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Friday, September 18, 2015

Peta Credlin - Cruella de Vil

Peta Credlin

In September 2013, Peta Credlin, a lawyer, with years of experience in the Howard government, made the transition as Chief of Staff to the new incoming Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Her role as PM's confidant, chief strategist, and gatekeeper earned her a lot of bad feeling, especially from Liberal MPs.  They complained bitterly about being denied access to the PM because Ms Credlin and her husband Brian Loughnane, Liberal Party Federal Director, wouldn't allow it.  Only a chosen few were given permission and one Liberal Senator said even the government's pollster couldn't get to see him.

Peta Credin and husband Brian Loughnane Liberal Party Federal Director

"The problem is there is a funnel into the PMs office, not a sieve. The funnel is Peta Credlin and no ideas get to Abbott unless they are through Credlin" one MP said.

Soon after the disastrous decision was made to give Prince Philip a knighthood on Australia Day, Rupert Murdoch rang him.  He told him he had to make a "cruel choice" to sack Peta Credlin and if he refused, she should do her "patriotic duty" and resign.  Tony Abbott responded that it had nothing to do with his Chief of Staff, it was entirely his own idea, and carried on regardless.

She even managed to insult the PM's wife Margie. When Mr Abbott asked an advisor to help his wife with some speech notes, Credin was furious and told him he worked for the Prime Minister, not his spouse.

Credlin's nickname is Cruella de Vil - a pun on the words cruel and devil.  The character was made famous in the Disney movie 101 Dalmations.  Cruella kidnaps Dalmation puppies for the purpose of turning their skins into a soft fur coat.

Cruella de Vil

But Tony Abbott stayed loyal until the end.  After his assassination, he thanked his staff.  "Especially my Chief of Staff who has been unfairly maligned by people who should've known better" he said.

Incoming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's deputy Julie Bishop has not had a close relationship with Ms Credlin for months so it was unlikely she would plead for her to remain.  Mr Turnbull has already stated that he will not have her in his office.  

Senator Arthur Sinodinos, Chief of Staff to PM John Howard and now Malcolm Turnbull backer, said the role of the PMs office is not to be a gatekeeper and cut people off, but to "be a facilitator of contact so the PM knows and has early warning of whether there are concerns."   

Tony Abbott has to take responsibility for giving Credlin unconditional power that upset his own colleagues and refused to rein her in when complaints were made.