POLITICS

Mike Baird's Year Of Living Dangerously

The NSW Premier's unpopular decisions leave him living close to the edge.

25/11/2016 7:10 PM AEDT | Updated 03/12/2016 7:43 AM AEDT
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The state's lockout laws are just the beginning.

Is the end nearing for NSW Premier Mike Baird?

It depends on who you ask, but if the state's 44th premier decides to leave office, the contenders for the top job are already being lined up by commentators following a tough year.

The man himself appears unfazed, reportedly telling the National Press Club last week he wants "everyone to relax," and telling the audience that while Canberra was good for a holiday, he had no intention of going federal.

And what might prompt Baird, once the country's most popular premier, to abandon office? Well, a number of issues haven't gone his way in 2016.

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The new Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, watches Premier Mike Baird throw some papers across the room in parliament after he was appointed the NSW Nationals leader, in Sydney.

There are two stories about Baird and his government running side by side this year.

In June Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian revealed a rudely healthy 2016 budget showing the state had no debt, was close to full employment and was in the midst of record infrastructure spending. Last month Berejiklian said the budget surplus will be $4.7 billion.

The state will also make a cool $7 billion from the privatisation of electricity company Transgrid, the first of three such privatisations the government has in mind.

"This result is a stunning result for the people of NSW," Baird said on Wednesday.

"It means there is, for the people of NSW, better transport, roads, schools and hospitals."

Despite having a positive story to tell, there are numerous issues weighing on Baird's leadership.

Baird has been under sustained criticism for the state's lockout laws, and sustained a heated backlash over the state's Westconnex, Sydney Metro and the light rail projects.

The State Government's current stance on land clearing has also left it open to criticism.

He's also faced jarring denunciations from high profile legal eagles over moves to recast the make-up of the state's anti corruption watchdog, a move viewed by some, including the opposition, as vengeance for the Independent Commission And Crime Commission's investigations into numerous Liberal (and Labor) politicos.

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NSW Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian announce the lease of Ausgrid in October.

These moves, which may lead to the replacement of ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham -- the motives behind which are highly debatable -- have set the state's battle against corruption "back for years" according to one former ICAC commissioner.

And all this after the Premier's backdown on the Greyhound racing ban -- a ban that arguably helped to heap on the drubbing at the Orange by-election, costing coalition partners The Nationals a seat they've held since 1947.

Baird's Deputy Premier, Troy Grant, stepped down from the NSW Nationals leadership role to be replaced by John Barilaro in the wake of the by-election, which saw Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party claim victory after the Nationals called for a re-count.

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Baird has come under sustained criticism over his government's moves to change the make up of ICAC, which saw commissioner Megan Latham resign this week.

Shooters' candidate Philip Donato beat The Nats' Scott Barrett by 50 votes.

One of the men touted as Baird's potential successor, Planning Minister Rob Stokes, on Friday put himself at odds with the Federal Government by having a forceful go at its negative gearing policy.

Labor, which has capitalised well on the greyhound issue and has used the Orange loss to call for council amalgamation reform, on Friday launched an attack on Stokes and Baird's other potential successor, NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian.

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NSW opposition leader Luke Foley (left) and NSW shadow Minister for gaming and racing, Michael Maley, on July 31 as they call for the Greyhound industry to be reformed, not banned.

"The State's approach to fixing the housing affordability crisis is six years behind the mark all because the Baird Government has relied on one policy -– adding more supply," NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Michael Daley said in the statement, which named both Stokes and Berejiklian.

The Premier is ending the year amid pressure for a cabinet reshuffle, tipped for December or early next year.

With the next NSW election set for 2019, Baird has room to recover.

But with key parts of his agenda complete or on track -- council amalgamations, asset sales and infrastructure projects -- and signs his problems aren't going away, the former investment banker may not want to.

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