She was one of the most fascinating and powerful women in the Abbott government, who ran the Tony Abbott show as the PM’s chief of staff.
But it is Peta Credlin’s birthplace in Wycheproof, a tiny central Victorian town whose slogan is “where the magic happens” that is relevant to the fresh speculation this week that she will finally enter Parliament.
The safe northern Victorian seat of Mallee is up for grabs at the next election after sitting Nationals member Andrew “G’day mate” Broad was forced to announce he would not contest it. He was forced into his decision by the emergence of the “sugar daddy” online dating scandal.
Mr Abbott has reportedly been telling colleagues at Christmas parties that his former chief of staff would make an outstanding candidate. The question is, does she want it ?
Mr Broad cautioned on Friday that it’s not a job for “high-roller, glamour politics” – a description that might include Ms Credlin, who is now a Sky News broadcaster.
“The electorate is 36 per cent of the state and I’ve tried to be a servant to the people, regardless of their political leaning. We are people’s last line of defence when the system has failed them, it’s not high-roller glamour politics, it’s about rural people first,’’ he told The New Daily.
“What happens in the electorate of Mallee is for the good people who live here to decide. I trust their collective wisdom.”
Ms Credlin was quick to observe on her Sky program, Credlin, that Mr Broad’s pursuit of Hong Kong sexcapades with a younger woman would not go down well with the locals.
Wycheproof is within Mallee and Ms Credlin’s family links to the area go way back to the 1850s. Her beloved mum Brenda still lives there.
In the past, she has rejected overtures to challenge Kelly O’Dwyer in the Melbourne seat of Higgins, insisting she would never go after a sitting MP.
But she has never ruled out running for federal politics.
When Mr Abbott was rolled as PM in 2015, Ms Credlin insisted that politics was not her next step.
“I am not going to run for politics. It’s been said about me for 16 years. I’m not,” she said.
“I want to move on with my life and do something where I get my own voice.”
So would she run?
“If she runs, she’s running for one job only in mind (Liberal leader). She’s said to me so many times that she will never run. I don’t believe her,’’ one colleague said.
Former NSW Liberal MP and Sky News Outsiders host Ross Cameron said there could be no more perfect moment to run but Ms Credlin would have to reconcile herself to at least two terms of opposition.
“There’s only one Peta Credlin,” he said. “And I don’t think there’s any doubt she would be a formidable candidate.”
Former Liberal John Ruddick said on Twitter, “no idea if Peta is interested … but if she is she’ll not only win, she’ll be the Margaret Thatcher down under”.
Senior Liberals are not convinced Ms Credlin would be prepared to give up the bright lights of Sydney and Melbourne or her Sky salary, which would be substantially higher than a backbencher’s $205,000 a year.
“My guess would be there will be some speculation and she will let it run and enjoy it,’’ one Liberal said.
Having said that, in politics sometimes opportunities only come up once and if you don’t take them you don’t get them.”
Deputy Nationals leader Brigid McKenzie has also been touted as a starter in Mallee. But she could be a risky choice because locals are said to believe a strong local candidate could beat her.
The prospect of a three-cornered contest between the Liberals and the Nationals is possible because Mr Broad is retiring.
The general principle in Coalition agreements is that when a seat falls vacant, all bets are off.
After her departure as Mr Abbott’s chief of staff, Ms Credlin told the Women of the Future Awards in Sydney that she hard worked hard for her success.
“People say to me ‘You’re really lucky to have the best job in the country’, and I was like, ‘There’s no luck involved, I worked my guts out for six years to go from opposition to government’,” she said.
“5am in the morning, really late nights, huge pressure, and it’s relentless.
“You’ve got to own what you are and you’ve got to own what you do and no one can take that away from me.”
But the brutal attacks on her leadership style extracted a heavy price.
“I refuse to be defined by insider gossip from unnamed sources where no one has the guts to put their name to it,” she said.
“If you’re a cabinet minister or a journalist and you’re intimidated by the chief of staff to the prime minister, maybe you don’t deserve your job.”
“If I was a guy I wouldn’t be bossy, I’d be strong,” she said.