What if Tony Abbott, not Peta Credlin, is the real problem? | Women's Agenda

What if Tony Abbott, not Peta Credlin, is the real problem?

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter to weigh in on the criticism surrounding Tony Abbott’s appointment of Prince Philip to knighthood.

The decision to knight Prince Philip, announced by Abbott on Sunday, caused a severe backlash from the public as well as from Abbott’s own party and cabinet. Queensland LNP premier Campbell Newman, Treasurer Joe Hockey, finance minister Mathias Corman and agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce were all quick to distance themselves from the controversial appointment.

The decision has created a flutter of whispers about whether the mistakes Abbott has made as leader are irreversible, and whether this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It also sparked questions about how the LNP should respond.

Murdoch’s advice? To get rid of Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

He tweeted: “Abbott again. Tough to write, but if he won’t replace top aide Peta Credlin she must do her patriotic duty and resign.”

And then followed with: “Forget fairness. This change only way to recover team work and achieve so much possible for Australia. Leading involves cruel choices.”

The Newscorp commentator Miranda Devine, published a piece in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph today suggesting the same course of action.

“The Prime Minister has to make a sacrificial offering to convince his colleagues that he has learned a lesson,” she wrote.

“Something that causes him pain, like chopping off his right arm. In other words, moving on chief of staff Peta Credlin.”

These suggestions are based on a series criticisms directed at Credlin for not stopping Abbott from knighting Prince Philip.

When asked by a Twitter user whether he had urged Devine to peddle the same line, Murdoch was resolute.

“re Miranda. Completely wrong. Just read it.”

Regardless of whether Devine and Murdoch coordinated, which seems highly unlikely, both are saying the federal government should sack Credlin in order to right the ship. This would be a convenient move, in that it would allow the government to claim a change of direction while avoiding the political calamity of a leadership spill. This government will naturally do everything it can to avoid a leadership change, given that Abbott’s dogged criticism of this as a political move arguably helped carry his party into government following the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era.

So, given the party is desperate to avoid replacing Abbott (even though LNP sources seem to be convinced this is on the cards anyway), Murdoch and Devine think getting rid of Credlin instead is the answer.

This is not the first time Credlin has been blamed for this government’s mistakes. Over the past twelve months she has been the target of a host of criticisms surrounding her tight control over the prime minister’s office.

She has been described as overly “controlling” on countless occasions – an adjective that is quite popular in relation to women in power. Though interestingly, in relation to the Knighthood being bestowed upon Prince Philip she has been criticised for not taking being controlling enough, which begs the question can Peta win?

It is worth noting that this government has ensured that women have very little power amongst its upper ranks (with only two women in its cabinet). Yet, at the same time, we are expected to believe that one woman has been the country’s puppet master this whole time? While it was hypocritical and opportunistic for Abbott to accuse Credlin’s critics of sexism last December, he may have had a point, and this sexism may be driving today’s scapegoating of Credlin as well.

Rather than addressing the many mistakes made by an unpopular prime minister, let’s instead blame them on the overbearing woman running his office! (It’s funny, because I seem to recall that when it was Gillard being criticised for being incompetent, the fault was laid firmly in her lap. Her chief of staff Amanda Lampe was largely left out of the conversation.)

So while it is both convenient and politically expedient to use Credlin as the sacrificial scapegoat to solve this government’s problems, it is untenable and irresponsible. The responsibility for the mistakes made by this government lies with the politicians who lead it and, to some extent, the public that elected them.

Tony Abbott holds this country’s highest public office and he is ultimately responsible for the decisions made by his office. Murdoch today provided his insights into what constitutes good leadership; in my view, good leadership involves taking responsibility rather than abdicating it, which is exactly what the leaders of this government should be doing.

Leading doesn’t have to involve “cruel choices”, but it does have to involve sensible ones. If Tony Abbott isn’t able to discern between a sensible decision and a disastrous one without his chief of staff’s instruction, he should not be a leader.

Murdoch is right in saying that Australia is capable of so much more than it is achieving at the moment. But getting rid of the prime minister’s chief of staff is not the key to unlocking that potential; a better government is.

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