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Teflon Mike looks scuffed up, but he is still our PM in waiting

NSW Premier Mike Baird may be twisted up like a pretzel but he still has the look of a future prime minister.
NSW Premier Mike Baird may be twisted up like a pretzel but he still has the look of a future prime minister. Digitally altered

HE MIGHT be backpedalling like a cliff-top unicyclist, but Mike Baird is still our future prime minister.

The once-untouchable New South Wales Liberal Premier has endured his worst week in office, humiliatingly forced to concede he "got it wrong” on his hard-line vow to destroy the greyhound industry.

Party infighting and a massive voter backlash in regional areas have revealed Teflon Mike to be a mere human, but somehow he still comes out looking sincere.

And, despite a slight pong setting in, like a prime minister in waiting.

To get an idea just how bad an idea it was to wipe out greyhound racing without giving the industry a chance to clean itself up, listen to what upper house Liberal MP Peter Phelps had to say in parliament.

He blasted the "careerist weasels” on his own party's backbench for massaging the Premier's ego instead of telling him he was making a terrible decision.

The colourful wordsmith, already in the bad books for crossing the floor to vote against his party's ethanol laws in March, was brutal in his assessment.

He branded his party-mates spineless blancmanges (sounds delicious), bobble-headed appeasers of Executive diktat, utter gooses and lick-spittle yes-men.

He congratulated Baird for having the gumption to swallow his pride and change his mind.

"Well done, Premier, you are too good, too noble, too decent for the vast bulk of the backbench of your own parliamentary party,” Phelps said.

Baird is relaxing his lock-out laws at the same time. Why not do it all in one fell swoop?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's own popularity slump has come about for the opposite reasons to Baird's.

Both men likely would have enjoyed having the same leadership style, but whereas Baird held god-like status among his party and was given carte blanche to make unilateral decisions, Turnbull's every move has been questioned and fought within his own party.

Baird mastered leadership by social media - announcing major changes such as the greyhound ban via Facebook before even his own Cabinet had any idea they were coming.

He makes a choice, runs with it and, until now, has gotten his way every time.

Turnbull has to run policies up the flagpole to gauge public and party support before inevitably deciding no one likes his idea and cancelling it.

Now both men have plunging approval ratings for opposite reasons. Baird has put his beliefs ahead of the public's and Turnbull is looking like a weak-kneed namby.

There is another possibility in the greyhound ban reversal - it could have all been a clever ploy to go to one extreme, rein it in and end up with a sport free from animal cruelty.

Wiping out an entire industry in less than a year is a ballsy move.

That Baird is sincere about stopping live baiting and the widespread culling of dogs deemed too old or too slow to race is beyond doubt.

This way, he can still ban the industry without reproach if and when it stuffs up again.

His admission that he "got it wrong” is a crock - the sport would be up in dust if he did not need the votes.

Turnbull and Baird could take a leaf out of each other's books and find some middle ground in their leadership styles.

Voters respect Baird for having the courage of his convictions, even if he does look foolish this time around.

But by the time he is running for prime minister, this whole shemozzle will be just a blip, a bump on his road to The Lodge.

And when he finally manages to sell off the state's poles and wires and set off on a $10 billion infrastructure spending spree, Teflon Mike will be back - albeit with a few scuff marks.

ARM NEWSDESK

Topics:  bill shorten comment greyhound industry greyhound racing greyhound racing ban malcolm turnbull mike baird nsw politics opinion prime minister strange politics tony abbott



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