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23 March 2015

Tony Abbott stays mum while Mike Baird plays dad

An amazing scene. Perhaps for the first time in nearly two months Tony Abbott was seen and not heard.
Only a man of the calibre of Mike Baird could be capable of such a feat.

Sitting in the pantheon of Liberal leading lights while the Premier officially launched his 2015 election campaign at the City Recital Hall on Sunday, the Prime Minister remained dumb and dumber.

Only 21 days before, Labor's schadenfreude at Abbott Agonistes had been on display at its Campbelltown launch when federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten not only brazenly introduced leader Luke Foley but delivered one of his patented zingers:

"These days, Tony Abbott only comes to NSW to collect the mail and put out the bins,"

But the Liberals are unafraid.

They not only wheeled out the mute Prime Minister, but his wife Margie, John Howard, Nick Greiner, John Fahey, Barry O'Farrell and federal and state MPs to cheer their champion.

Not that Baird was shy about acknowledging Abbott. He did so in 21 words:

"And what a pleasure it is to stand here in front of a friend of mine – the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott."

Of course, Baird's first campaign speech as premier was really about him.

Party policy and Labor's 16 years of failure played second banana to his patented nice guy persona.

Introduced first by National Party leader, Troy Grant, and then the Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian, a video presentation followed in which a businessman, surf lifesaver, builder and, perhaps surprisingly, Liz Ann Macgregor, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, all gave testimonials to the man they liked and admired. "Humble", "loyal" and "caring" were the words that seemed to most spring to their minds.

Baird's wife, Kerryn, appeared both by his side and on the video and provided perhaps the most stunning insight yet into her husband: his favorite films were The Naked Gun and Dumb and Dumber.

Baird is the first Australian leader to link his own personality to many policies.

He met a man dying of cancer and backed medicinal cannabis; he wanted the care and concern he and his wife had experienced with post-natal depression carried on to other mums and dads: meeting the widow of a cancer patient inspired removing fees for highly specialised drugs.

Baird's demeanour wavered between tent-show preacher – his speech was sprinkled liberally with the word "friends" – and a man on a mission.

There were a few jokes too, among the poles and wires, but he only hardened up against Foley once.

"Friends, my opponent didn't have time in his launch speech to mention public transport, but he did spend about a third of his speech talking about the history of the Labor Party," Baird said.

"The message was: 'We've changed. We've completely changed'.

"Yeah . . . right.'

The hall erupted.

But don't worry readers, Labor will win with the help of the Greens, Independants, and Fred Nile's Party