Tough At The Top

Image by Joel Coleman |

Image by Joel Coleman |

COVERED. political writer Mark Smith reviews Mike Baird's recent challenges and considers what lies ahead for for the NSW Premier.

Mike Baird has had a tough few months.
Lock-out laws, a ban on greyhound racing and forced council amalgamations have caused him and his Liberal party, and his coalition partners, the Nationals a lot of headaches.

After the National parties’ terrible showing in the recent Orange by-election, Nationals leader Troy Grant, and his Deputy Adrian Piccoli, have stood down, being replaced by Small Business Minister John Barilaro and Upper House member Niall Blair.

Hard Decisions
This has capped a very rough period for the Premier, who has used up a lot of political capital on an agenda that he believes is important but is seemingly very unpopular with the public.

The lock-out laws were first introduced under Barry O’Farrell in March 2014 in response to several high profile assaults that led to deaths in Kings Cross. 

While there has been a reduction in the number of assaults in the lock-out areas, many businesses have been forced to close due to sharp fall in trade.  It is hard for a Liberal/National government whether State or Federal to sell a policy that effects business in an adverse way.

There are many people, especially of a younger age who work in the hospitality industry who don’t finish work until late, and would like to go out like the rest of the world, but can’t because of these laws. Perhaps if the government policed existing laws, such as the responsible service of alcohol, these restrictions would not have been necessary. The government has just received a review on the effectiveness of the lock-out provisions, and will respond shortly.

More Trouble In Paradise
The council amalgamations don’t seem to have stirred up as much resentment on the Northern Beaches as they have in the western suburbs and especially in regional and country areas. Most of the complaints seem to have come from the north of the peninsula. This is understandable, as issues that are important to residents in Avalon, would be different, for example, to those affecting residents in Queenscliff.

As far as the greyhound racing ban goes, the large amount of political capital that Mike Baird had built up, certainly has been eroded by a decision that was seen by many as a knee jerk reaction to a story on ABC's Four Corners only the week before. Once again, many people I have spoken to simply cannot understand why a Liberal Premier would do something that would affect so many people and businesses without more consultation.

The industry has problems with animal cruelty that need to be dealt with immediately, and if they aren’t, then they should suffer severe consequences. But every industry has issues.

Strategic Or Heartfelt
Since he has overturned the ban, the question is, does he genuinely believe he made a mistake, or does he think the greyhound ban was right? Or did he just act politically?

Mike Baird was seen as a conviction politician from the start, as shown by his commitment to take the lease of the ‘poles and wires’ to an election. 

The Premier is doing great things, especially with infrastructure. Have recent decisions taken the gloss off him? We wait and see.