Thursday, 12 December 2013

Peta Credlin - loyal chief of staff, smart political operator, puppet master or control freak?

Peta Credlin as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff is gaining more media attention of late – most of it very critical of her in that role.

There has been some fight back, with the Prime Minister publicly coming to her defence with ''Decisions made by my chief of staff and my office have my full backing and authority. Anyone who suggests otherwise is wrong”  and at least one journalist opining that this criticism may be a form of sexism.

However, the media rarely gives any history of this prominent member of Team Abbott with which to judge these criticisms.

This is as much as I have been able to collate from available articles published in the mainstream media (sometimes sourced from Credlin herself) and, I will let readers judge whether the charge of sexism is legitimate.

Peta Credlin admits to being in her early forties, so was probably born sometime between 1969-1971. She appears to have originally hailed from Wycheproof, a small rural community on the edge of Victoria’s mallee country where members of the Credlin family had lived since at least the late 1800s.

She was a pupil at Wycheproof P-12 College and went on to Sacred Heart College, Kyneton, after the family moved to the St. Leonards area. On leaving school she completed an Arts/Law degree at Melbourne University. By 2009-2010 she had completed a graduate diploma in legal practice, commenced a Masters of Law and been admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Credlin’s early employment history is unknown. However in 1999, aged around 28 years, she appears to have been employed by then Victorian Liberal Senator Kay Patterson. Later moving onto the staff of Federal Communications Minister Richard Alston, ending her term there as a senior adviser.

Sometime between 1998 and 2001 she was reportedly personal assistant to the head of the Department of Defence at a time when her soon-to-be husband was Defence Minister John Moore’s chief of staff.

In September 2001 she was known to be employed as director of public affairs, communications and publications at Racing Victoria, a position she resigned from in April 2005.

In December 2002 she married Brian Loughnane, who officially became federal director of the Liberal Party in February 2003.

By mid to late 2005 she was back in Canberra full-time; working first as a policy adviser to Defence Minister Robert Hill and, then as chief of staff to Communications Minister Helen Coonan in 2006.

After the defeat of the Howard Government in 2007 she appears to have accepted a position at the Australian Jockey Club in Sydney. It is uncertain as to whether she ever took up this position.

Credlin quickly moved on to become a senior adviser to the Opposition leader of the day, Brendan Nelson, in late 2007 or early 2008. When he gave way to Malcolm Turnbull in September 2008 she became acting chief of staff for the new Opposition leader, who declined to make her position permanent.

By the end of December 2009 or early January 2010 she was in her current position as Chief of Staff for Tony Abbott. Abbott became Leader of the Opposition on 1 December 2009 and Australian Prime Minister on 18 September 2013.

According to contemporary media reports during these years in Canberra, Peta Credlin has a well-established reputation for being dominant, out-spoken, aggressive, confrontational, obsessive,  a micro-manager, and a political game player who is capable of causing considerable friction within an office. She is often called the “Queen of No”. The prime minister’s wife, Margie Abbott, has been quoted as saying in 2011: "I'm scared of her".

Credlin is also reported to have actively participated in every federal election campaign since first coming to Canberra. Her husband was the Coalition's National Campaign Director for the 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 federal elections.

In February 2012 she risked permanent expulsion from the House of Representatives after heckling Prime Minister Gillard and Leader of the House Anthony Albanese from the political advisers box during question time (allegedly calling Albanese “an idiot”) and, in September 2013 she plead guilty to a drink-driving offence in the ACT with no conviction recorded by the magistrate.

* 2013 photograph found at Marie Claire

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