NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced he will be retiring from politics after a state Liberal Party room meeting next week.
Mr Baird made the announcement on social media on Thursday morning and faced the press an hour later to explain his decision.
The 48-year-old cried as he listed the reasons for his retirement. He said he had only made the decision in the past “couple of weeks”.
“I said many times I didn’t want to become a career politician – I wanted to go as hard as I could for as long as I could and then step aside. Well, today, I am making good on that pledge,” Mr Baird said. “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 [with them] that I should. This will change today.”
Mr Baird explained his father was recovering from open-heart surgery while his mother had entered 24-hour care for muscular dystrophy.
His sister, journalist and author Julia Baird, has had a reoccurrence of cancer, Mr Baird said.
Mr Baird said he had decided it was time for the NSW government to “refresh”.
“Six years into government, it’s time for us to refresh, to reset our goals towards the 2019 election and beyond.
“As I’ve reflected on this refresh, with a lot of deliberation, and with those I love the most and my dear friends, it has been clear to me that this refresh won’t include me.”
Mr Baird became emotional again when he thanked his family.
“My wife, Kerryn, who has been my lifeline. She has been so supportive on this journey. I love her dearly.
“I have been punching above my weight for nearly 27 years and it has been a joy to have her.”
He also thanked and expressed his love for his three children Kate, Laura and Luke.
Mr Baird named infrastructure projects, measures to combat domestic violence, trading partnerships with overseas countries and sport stadium enhancements as some of his proudest achievements.
— ABC News (@abcnews) January 18, 2017
“I was frustrated on why New South Wales was behind the rest of the country, I was frustrated that nothing ever got built, and I wanted to make a difference. As I look on that now, I strongly believe that we have,” Mr Baird said.
In an earlier statement issued on social media Mr Baird wrote there would be a spill of the NSW Liberal Party’s leadership positions next week to determine the next leader and NSW Premier.
Mr Baird would not reveal who he would be voting for in the spill, or who he saw as candidates to replace him.
While Mr Baird began as a highly popular NSW Premier, the latter part of his tenure has been marred by a sharp fall in public approval.
From December 2015 to September 2016, Mr Baird’s Newspoll satisfaction rating fell from 61 per cent to 39 per cent.
His net satisfaction rate in that time fell from positive 39 points to negative seven points.
Chief reasons in that dip were the controversial Sydney lockout laws and a back flip on a NSW greyhound ban.
Mr Baird also suffered from a disastrous result in the November 2016 Orange by-election.
In that by-election, Nationals candidate Scott Barrett was beaten by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Phillip Donato.
The result represented a 34 per cent swing against the National Party, which are in a coalition with the NSW Liberal Party.
Mr Baird denied the lockout laws, greyhound backflip and other controversies did not force him to retirement.
“There were tough moments all the way through it, and you have to accept it. But ultimately, you have to deal with what’s thrown at you but at the same time you also need to make sure that you have the vision.”
Dr Stewart Jackson, an expert in Australian politics at The University of Sydney, said he was “genuinely surprised” as the state government was “tracking fairly well” despite a decline in popularity.
“The polls aren’t great, but I actually thought he was tracking fairly well for the next election,” Dr Jackson told The New Daily.
He dismissed the idea that the internal ructions over reform of party rules were the likely cause, as “the moderates [Baird’s faction] are still well in control”.
More good news for Mr Baird was that a slew of infrastructure projects, always popular with voters, were about to be started or completed, making the decision all the more puzzling.
Dr Jackson said current-Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian is the “logical candidate” to replace Mr Baird.
Mr Baird assumed office on April 14, 2014. He was elected as leader of the NSW Liberal Party and therefore NSW Premier unopposed, after former Premier Barry O’Farrell’s resignation.
He entered politics after he won the seat of Manly at the 2007 NSW election.
Mr Baird reached out beyond the political divide to suggest Australia should welcome more Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
He was admired for making unpopular decisions if he thought they were right for the state, such as taking the sale of poles and wires to the last election.
Earlier in his term, he was also seen as a social media darling. His tongue-in-cheek posts attracted an early avalanche of likes, but later it seemed he was unable to post a picture without being flooded with comments describing him as glib and out of touch.
I’m retiring from politics. It’s been an honour to serve you, NSW. pic.twitter.com/eFInOqoC19
— Mike Baird (@mikebairdMP) January 18, 2017
– with reporting by Jackson Stiles