LESS than six weeks ago, Mike Baird stunned the state – and many in his own party – by stepping down as Premier.
After being battered over council amalgamations, the greyhound fiasco and a series of other missteps, Mr Baird looked politically punch-drunk.
Citing family ill-health as the reason for his sudden departure, most assumed he would take a well-earned break.
But on Tuesday, in a move that has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum, it was revealed Mr Baird had accepted a position in the private sector.
His new employer? One of the big four banks – the National Australia Bank.
Mr Baird has landed a plum gig as chief customer officer of the lender's corporate and institutional banking unit, a role speculated to be worth about $2 million a year.
Legally, Mr Baird is entitled to seek employment post-politics wherever he sees fit.
But ethically, it stinks.
The banking industry is so on the nose with the electorate, federal Labor is pushing for a Royal Commission into the sector’s predatory behaviour.
Mr Baird’s party, the Liberals, have long been seen as too cozy with big business, a fact writ large in the annals of ICAC.
By jumping from parliament house and straight into bed with a banking giant, Mr Baird is further eroding community faith in politicians and sullying his own legacy.
It’s more than just a “bad look”.
Mr Baird still wields extraordinary influence within the NSW Liberals.
Just weeks ago, he was the boss of many of the key decision makers.
For a bank desperate for political access, that’s hard currency.
Mr Baird claims he was “forced” to get back to work so soon because changes to parliamentary entitlements meant he was no longer eligible for an annual salary.
It’s a valid point – the 2007 changes to parliamentary pensions were far too binary and put some outgoing MPs in a difficult position.
The government should instead look at preventing ministers from entering an industry where they had direct responsibility for at least 12 months after they leave office and provide them with a pension for that period.
Trust in government and faith in democracy are at stake.
And those principles are far too important to ignore.