New Premier of New South Wales Mike Baird has promised to mend the state’s trust in the government.
Mr Baird fronted his first press conference as Premier with his deputy Gladys Berejiklian, both of whom were appointed unopposed by the Liberal party room.
Mr Baird was installed as premier a day after Barry O’Farrell resigned in the wake of controversy over his appearance at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Mr Baird described his predecessor as “a man of integrity” and the shock resignation as a “very noble act.”
“[Mr O’Farrell] has set an incredibly high bar for integrity”, he said.
Mr Baird said at the press conference that it was an honour to take over the position, and outlined his goals of improving services and building infrastructure in the state.
The new premier’s key message, repeated several times, seemed to be that he will head community’s concerns about government integrity, and fight to regain trust.
When asked about his thoughts on the role of ICAC, Mr Baird said the investigative body is “doing its job pure and simple.”
“If someone has done something wrong, they deserve the book thrown at them,” he said.
If someone has done something wrong, they deserve the book thrown at them
“ICAC is doing exactly what it should do. It is something that I will sign up to 100 per cent.”
He admitted in response to questioning that his appointment of Nick Di Girolamo to the board of Australian Water Holdings, a decision made by the full cabinet, was “in hindsight” a mistake.
It was then-AWH boss Mr Di Girolamo who sent the $3000 bottle of Penfold’s Grange to Barry O’Farrel in 2011.
The former premier had said he “never received” the wine while under oath at the commission, but a hand-written thank-you note revealed a day later forced him to resign.
He maintained that he spoke truthfully at the commission and said the receipt of the wine was a “significant memory fail”.
Former Premier O’Farrell is reportedly in “incredible spirits despite events” and keen to continue as his local member, Mr Baird told the press.
Mr Baird is the son of Bruce Baird, who was a lower house federal MP in John Howard’s government, and represents the northern beaches electorate of Manly.
Deputy Premier Gladys Berejiklian, described by Mr Baird at the press conference as “my good mate”, is the daughter of Armenian immigrants and holds the north shore electorate of Willoughby.
She entered the political scene as president of the Young Liberals and went on to become one of the better performing ministers in the O’Farrell government, managing the tough transport portfolio.
The 45-year-old father of three will become the state’s sixth premier in almost 10 years, once he’s formally sworn in.
Mr Baird is a committed Christian and former banker. He is surfing buddies with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and once studied to become an Anglican minister.
Prime Minister Abbott has in a statement congratulated both the new premier and deputy premier.
“I have known Mike for many years and I know he will discharge his responsibilities with integrity and honour,” said the prime minister in the statement.
The PM also continued his support for Mr O’Farrell, saying he acted “with great honour” in resigning.
He quit a lucrative career in corporate banking and turned to politics, entering the NSW parliament in 2007.
He represents Sydney’s northern beaches electorate of Manly.
Nationals leader Andrew Stoner, who remains deputy premier under the coalition agreement, welcomed Mr Baird’s elevation.
“The Nationals fully support the incoming Premier and, together with the Liberals, are committed to providing strong, stable and responsible government for NSW,” Mr Stoner said.
He praised Mr Baird’s term as treasurer, saying he delivered on $13 billion for regional infrastructure.
“Since being elected in March 2011, the NSW Liberals and Nationals have worked tirelessly to turn this state around with NSW now creating more new jobs than any other state and new roads, rail lines and hospitals under construction,” he said.
At today’s press conference, Mr Baird acknowledged that handing across the budget to his successor will be a “classic hospital pass at this point.”