Australia

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird quits politics

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Media captionMr Baird said it had been a "tremendous honour" to lead the state. Video: 9news.com.au

Mike Baird, the leader of Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, has announced he is quitting politics.

At a tearful news conference, the premier said he would stand down after 10 years in public life.

"I said many times I didn't want to become a career politician," he said on Thursday. "Today, I am making good on that pledge."

Mr Baird was one of Australia's most popular politicians, but recent polls showed a drop in his approval rating.

He said his resignation would take effect immediately after a party meeting next week to elect a new leader.

Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian is considered his most likely successor.

"I think everyone's in shock," NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said. "Today's announcement, of course, truly shows the measure of the man and that he's putting family first."

'Tremendous honour'

Mr Baird, who became premier in April 2014, said it had been a "tremendous honour" to lead the state.

But he said the job had come at a "strong personal cost", especially in recent months.

"My father and my mother and my sister are going through a very serious health challenge and, to be honest, at times I have been in pain not being able to spend the time [with them] that I should," he said.

"This will change today."

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Image caption Mike Baird became the state's leader in April 2014

He said his father, who had undergone open-heart surgery, was now the primary carer for his mother, who has muscular dystrophy. His sister was enduring cancer.

"I have decided that this is the perfect time for me to hand the reins over to a new premier," he said.

Eventful time in power

After taking over from predecessor Barry O'Farrell, who resigned after failing to declare a gift of wine, Mr Baird enjoyed a long period of public support.

A strong public speaker who used social media to his advantage, Mr Baird embarked on a series of ambitious investments in the state's infrastructure.

But his soaring approval rating - as high as 61% in December 2015 - plunged in the second half of 2016 following controversial policy decisions.

He was criticised for advocating for strict lockout laws in Sydney, which mean nightspots cannot let in new patrons after 01:30. Critics say the laws have severely affected the city's vibrancy and economy.

Mr Baird was also forced to reverse a ban on greyhound racing in October, saying he "got it wrong" by banning the industry just months earlier following an animal cruelty scandal.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thanked Mr Baird for his time in office, saying he "played a great innings".

"You've restored the state's finances and you are building the infrastructure that sets New South Wales up for the 21st Century economy," he said.

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