Listen: Stephen O’Doherty chats to Katrina Roe after the resignation of NSW Premier Mike Baird.
Above: Mike Baird in Israel in 2016 to discuss the use of aid funds for refugees. Image: Facebook.
Friend of Mike Baird and former MP, Stephen O’Doherty, is just as shocked as senior NSW politicians over the Premier’s sudden resignation—but admitted it’s a typical ‘Baird’ thing to do.
Mr O’Doherty, who was Shadow Education Minister in the 1990s and supported Mike Baird in one of his preselection campaigns, told Hope 103.2 that he was as surprised as anyone over today’s unexpected announcement.
“I am in shock,” he told Katrina Roe. “There’s probably very few families who were closer than my family and the Baird family when I was in politics, and we’ve maintained a friendship over the years. And I was amazed when I realised what was happening this morning.
“Nobody had predicted it. However, it’s a very ‘Baird-Family’ thing to do.”
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The Bairds Likely Prayed Together Before Premier’s Decision
A prime example of the way the Bairds band together, is the family prayer meeting held in 2014 to seek God’s guidance after Barry O’Farrell’s resignation.
“When Barry O’Farrell left the Premier’s position, the [Baird] family all gathered together,” Mr O’Doherty recalled. “That means Mike, his parents, his siblings, his wife, his immediate family; they all gathered together for prayer. And it was after that, that they decided Mike would run for the vacant premier’s spot.
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“I can only speculate that this decision has come after a similar time of family prayer and reflection.”
Mr Baird announced his retirement from politics this morning in a press conference, citing his family’s health struggles as one of the motivating factors.
“They all gathered for prayer. After that, they decided Mike would run for Premier…”
“It’s been a very difficult situation in the background,” Mr O’Doherty said. “He’s spoken about it now openly at his press conference so I feel at liberty to talk about it: his mother has a form of degenerative disease, a muscular dystrophy of some sorts, and for some time it wasn’t diagnosed, and suddenly Judy had gone from being the most incredibly energetic – and I think the most able – member of the family, to somebody who needed help to do everyday tasks.
“It’s genuinely distressing – and Mike referred to that – to engage with her, because she’s just so different from what she’s been. She’s gone into 24-hour care recently.
“Bruce, Mike’s father, has had open heart surgery recently.
“And his sister, being an extremely talented author and host of The Drum on ABC, has had a recurrence of cancer. So that family has had many health issues.”
The “Completely Consuming” Life of Politics
As a former MP himself, Mr O’Doherty described how “completely consuming” political life can be.
“You don’t go anywhere without somebody wanting to speak to you, for good or for bad,” he said. “It’s on your mind the whole time. Mike’s primary concern would have been the people of NSW, and I say that with absolute certainty. My wife and I supported him through one of his preselections; his only interest in politics was to make a difference.
“He didn’t need to go in for his own reasons; he stepped out of an extremely important job in the private sector. To be quite frank he dropped salary and his commercial value is vastly more than probably even his salary as premier.
“He wasn’t in it for the money.”
Inheriting a State Where ‘Nothing Ever Got Done’
In Mr O’Doherty’s view, Mike Baird is the premier who “got NSW going again”.
“Nothing ever got done in NSW, in roads, rail projects, building other infrastructure,” he said. “They were so cautious about their politics they did nothing. Even under Barry O’Farrell, things were going slowly. But once Mike [was in] he established a pattern for public investment … into things that you can now see.
“He was prepared to walk away from the most important political posting outside Prime Minister.”
“NSW literally went from being the bottom of the heap in private sector activity, to the top of the heap. Which is where it should be as the most popular state.”
He believes his biggest example, though, is in fact in the way he has resigned.
“Here’s a man, a Christian, who committed himself because of his Christian principles, to serving a community for as long as he could, in a way that wasn’t about him, but about them,” he said.
“When the time came that his family responsibilities outweighed his responsibilities to the state, he was prepared to walk away from the most important political posting in Australia, outside Prime Minister.”
Mike Baird “Gave Crossbenchers a Fair Hearing”
Paul Green MLC, who is a NSW upper house member for the Christian Democratic Party, called Mr Baird “one of the best Premiers” the state has seen.
“It is no easy feat being a leader when you must make tough calls,” he said. “He has always done his best to be honest and upfront with the public about his direction for the state.”
As a cross bencher Mr Green said the Premier always gave the small parties and independents “a fair hearing and honest reply”, and was grateful for Mr Baird’s “mentorship, wisdom and confidence”.
He said working with him was a privilege and he had “great respect” for the Premier’s tough decision.