BYE BYE BAIRD: PROTESTORS UPBEAT AS PREMIER DAMPER DEPARTS

In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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Opponents to the NSW lockout laws, WestConnex and Council amalgamations are hopeful the resignation of Minister Baird could begin changes to the unpopular policies.

The 44th Premier of NSW, the Minister for Infrastructure and Western Sydney and party leader, resigned yesterday citing grievous family health problems.

While arguably achieving much in his infrastructure portfolio, Baird brought a Christian Minster perspective to much of his policies, openly stating he “was in politics to make a difference, and then move on”.

Critics suggest his “work is done” – in terms of the death of Sydney’s nightlife, at the hand of the rigid lockout laws applied to Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross.

“Let’s look at the legacy of the Premier who bravely stood up to the weak and made the state safe for mining, property development, and casinos. Especially casinos,” suggests The SMH’s Andrew Street.

Baird inherited the strict new licensing restrictions from his predecessor, Barry “Grange” O’Farrell, who had kicked them into effect in response to the political backlash from two teenagers accidentally killed on the streets of the Cross 18 months apart.

But Baird made it clear he approved of the new laws, all but dismissing what may have arisen from the Callinan Review into the laws’ effectiveness and relevance, suggesting it would take a lot for him to repeal them regardless of what the Review found*.

Many are saying the Premier’s plunge in popularity in recent times was a result of his ‘failure to listen’ to the electorate.

Liquor & Gaming today announced the first of the paltry concessions to emerge from the Callinan Review, with a total of three Sydney ‘live entertainment’ hotels now allowed to let patrons enter and serve them drinks for an additional half-hour.

Despite this and the Premier’s resignation, anti-lockout activist group Keep Sydney Open (KSO) was scheduled to go ahead with another big Rally (#3) tomorrow, starting at 9pm in Kings Cross.

“We are calling an urgent rally to defend the colour, fun and vibrancy of our city before it’s destroyed.”

But following an ambush by NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione just hours after the Premier’s resignation, KSO’s Tyson Koh and legal team appeared today to answer to an injunction on the rally, said to be based on insufficient access for medical services and infrastructure for 5-7,000 people.

However, Koh remains positive about the prospect for change under a new Premier, telling the Telegraph he found no help in Baird.

“We never hoped for Premier Baird’s resignation, instead we hoped he would be a constructive partner who’d pursue smart policy that could make Sydney both vibrant and safe.

“Mike Baird never pursued that goal. While the greatest cities in the world continue to respect night-life and enjoy innovative night time safety strategies, he refused to consider these examples and instead believed only in the blunt instrument of a curfew.”

Koh has become the unofficial face of the movement to save Sydney’s nightlife, telling the ABC the outgoing Minister from Manly Baird was beyond his ken.

“We had a Premier who had no idea about the impact nightlife has on a vibrant metropolis such as Sydney.”

Other groups opposed to some of the hard-line policies of the Baird Government, such as No WestConnex, and the WestConnex Action Group (WAG), are similarly hopeful, and vowing to carry on their fight regardless of who Baird’s replacement may be.

The party gossip is that current Treasurer and Liberal party deputy leader Gladys Berejiklian will get the nod for the top job at a party room meeting on Monday morning, although Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Planning Minister Rob Stokes are each tipped to potentially put their hand up for the job.

Baird has not officially backed anyone, which may or may not be because his most likely successor is on the other side of the political spectrum.

Berejiklian is with the Liberal party’s left faction, and potentially more sympathetic to the loss of many of the trappings of a vibrant city nightlife quashed by the lockouts, such as fun, variety and free will.

 

*The Callinan Review went on to become one of the biggest anti-climaxes in NSW politics, disappointing virtually everyone by finding and recommending very little.