the National Party’s devastating Orange by-election result probably helped spark the premier’s decision to quit politics, outspoken former Liberal MP Ross Cameron says.
‘I think Mike was shocked by the result in the Orange by-election. He believed in his heart he was doing the right thing to shut down the greyhound racing industry and he was both dismayed and demoralised that he was unable to carry it electorally,’ Mr Cameron, the former federal Liberal MP for Parramatta, told Sky News.
Mr Cameron said Mr Baird had jettisoned the goodwill he had built up in the electorate because of the greyhound ban and Sydney’s lockout laws.
‘I have felt for some months since the Orange by-election, in my view, he has lacked conviction and I suppose like Nick Kyrgios you’ve got to find a conviction or get out and Mike has decided to get out,’ Mr Cameron said.
‘I believe that the greyhound racing ban and to some extent the curtailing of trading hours in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross was interpreted by the electorate as a kind of moral judgement.
‘I think Mike made a bad miscalculation on greyhound racing.’
Mr Cameron said pressures driven by NSW Liberal Party factional leaders, who he described as having an “iron grip” on the party, would have also contributed to Mr Baird’s decision.
He expects those factional leaders will push for NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian to take over from Mr Baird when the party room votes on a new leader next week.
‘The party room will just be told because a majority of the members of the party room are totally reliant on (Liberal powerbroker) Michael Photios for their pre-selection so they will be told how to vote and they will obey,’ Mr Cameron said.
Other politicians from across state and federal politics expressed their surprise at the suddenness of Mr Baird’s resignation.
Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton paid tribute to Mr Baird for putting NSW “back on the map”.
‘I don’t know that he was always comfortable in politics, I think people who know Mike know him to be a very decent, honourable and nice guy,’ Mr Dutton told 2GB.
‘Some people always thought he was too nice for politics, maybe that is the case, but I think he can be very proud of what he has achieved.’
Mr Dutton said Mr Baird would be welcome to join the Liberal Party’s federal ranks.
‘He would be welcome, but I suspect he would tell you that would be the last thing on his mind,’ he said.
‘I suspect Mike will go back into the business world, but he can speak for himself.’
Sydney City Liberal councillor Christine Forster praised Mr Baird’s achievements.
‘Congrats @mikebairdMP on job well done: Budget fixed, schools, hospitals, roads & rail being built which will serve NSW for decades,’ she tweeted.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted his thanks to Mr Baird.
“Thank you @mikebairdMP – you have set NSW on track to lead and succeed in the 21st century. Great innings magnificently played.’
Australian Premier Jay Weatherill lamented the decision.
‘Say it aint so,’ Mr Weatherill tweeted on Thursday shortly after Mr Baird’s announcement.
The SA leader said Mr Baird’s advocacy within the Council of Australian Governments would be a huge loss and he was “glad to now call you a friend”.
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson accused Mr Baird of leaving NSW in a mess after his time in office.
‘#LockoutLaws, #greyhound, #amalgamations! Mike Baird has lit the fuse on NSW & now he flees, leaving others to look after his mess,’ she tweeted.
Former NSW Labor premier Kristina Keneally said she wasn’t surprised by Mr Baird’s decision, saying she believed he was never a “natural politician”.
‘I don’t think he ever enjoyed the cut and thrust of question time in politics,’ she told Sky.
‘I think he’s a very decent person, a very honourable human being and he will be a loss to the state.’
Ms Keneally noted that Mr Baird had suffered the most significant drop in support among voters of any premier in Australia amid the fallout from the greyhound ban and lockout laws.
‘This is the man who started out as the golden boy of politics,’ she said.
‘People even suggested he might one day become prime minster and he’s had a tremendous fall in popularity.’
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also paid tribute, saying even though they were on opposite sides of the political divide, they managed to work together well.
‘We fought together – with other premiers – for a fairer deal from the Australian government on health and education for our states, the comprehensive roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and a national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse,’ Ms Palaszczuk said in a statement.
Police Minister Troy Grant, who resigned as NSW Nationals leader following the Orange by-election, wasn’t surprised by Mr Baird’s departure but was disappointed to see his “great mate” leave politics.
‘I was enormously proud to serve as his deputy premier,’ Mr Grant told reporters in Sydney.
‘We achieved incredible things for this state, and it’s a sad day for NSW more than anything.
‘He’s made the decision in the best interest of his family and that always has to come first and I’ll always support him.;