Two days ago, NSW premier Mike Baird berated critics of the lockout drinking laws his government instigated two years ago in Sydney as “hysterical”.
Today, he took a more conciliatory approach during an FM radio interview with Nova’s Fitzy and Wippa, saying he was surprised by the backlash and anger his comments had generated.
Baird, Australia’s most popular politician, was seen as a master of social media until Tuesday, when he defended the laws in a Facebook post that has subsequently attracted more than 14,000 comments, mostly negative, in the last two days.
Momentum on the issue continued to mount and a plan for a public protest on March 19 has already gathered more than 5000 supporters.
Appealing to those most affected by the laws via Nova suggests Baird is aware of the growing political danger. He announced a review will be held into the lockout laws – which stop off-license alcohol sales after 10pm, and prevent people from entering licensed premises after 1.30am – but did not give a timeframe.
“Very shortly we will be announcing who will lead it. He will be inviting a group of experts to advise him,” the premier said.
“We expect to have that done as soon as possible. I will leave it to him to determine the appropriate time frame.”
Baird admitted to being surprised by the “huge outpouring” his Facebook post generated, adding “there are two sides to the debate”.
But one problem for the premier was that within a day of his post, the state’s chief crime statistician, Dr Don Weatherburn, pointed out that the figures the premier used were incorrect, although there has been a noticeable drop in assaults.
Holding out something of an olive branch to his critics, premier Baird encouraged people to contribute to the forthcoming review and said alternative proposals were “entirely valid to put forward and certainly they will be considered”.