Won the Liberal leadership: Mike Baird. Photo: Rob Homer Family ties: Mr Baird, in his Fairlight backyard with his family, from left, Cate, 9, Moses the dog, Luke, 5, wife Kerryn, and Laura, 12. Photo: Quentin Jones
As his son awaited election as the 44th premier of NSW on Thursday, Bruce Baird was relieved that on one occasion, at least, his fatherly advice was ignored.
“The truth is I spent a year trying to talk him out of going into politics because I know the downsides of politics and the pain it can incur,” Baird snr, himself a former state minister, told reporters before Mike Baird won the Liberal leadership.
“So when he has bad days, I do say to him ‘remember I told you not to go into politics’.”
Mike Baird need not look far for a reminder of the fire and brimstone ending that can befall even the most risk-averse politicians, as Barry O’Farrell suddenly warms the backbench after suffering a spectacular “memory fail”.
But for now, at least, the cleanskin former investment banker has set himself lofty ambitions.
“I am . . . someone who is in this game to make a difference,” Mr Baird said at his first press conference as leader on Thursday, standing alongside his deputy Gladys Berejiklian.
“[I hope] when we leave, the people of NSW say thank you, you have made this state a better place”.
Mr Baird, born in 1968, has carried the “would-be premier” epithet from the moment he was elected the member for Manly in 2007.
Politics was entrenched in his upbringing. His father served first as a minister in the NSW Greiner government and later as a federal MP during the Howard years.
Nick Greiner, who has known Mr Baird since he was a boy, speaks of him glowingly.
“I think he will be fantastic. His first strength . . . is that he’s economically and financially literate, and the state government at the end of the day is all about that,” Mr Greiner said.
“He covers the range of the party to progressive to conservative. I think he has a broad appeal.”
Mr Baird is from the Left faction but his successful privatisation of ports and electricity generators has won him favour with the right.
His faith weighs heavily on his socially conservative views. He opposes reforms such as gay marriage and allowing homosexual couples to adopt children, and voted against embryonic stem cell research.
Mr Baird has not ruled out taking a policy to sell the state’s electricity poles and wires to the next election, prompting alarm from the unions and the Greens.
“Selling public assets is part of Mike Baird’s DNA,” said Greens MP John Kaye.
“Mike Baird is first and foremost a merchant banker who sees critical infrastructure through the prism of next year’s budget bottom line.”
While Mr Baird may boast political pedigree, some in the government questioned his relative inexperience.
“A lot of people believe his political judgment is not as sound as it needs to be,” said one source.
As a clean-cut surfing Christian, Mr Baird shares much in common with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and seemed set for a career as an Anglican minister. But while studying at bible college in Canada in 1995, he wondered if he should follow his father’s footsteps.
“I’d admired immensely what he had done,” Mr Baird said in 2012.
“He did make a difference to people and issues and causes, and I thought, ‘I could do that.’ “
Despite Mike Baird’s squeaky-clean image, he remains vulnerable over his relationship with Nick Di Girolamo, the Liberal identity whose gift of a $3000 bottle of wine to Barry O’Farrell led to his resignation.
Mike Baird was a share-holding minister when Mr Di Girolamo was appointed a director of the State Water Corporation in June 2012, which he has insisted was a decision of the cabinet.
He also came under fire over the $200,000 a year appointment to a government board of businessman Roger Massy-Greene, whose company had also donated to Mr Baird’s election campaigns.
The new Premier pledged to restore integrity to government.
“Whether it be lobbying or fundraising, I’ve heard the [public’s] concerns,” he said.
Mr Baird and his wife, Kerryn, have three children, Laura, Cate and Luke.
“I’m very excited, I think he’ll be wonderful, I think he’ll be a great premier,” Kerryn said on Thursday, prompting her husband to jokingly urge reporters to “ask my mum as well”.
Some have speculated that the government’s crisis may have hastened Labor’s emergence from the political wilderness after its thumping defeat in 2011. But Mr Baird is not one of them.
“I see my opponents out there today thinking they are going to win the 2015 election. Well I have news for them,” he said.
“Gladys, myself and every member of this government is determined to fight for the opportunity to transform NSW”.
Bruce Baird has new words of advice as his son grapples with this week’s bombshell events and leads the Coalition to the next election.
“Stay true to yourself, stand strong on things you believe in and . . . [ask yourself] is this going to be good for the state?” he said.
“I tried to be premier and didn’t make it. You always hope your children are going to do better than you do. When they said on the news it was likely he was going to become premier, my wife cried.
“We are going to celebrate tonight. This is a proud dad moment.”
Timeline to the top seat which took Baird through the economics of politics
April 1, 1969: Born, the son of Bruce – who would later became a NSW MP and federal minister, Liberal powerbroker – and Judy.
1972-1976: Bruce is appointed to a role as Australia’s Assistant Trade Commissioner in Germany.
1977-80: The family live in New York.
1980: His father’s contract expires and the family returns to Sydney. Enrols at the King’s School Parramatta.
1989: Works his first job balancing the postage tin at the St Ives branch of the National Australia Bank.
1989: Graduates from Sydney University with a BA in economics.
1990: Marries wife Kerryn at the age of 21.
1994: Tells Kerryn he wants to go to bible college and the next year leaves a job at Deutsche Bank to study to be a minister at University of Columbia in Canada in 1995.
1997: The couple welcome their first of three children, Laura, later joined by Cate and Luke.
1999: Loses in a bid for preselection for the seat of Manly.
2006: Resigns as head of Institutional Banking for HSBC in Australia and New Zealand to seek a political career.
2007: Wins the seat of Manly after a tough preselection battle and is appointed shadow minister for finance, commerce and youth affairs.
December 2008: Promoted to shadow treasurer as part of a ministry shake-up.
September 2010: Votes against legislation to grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights under adoption law as homosexual individuals and heterosexual couples.
April 2011: Sworn in as the treasurer of NSW.
June 2012: Is a shareholding minister when Nick Di Girolamo – the man whose gift of a bottle of Grange Hermitage contributed to the resignation of Barry O’Farrell – was appointed a director of the State Water Corporation.
September 2012: Picks up the Industrial Relations portfolio.
April 17, 2014: Is elected unopposed as leader of the NSW parliamentary Liberal Party and will be sworn in as 44th Premier of NSW.