Culture

A Very Scared-Looking Mike Baird Just Braved His First Interview After Slamming Lockouts Protests

Too bad it was with Fitzy and Wippa.

In just the past few days NSW Premier Mike Baird’s carefully engineered reputation as a bumbling dad who gets down with the nation’s kidz and routinely shows welcome compassion on issues they care about has come spectacularly crashing down around him. After aggressively responding to a huge swell of protest against Sydney’s controversial lockout laws (which have had a devastating effect on the city’s small businesses and nightlife), Baird has become a national punchline. Twitter’s essentially accusing him of corruption. Musicians are writing scornful letters. Some venues are literally locking him out of their businesses.

Now the premier has spoken out for the first time since the Facebook post which started the backlash. This morning Mike Baird fronted up to our nation’s most widely-revered investigative journalists Fitzy and Wippa on Nova FM looking none too happy to be there.

To their credit, the radio host and his mate from Big Brother brought up all the important topics which Baird has copped abuse for over the past few days. It was made clear that Sydney has indeed suffered as a direct result of the laws and that there are also holes in the premier’s argument in favour of them. Yet none of this was really given much follow-up.

When he was questioned why Star Casino is not included in the lockouts despite being one of the most violent venues in the city, Baird said he’d “take the response from the police”. “We’re open to measures that we may need to introduce there — if there is violence spiking — but again, that is something that can be considered part of this review.” He didn’t however answer the question of whether that had anything to do with the government “getting a cutback from these casinos”.

When Wippa pointed out the doubt which has been cast over Baird’s statistics by his own police bureau, Baird shifted the conversation. “If you take the trend analysis the reductions aren’t as significant … I will leave that to the experts to look at. It’s a debate. Do we want our kids, our youth going out in a safe environment? Or do we want complete and utter freedoms?”

He then denied allegations he’d been deleting comments from the controversial Facebook post and talked about the impending review of the laws. “Very shortly we’ll be announcing who’ll be leading it,” he said. “He’ll be inviting a group of experts to advise him … I don’t want people to feel there’s no opportunity to participate in this. I wanna open it up to as many people who want to participate as we can, and let the evidence be considered.”

The most interesting and productive part of the whole thing actually came from one of those participants — Tyson Koh, campaign manager of protest group Keep Sydney Open.

“We’ve seen evidence from a lot of cities from around the world, places like Vancouver and Melbourne, that it’s really possible to have a dramatic effect on safety and violence without actually having lockouts,” Koh told Baird over the phone before listing initiatives like 24-hour public transport, more visible policing and co-operation with venue security. “There are other things available to us. I wonder why we haven’t adopted them instead of a lockout? Would it at all be possible to introduce these instead of a curfew?”

Baird responded well. He said this was “the sort of constructive contribution we’re looking for as part of this debate” and suggested it be put forward as a proposal in the review. However, when asked if there’d previously been any other suggestion of how the laws could be relaxed or amended, the answer was more disheartening: “No, not at all.”