A local swimmer congratulates Mike Baird at Manly beach on his first day as Premier. Photo: Kate GeraghtySome mistook him for a member of the royal entourage, but nothing could tarnish newly-minted Premier Mike Baird’s sunlit stroll through the place he calls “paradise”.
Mr Baird took to the streets and sands of Manly on Friday, shaking hands with locals and enjoying the buzz of the impending visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
He was still slightly dazed at his surprise elevation to the state’s top office.
“All of us remain in quite a shocked state, it is unbelievable to be standing here today if I’m very honest about it,” he said at Manly wharf after attending church.
“This afternoon I’ll have [the opportunity] to actually meet the royals. It’s something I never thought I’d do.”
His first word to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Mr Baird said, would be: “G’day”.
“I love the young royals, because they represent hope. We love to hear a story about a prince marrying a princess and that’s happened in this case.”
The 46-year-old – who is, incidentally, a committed Republican – has had little time to celebrate his own fairy-tale rise through the Liberal ranks.
“I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with my family, to thank them for their support. Other than that there’s a lot of work to do,” Mr Baird said.
The state opposition on Friday reiterated its three-pronged attack on the rookie Premier: a potential sale of the state’s electricity poles and wires, the influence of donors and lobbyists and unanswered questions over why Mr Baird appointed controversial Liberal identity Nick Di Girolamo to a government board.
Mr Di Girolamo, who is being investigated by corruption inquiry, gave a $3000 bottle of wine to former premier Barry O’Farrell which triggered his resignation.
Labor leader John Robertson said Mr Baird must “detail how he’s going to deal with the toxic culture within the Liberal party of lobbyists and donors”.
“After the events over the last week which has left the Liberal government and the state in disarray, the community rightly is calling for trust to be restored in government in this state,” he said.
Mr Baird pointed to Labor’s chequered record but conceded “the community has spoken on donations [and] lobbyists”.
“It is critical we retain the trust of the community and we will do everything possible to do that,” he said.
Mr Robertson claimed the Liberal party would be whirling with “factional jockeying” over the weekend as cabinet positions are considered.
“Lobbyists and donors will be making phone calls, putting pressure on to see their mates appointed to key ministerial portfolios,” Mr Robertson said.
Mr Baird insisted he would select a cabinet team that is “based on merit, that is based on experience and is based on the long-term interests of the state”.
He posed for photographs with constituents and tourists, many of whom were milling around for the royal visit.
Tony King of Belrose said Mr Baird had “a bit of ground work” to do.
“He’s very young … [and] no one knows him really. A lot of people looked at him [and wondered] who are you, with the media throng following you? They thought he was attached to His Royal Cuteness [Prince George].”
Vanessa Ballard, of Freshwater, was excited that a local had risen to the premiership.
“I said to him congratulations, but you’ve got your work cut out. It’s a big job and it’s not the greatest circumstances,” Ms Ballard said.