NSW Premier Mike Baird resigned on Thursday, and the Snowy Valleys aren’t exactly filled with the sound of mourning.
Baird, along with Minister for Local Government Paul Toole, oversaw the forced merger of Tumut and Tumbarumba shires, which ruffled a few feathers locally to put it mildly.
“I’m devastated. I’ll be traumatised for the next week!” joked former Tumbarumba Mayor Ian Chaffey.
“I suppose if you’re that far out of touch with community sentiment then there comes a time when your position is no longer tenable.
“I think we’ve seen that a lot in politics in Australia in recent times. I don’t know how you ensure good governance in a democracy, but the reality is that you can only alienate so many people for so long until the pressure builds.
“If you want to bring about change you’ve got to take people on a journey. You’ve got to listen to them, you’ve got to encourage them, you’ve got to explain to them why you believe in what you’re doing. I don’t think politicians in Australia do that today; it’s all got to happen in twenty minutes.”
However, he believes Baird was only one element of the conditions in the NSW Liberal Party that led to the forced mergers, along with other contentious policy decisions such as the eventually overturned greyhound racing ban, the Sydney lockout laws, and the stripping of funding from domestic violence services.
“A good ship has a good captain, and you can’t have a good ship or a good captain without a good crew.
“I can’t say I’m surprised; I think the result of the Orange by-election [which the Coalition lost for the first time in seventy years] sent a serious message that people want to be consulted and considered; they’re sick and tired of being spoken down to.
“After all, we elect our politicians to provide good governance, to listen to what our concerns are, and respond in an appropriate manner.”
Mr Baird will officially resign next week after a cabinet meeting in which all leadership positions are spilled and voted on.
State MP Daryl Maguire said Mike Baird could be “very proud” of what he had accomplished.
“Mike Baird has always made it very clear that he wasn’t going to be in office for a long time, but that the time that he did spend would be productive, and that he would turn the fortunes of the state around – and he’s done that,” Mr Maguire said.
“When we won Government in 2011 he was treasurer, and he and Barry O’Farrell turned the financial fortunes of this state around. We were last in every economic indicator, and we are now proudly number one; with no debt, money in the bank, and an infrastructure program the likes of which this state has never seen.
“He’s been a good friend to me, he’s been a good friend to the Wagga electorate, and I wish him well.”
As for who our next Premier will be, Mr Maguire said the name most frequently heard in Liberal party circles was that of Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian.
“She has certainly got the runs on the board, having been Transport Minister overseeing the biggest infrastructure investment in transport in this state ever, and then of course her current portfolio. So she’s certainly qualified and that’s one name that’s been at the forefront of discussion.”
Acting President of the Tumut Liberal Party Branch John Larter believes this meeting presents an opportunity for Mr Maguire to put his hand up for a cabinet position.
“It’ll be interesting to see in the reshuffle if Daryl’s promoted, that’s one thing that should be considered,” he said.
“He’s one of the longest serving MPs so if he’s prepared to put his hand up I don’t see why he wouldn’t be suitable for a portfolio that would benefit our region.
However, Mr Maguire said that wasn’t his priority.
“I’m too busy trying to get an increase in the forestry plantations for Tumut [and surrounding areas], as well as campaigning hard for the Tumut Hospital to be built,” he said.
“I’m very focused on a range of projects around Wagga, so I’ll be focusing on the electorate; our region and its needs. We’ve got a lot of work to do and I don’t want to be distracted by the shenanigans of who might get what. I’m already parliamentary secretary for a number of portfolios, so I’m pretty busy, and I’m just getting on with the job.”
As for Mr Baird, he said in a statement explaining his resignation that it was simply time to hand over the reins.
“Serving as Premier of NSW has been a tremendous honour, but I have made clear from the beginning that I was in politics to make a difference, and then move on. After 10 years in public life, this moment for me has arrived,” he said.
“I am immensely proud of what Barry O’Farrell and I – together with Andrew Stoner, Troy Grant, John Barilaro and our teams – have achieved over the past six years.”
He pointed out that when he took over as treasurer in 2011 the NSW budget was experiencing deficits of $4.4 billion. It is now on track to record a $4 billion surplus in 2016/17. Our economic growth has risen from 1.8 per cent to 3.5 per cent, and unemployment has fallen from 5.2 per cent to 4.9 per cent.