The Coalition’s election campaign and victory in NSW on Saturday shows just how different Mike Baird is from his party colleague Tony Abbott.

Baird took a reform proposal on electricity privatisation that voters demonstrably disliked to an election and won. The NSW Premier might be every bit as socially conservative as the PM — but he presents the image of a politician interested in achieving the best outcomes for his state, rather than a partisan pugilist and ideologue.

Abbott demonstrated how little he had learned from the leadership spill against him when he declared that his strength was in fighting Labor. Baird’s strength has been in governing well and articulating the case for reform where he believes it serves the interests of NSW. Voters have rewarded that, while Abbott remains profoundly unpopular.

As for NSW Labor, it has yet to demonstrate that it has fully understood the lessons of its 2011 defeat. It sought to sneak back into power through a dishonest, xenophobic scare campaign rather than genuinely reforming itself to remove the possibility it would ever again produce an Eddie Obeid or Ian Macdonald. Labor needs to take a hard look at itself, or risk the fate that it will never govern in its own right in NSW again.

Peter Fray

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