Peta Credlin appears to be riding off into the political sunset, but the chief of staff to former prime minister Tony Abbott leaves behind an impressive trail of destruction.
Credited as the driving force behind Abbott’s zero-sum game politics that saw the Coalition sweep Labor out of government in 2013, Credlin was regarded as a highly effective chief of staff for an opposition leader, but not so well-suited for the Prime Minister’s Office.
Credlin copped criticism of all sorts – including some clearly sexist attacks – but gave as good as she got right up until the end, this week suggesting that cabinet ministers and journalists intimidated by her approach didn’t deserve their jobs in the first place.
The comment fits neatly with the claims of a number of people who say Credlin actually did try to get them fired, whether or not she had the authority to do so. Here are some of her highest profile targets:
Journalist Nikki Savva
A columnist at The Australian, Nikki Savva led the way in exposing Peta Credlin’s overbearing managerial style, including her interference in the appointment of chiefs of staff for the offices of other members of Cabinet – such as a certain Malcolm Turnbull, communications minister at the time, who was furious about having his first choice blocked.
According to The Australian, Credlin at one point brazenly texted the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell demanding Savva be sacked – a request that Mitchell did not heed.
Commentator Peter van Onselen
The contributing editor for The Australian, Peter van Onselen, was another News Corp writer who targeted Credlin over the Abbott government’s political woes, with one example being his comment piece in December 2014 that unfavourably compared her with John Howard’s chief of staff (and fellow Credlin adversary) Arthur Sinodinos.
He said that where Sinodinos managed to remain anonymous during the Howard years, Credlin had become the story, which is not in the modus operandi for a chief of staff.
“There is no escaping that across newspapers and other media platforms she is getting a level of attention out of all perspective with what’s tolerable for a backroom operator,” Mr van Onselen wrote.
He wasn’t amused by Credlin’s comments this week about her critics in the media, and indicated she had even tried to get rid of him.
Credlin says if u are a journo & intimidated by CoS to PM maybe u don’t deserve your job. I wasn’t but they still tried to get me sacked…
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) September 22, 2015
Head of Treasury Martin Parkinson
A senior public servant under Labor, Treasurer Joe Hockey wanted to keep Martin Parkinson in the role, but Credlin reportedly overruled him on the basis that Parkinson was a former secretary of Climate Change, a department abolished by the Coalition government.
Parkinson was considered by the Coalition to have inappropriately politicised his role as head of the Climate Change department, publicly advocating for the Gillard government’s carbon tax.
Ken Henry, who served as Treasury secretary under both Howard and Rudd, last year said “no government has ever thought it appropriate to remove the head of the Treasury and put in somebody who they think is … of a more comfortable political character”.
Australian of the Year Simon McKeon
The businessman, philanthropist and 2011 Australian of the year served on boards under both Coalition and Labor governments, but that came to a crashing halt due to an ban allegedly put forward by Credlin on the reappointing of board members originally appointed by Labor – a claim the Abbott government denied.
Speaking at an Australian Institute of Company Directors event in March, Mr McKeon was scathing of the policy that he believed would see him lose the role of CSIRO chairman.
“Labor was in power for six years,” he said.
“Virtually everybody currently serving on the boards of government bodies was either appointed or reappointed while Labor was in power.
“If Abbott persists with his policy, there will be a full clean out of directorships.”
Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos
Sinodinos, chief of staff to John Howard when he was prime minister, first took issue with Credlin after she stopped Abbott from going ahead with a plan to appoint Sinodinos as finance minister, making him assistant treasurer instead.
Credlin was widely praised for her foresight in ensuring Sinodinos did not gain a senior ministry position, as not long after entering government he was subsequently called to front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption as a witness.
AAP Photographer Tracey Nearmy
No one has suggested Credlin tried to get rid of Nearmy – but she did at least try to get rid of her photos.
Credlin spotted the AAP photographer taking snaps of her outside a media event at a police station in June.
As Credlin was standing outside the media room at the time, she demanded that Nearmy delete the fairly innocuous pictures.
“This is a secure environment,” she said. “I want the photographs deleted.”
Taken at a time when Credlin was attempting to lay low after News Corp had campaigned for her removal, Nearmy chose not to comply, and the fight over photos blew up into a story of its own accord.