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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott's Chief of Staff

Former Howard government minister and Queensland Senator Ian Macdonald was shadow Parliamentary secretary for Northern Australia in Opposition but was dumped from the frontbench when Tony Abbott won office. "The ecstasy of a new government in the north has turned a little sad with a phone call from Tony Abbott saying he has no room for me in the new ministry" he said..

Senator Macdonald

Senator Macdonald was Minister for Regional Services and Minister for Forestry under John Howard and has served in Parliament for 23 years. It must have been difficult for a frontbench heavyweight to come to terms with the fact that Tony Abbott thinks he just doesn't have what it takes.

"I'll not have un-elected advisers in the Prime Minister's office telling elected politicians, who are actually in touch with their constituencies, what should or shouldn't be done" he said.  He thinks that Peta Credlin has instilled a culture of "obsessive centralised control" in the government.

Senator Macdonald is not the only one who thinks Peta Cedlin has too much power. In the past, the selection of government members for committees was arranged by MPs and Senators themselves, but now all decisions come from Tony Abbott's office. "People are not happy" said one MP.

Tony Abbott's inner-circle, known as the "star chamber" includes Ms Credlin, Michael Ronaldson and Kevin Andrews, Andrew Hirst and David Whitrow.  Unofficial members are Ms Credlin's husband Liberal Party Director Brian Loughnane and Tony Nutt.

Ms Credlin's husband Brian Loughnane

The "star chamber" chooses all government staff appointments. Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce are just a few who have had their preferred staff candidate rejected.  But Ms Credlin doesn't only have the last word on hiring, she's also responsible for the removal of several senior bureaucrats.

Every day Parliament sits, Abbott has a morning meeting with Ms Credlin, her husband, and seven of his most senior ministers.

Her good friend Education Minister Chistopher Pine once said "Peta is a scary, driven woman who you shouldn't cross or you'll end up at the bottom of Sydney harbour with cement shoes."

Christopher Pine

Credlin started IVF treatment. For months she came straight from the hospital operating room to Parliament House and was at her desk by lunchtime.  But in the lead up to the general election last September, she had to make a painful decision.  She couldn't continue with IVF and campaign for Tony Abbott to win the election.

"I was very close to her during that period" said Christopher Pine. "I think she did put winning, for the greater good of the country, ahead of her own needs."