Mike Baird's push to privatise state's hospitals

Premier Mike Baird wants to push ahead with the privatisation of public hospitals, saying Sydney's dilapidated health facilities are in need of upgrading.

The privatisation model used in Western Australia, where non-clinical staff were privately employed and public hospitals were privately built and managed, could provide a ''fantastic opportunity'' to give NSW patients the best services, he said.

Mr Baird said he was concerned by the ageing of NSW's health facilities. ''The quality of doctors and nurses is world-class and they need world-class facilities,'' he said.

He said he would ''leave no stone unturned'' in investigating opportunities with the private sector to transform the state, and to learn from international experience.

''Don't be afraid of the private sector,'' the treasurer-turned-Premier said. ''Don't be afraid of looking globally. We want the best possible services for NSW we can get. My passion is to look at every possible opportunity for the infrastructure the community is crying out for.''

A devout Christian, the new Premier said he would keep speaking his mind on social issues. ''I will at all times be an open book, and what you see is what you get.''

But he said he had no intention of imposing his views on government decision-making, and as people got to know him, he believed his faith would not be a political issue.

The heated same-sex marriage debate was a matter for the federal government, he said.

''My call would be, in that debate, what distresses me is the vilification that goes from one side to another. Be respectful.''

Asked what the biggest gripe of Sydney voters was, and how he would fix it, Mr Baird replied: ''There's no doubt it's congestion and improved services on public transport. We have made good progress, but need to do more.''

He said the public was sick of talk about new roads, and wanted to see the cranes get to work.

Any cabinet decision on the privatisation of electricity poles and wires would be taken to the electorate to seek a mandate, he said.

This year, the government will focus on selling the state's ports and electricity generators.

Action on political donations will be taken before the election, and the cabinet will consider new legislation in the coming months. The High Court struck down the O'Farrell government's donation laws last year, which banned donations by corporations and unions.

Mr Baird paid tribute to Barry O'Farrell for the success of the lockouts and alcohol violence reforms, which had reduced violence in Kings Cross.

The second part of the reforms - mandatory prison sentences - has been blocked in the upper house.

Mr Baird said mandatory sentencing was ''an unusual step'', and a reaction to the lenient four-year sentence given to Kieran Loveridge for his single-punch assault that killed teenager Thomas Kelly.

''There was personal outrage. I felt it,'' he said. ''I certainly believe the response we had was absolutely right. The judiciary were out of step with community concern. I would continue to reserve the right to act, if there was a sense the judiciary are not reflecting community concern.''

On gambling, Mr Baird said it was a matter of personal responsibility. But he saw a role for government to ''actively help those who have a gambling problem. It is clearly a challenge for a number of people in desperate circumstances''.

Mr Baird was speaking on his way to a news conference with his deputy, Gladys Berejiklian. It is not the way he had anticipated spending the Easter break. For the past 25 years, he has holidayed at Crescent Heads with friends and family.

The big decisions on the budget had been made, and Mr Baird had planned to join friends at the surf spot this weekend.

Instead, he is suddenly Premier.

Two days after assuming their new roles, Mr Baird and Ms Berejiklian were jovial and relaxed as they inspected construction progress on the North West Rail Link at Cherrybrook on Saturday.

Sporting a hard hat and steel-capped boots, the Premier complimented the media on looking ''very flash'' in their safety gear, and laughed off suggestions he had a Kennedy-esque appeal to women.

''No, I don't, and I have to say my wife reminded me very squarely this morning,'' he said. ''Don't worry, I've got my mates and my wife to keep me in check on that.''

With Ms Berejiklian, the Transport Minister, by his side, Mr Baird declared the $8.3 billion rail project would transform life for people in Sydney's north-west. Tunnel boring machines will begin work from October, digging the longest rail tunnels in the country.

Mr Baird said he was working on finalising his new cabinet this weekend but again would not be drawn on its composition, saying: ''I only give you the commitment it will be the best team on the paddock to take this state forward.''

smh.com.au, with Kim Arlington

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