NSW premier Mike Baird is a “new breed of urban redneck,” according to one of over 4,500 Facebook users that have commented on a post published on his social media page on Sunday morning.
The “obnoxious” post featured a photo of Baird posing in front of the controversial “Casino Mike” mural promoting Graffiti Removal Day: a NSW government initiative to rid the streets of unauthorised artwork.
The premier’s “smug” caption read, “Did you know that NSW has an official “graffiti removal day”? Well, it does. And it’s today. Just saying.”
The backlash against Casino Mike
The post was a monumental public relations failure. It was met with a barrage of comments – that are still being posted – criticising the “arrogant” leader of the NSW Liberals, as being “anti-art” and calling for a “Baird removal day.”
But, it wasn’t just his anti-street art stance that spurred the backlash, it was that Baird was “happily squashing a citizen’s peaceful protest against his policies,” as another social media user put it.
The mural depicts the premier seated at Sydney’ Star Casino surrounded by piles of gambling chips. He’s holding a cigarette, drinking a glass of Penfolds Grange and snacking on a doner kebab.
A clock on the wall reads 1:31 am – the time the city’s lockout laws kick in – which is the state government policy that the artwork is condemning.
The lockout laws came into effect in February 2014. The laws require bars and clubs in the city’s CBD to shut their doors to patrons at 1:30 am and last drinks are called at 3 am.
The laws were enacted on the pretext of curbing alcohol-related violence. But what they’ve resulted in is a crippling of the city’s nightlife, the shutting down of many small businesses and the opening up of the inner city for redevelopers.
Mike’s favourite haunt
However, the Star Casino lies outside of the lockout borders and therefore doesn’t have to shut its doors.
Mr Baird and his cronies have come under constant criticism for the preferential treatment they’re giving to the establishment.
A leaked NSW Department of Justice review revealed on Monday, that violence at the Star Casino is three times higher than official crime rates and two-thirds of assaults are not being reported to police.
Of 111 violent incidents that occurred at the casino between March and August this year, police were only called out to 36 of them. And the report suggests that this could have serious ramifications for the venue’s licence.
Baird planned it months before
The Casino Mike mural was painted by local street artist Scott Marsh on the back wall of the Lord Gladstone Hotel in Chippendale in April this year. But the actual painting itself was removed several months ago.
Pedestrian TV reported an account of the premier’s sneak visit to the mural in May this year. On a Wednesday morning, Mitch Jamieson, manager of the Gladstone, saw two jeeps pull up, the premier got out of one and posed for the now infamous picture.
This means that Baird – “the Donald Trump of NSW,” as he was described by another Facebook user – had been sitting on this image that upset thousands of NSW voters for five months.
Another comment in response to the post declared that Baird’s “standout achievement” this year, was to get “4,481 people to share a mutual opinion” on his own page, agreeing that they oppose him.
The social vandal
Over 2,000 volunteers attended Graffiti Removal Day in a drive that’s intended to reduce “graffiti vandalism by encouraging local communities to get involved in” its removal.
Ironically, as the premier put his weight behind this anti-vandalism day, another grassroots campaign has been plastering posters around the city accusing Baird of conducting his own brand of political public damage.
The poster depicts a portrait of Baird with a headline that reads, “Environmental and Social Vandal,” then it lists a number of policies his government has been condemned for carrying out.
A crash in approval ratings
Indeed, the controversy caused by a number of unpopular policy decisions has seen a recent slump in support for the state government.
A poll conducted by Fairfax media in late August, found that eighteen months after Baird’s 2015 election victory support for the Coalition and Labor was neck and neck.
But after the premier’s backflip on banning greyhound racing, his popularity plummeted even further.
A Newspoll published on September 29, showed that Baird’s approval rating was down from 61 percent to 39, and his dissatisfaction rate had more than doubled.
The backflip on the greyhound racing ban
The premier suffered a loss in voter confidence after he revoked a ban on greyhound racing that was passed by NSW parliament on August 24 and was to come into effect on July 1 next year.
Mr Baird said he’d come to the realisation that the majority of the community didn’t support the ban on a sport that sees 50 to 70 percent of the dogs being bred for racing put to death.
However, it seemed that he was actually placating the wishes of the National party and saving NSW deputy premier Troy Grant from a leadership spill.
Just days after lifting of the ban, Baird announced he’d changed his policy in regard to trialling shark nets, which led people to quip that he might reverse other government policies that threaten public housing or even the lockout laws themselves.
A review of the lockout laws by former judge Ian Callinan released last month suggested that the laws could be relaxed, with lockouts being extended to 2 am and last drinks called at 3:30 am.
However, many critics were not impressed with a mere half an hour extension.
Mike Baird Removal Day
On Monday evening, another Facebook development occurred in response to Mike’s graffiti post.
It’s been announced the Mike Baird Removal Day party is going to take place in Sydney’s Hyde Park on March 23 next year.
“Baird needs to go,” commented one Facebook user, who’s opting to go to the event. “He must be adored by developers as everything he does advantages them and not the communities he impacts.”
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.