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NSW Premier Baird announces shock retirement

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Just halfway through his government’s term, NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced he’s quitting politics saying his family’s ill health was a major factor in his shock decision.

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“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,” Baird told reporters in Sydney, after unexpectedly releasing a statement via social media earlier this morning.

The health woes of his family had weighed heavily on the decision, which had been made in close consultation with his wife Kerryn, Mr Baird said.

“There is a strong personal cost that comes in public life,” he said, his eyes tearing up as he looked at his wife and three children during the media conference.

“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.”

The Liberal Party will elect a new leader and premier at a party room meeting next week, with Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian tipped to be his successor.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill was one of the political leaders to lament Baird’s resignation today, saying his advocacy would be a huge loss at COAG.

The pair had led a push for reform of federal-state tax arrangements, including the idea of increasing the GST rate, but their campaign failed to gain traction.

Baird said today that failure was his biggest political regret.

He said it had been frustrating that federal and state governments could not agree on tax reform but it needed to be re-examined in the future.

“I think there was a big opportunity there to do something very significant in terms of the competitiveness of the economy and the sustainability of funding services in the long-term, and that’s something I’m disappointed (about) – I certainly gave it a crack,” Baird said.

Baird, 48, who has been Premier since 2014, said the decision to step down from being “premier of the best state in the best country in the world” had not been easy but the timing was right.

“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,” he said.

While it had been a long, tough battle at times, Baird said he was confident he had done all he could for the state of NSW.

“There’s a number of policy decisions we’ve made that I strongly believe make a huge difference to people’s lives and, you know, I’ve given my best. I’ve given my all. I mean, there is nothing left. I have worked as hard as I possibly can for the people of this state.”

He 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 like that don’t happen by chance, but with a lot of hard work, and we were proud to do that,” he said.

The once-most popular politician in the country went through a tough year in 2016 with issues including the controversial greyhound racing ban, council amalgamations and lock-out laws that divided public opinion.

Baird said he was confident the coalition could win the next state election in 2019.

“Every organisation needs to refresh…I think refreshing now gives a new premier two years, an opportunity for them to put their mark on the government at the same time, to set an agenda that is theirs.”

The former Sydney investment banker would not speculate on his future employment.

“Over the years, people have said, if I ever leave politics, I should talk to them. That’s obviously something I’ll be doing in coming weeks,” he said.

Baird’s resignation will also a trigger a by-election for the seat of Manly in Sydney’s north.

– AAP

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