NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced his retirement from politics to spend time with his family and help his parents and sister through “serious health challenges”.
Mr Baird’s deputy and State Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed she will be running for the top job and she is widely considered to be the frontrunner.
Planning Minster Rob Stokes is also considering running along with Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance.
The ABC understands Ms Berejiklian has the numbers to secure the NSW Liberal Party leadership and Dominic Perrottet will be the deputy leader.
In a statement, Mr Baird said he was ready to move on from politics after a decade in public life.
“As I have reflected on the approaching halfway mark of our current term of government, and the opportunity it presents to refresh the Cabinet team, I have decided that this is the perfect time for me to hand the reins over to a new Premier,” it read.
“Serving as Premier of NSW has been a tremendous honour, but I have made clear from the beginning that I was in politics to make a difference, and then move on.
“After 10 years in public life, this moment for me has arrived.”
Mr Baird later addressed the media where he said the personal cost of politics had been great, and he struggled not being able to spend time with family members who were experiencing ill health.
“I’ve probably felt that [personal cost] more than any other time in the past few months,” he said, trying to maintain his composure.
“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.”
He said his father, Bruce, a former NSW and federal government minister, had just had open heart surgery, his mother has muscular dystrophy and his sister, journalist Julia Baird, is undergoing cancer treatment.
He later told ABC Radio Sydney that day-to-day living was hard when family members were sick.
“From a family point of view these are tough times,” Mr Baird said.
“I don’t want to over dramatise it, there are families facing far tougher circumstances than I am, but like any son, you want to support your parents where you can, or your sister or your brother.”Mr Baird said these personal challenges were much tougher than any policy issues in Government.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it was a sad day for the state and he was shocked by the announcement.
“I found out through the media. I wasn’t given a phone call,” he said.
“I think the decision this morning was one he made with his family in mind and his colleagues and we are a coalition partner and I respect that.”
The leadership spill is expected to happen on Tuesday, however, it is unlikely there will be a ballot as the ABC has been told the leadership positions will be decided by the partyroom earlier.
Premier denies he is abandoning the Government
He thanked his family, the Liberal Party and his fellow MPs, as well as the people of NSW.
“To be Premier of the best state in the best country in the world is something not to be taken for granted, and it is not,” Mr Baird said.
“I want to thank you for the unbelievable privilege that that has been.
“This is a great Government doing great things and we’ll continue to do that. I’m very confident in the team that will come after me.”
Mr Baird denied he was abandoning the Government or giving up because the challenges ahead were too hard, saying he had only made the decision in the last couple of weeks.
“I think I have given everything I possibly can,” he said.
Mr Baird listed NSW having the strongest job and economic growth and lowest unemployment rate in the country among his Government’s achievements.
He said he felt strongly about pursuing unpopular policies for the good of the state, saying they did not contribute to his decision.
“Council amalgamations, I strongly believe, will deliver long-term benefits for every member of New South Wales. It will provide huge opportunities and much more competitiveness into the long term,” Mr Baird said.
“Now, my argument obviously in some areas hasn’t won the day yet. But you look across other jurisdictions and it has and when it’s happened, it’s delivered benefits.
“Menzies said your role and responsibility [in politics] is to try and convince the electorate of the merits of your arguments. And the poles and wires is, I think, a good example of that.
“I think for a long time, maybe two decades, it was spoken about, hoped about, thought about, planned, tried, but we managed to convince the public on the benefits and you will see a very different New South Wales on the back of it.”
Mr Baird said his biggest regret was the lack of tax reform achieved.
“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,” he said.
Baird ‘confident’ Liberal Party can win next election
Mr Baird said he was confident the Liberal Party could win the next election.
He said he does not have any plans for what he will do next professionally, but that he plans to spend more time with his family.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thanked Mr Baird for his leadership in NSW and for “building the infrastructure of the 21st century”.
He said Mr Baird had retired “all too soon”.
Mr Baird has been Premier of NSW since April 2014, taking over after Barry O’Farrell’s resignation.
Mr Baird said there would be a Liberal partyroom meeting and a spill of leadership positions next week.
He will resign from Parliament, effective immediately, following that meeting. He will also vacate his seat of Manly.
Mr Baird was initially very popular, but 2016 saw a huge drop in his approval ratings following controversy over his Government’s greyhound ban and then backflip, lockout laws and council amalgamations.
The drop in his approval rating late last year was the biggest drop for any Premier in the history of Newspoll.