As leadership changes go, it was polite. No one could accuse it of being bloody, or interesting, or anything other than thoroughly well-mannered.
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Thoughts of Premier Baird
Listen to what the new Premier had to say on key issues affecting NSW. Nine News.
The result, of course, had already been decided. Some minor skirmishing over the deputy’s position occurred in the hours before the ballot, but by the time they entered their party room meeting, the ladies and gentlemen of the NSW parliamentary Liberal Party had sorted their differences in the only way they know how: with gentility.
Not for them the nail-tearing brawling of the Labor Party. Not for them the vulgarity of leaks and backbench stalking. No unseemly factional warring here. The negotiations barely got terse.
From about 2.30pm on Thursday, the NSW Liberals strolled nicely into the allotted Parliament House committee room for their 3pm ballot.
A red silk rope led the way to the room, like those often positioned at the doors of nightclubs – if you could imagine the kind of nightclub where people swap dancing for behaving sensibly. A nightclub where, instead of throwing your hands up in the air and waving them around like you just don’t care, you are encouraged to raise one quietly to indicate your preference.
Journalists were held in a pen nearby and watched as the Liberals filed in. Some struggled to put names to faces. There was some whispering. “Who is that again?”, “Which one’s Anthony Roberts?” and “I think that guy is actually just a clerk.”
Among the more obscure members of Parliament were the big names, of course – outgoing premier Barry O’Farrell flanked by a posse of 16, a spring in his step. Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian arrived together in a show of unity, with the prospective deputy allowing her leader to walk in first. You could tell it hurt Baird, politics’ most well-bred man, to enter a room before a woman.
Community Services Minister Pru Goward trotted in with some centre-right allies, and later she was kissed on the cheek by right-wing MLA Anthony Roberts, who, like her, had briefly been named as a contender for the deputy leadership.
The women wore sensible shoes, and one bloke was in jeans that looked like they had been ironed.
After a modest interval, about 12 minutes, government whip Jai Rowell fronted the media to announce the foregone conclusion. Both Baird and Berejiklian had been elected unopposed. In the end, no one had even had to raise their well-manicured hand in anything as vulgar as a vote.
Even though we were deep within Macquarie Street, you could almost hear the contemptuous guffaws from Labor HQ down on Sussex.
“You call this a leadership change? My grandmother could spill more blood with her crochet hook!”
An hour or so later, Baird and Berejiklian addressed a joint news conference, accompanied by Baird’s rosebud family – wife Kerryn and three lovely children.
Baird acknowledged people were “shocked” by the events of the week, and promised forthcoming measures to restore integrity to the system. His wife was asked her thoughts. She said, rather uncontroversially, that she thought her husband would do a good job.
They filed out, ever so orderly, to be sworn in at Government House.