Peta Credlin 'humbled' by AO in Queen's Birthday Honours

Sky News contributor and host, Peta Credlin. Image: Getty Images
Sky News contributor and host, Peta Credlin. Image: Getty Images

From studying law, to driving a federal election win from opposition and becoming a quite public and divisive chief of staff to a prime minister, Peta Credlin describes her career as "accidental" and as a result of a love of policy and strategy.

She is famously, as Tony Abbott himself said, "the fiercest political warrior" he has ever worked with. She was, as Mr Abbott's chief of staff, the most powerful woman in Australia.

Now, settled into a role of different influence in the media, the now Sky News commentator and host finds it hard to leave politics behind.

"I just thought was a real privilege. I still think it's a real privilege," Ms Credlin told The Canberra Times.

"And even at the very, very end in the departure of Tony Abbott, and the nature of that departure, even in that last week, honestly, I still drove up the hill from our house in Barton and honestly thought: 'It's still the best job in the world'."

Ms Credlin has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours for distinguished service to parliament and politics, to policy development, and to the executive function of government. Credlin is keen to share the honour with political staff she worked alongside over 16 years in politics.

"It is really humbling actually for it to be your name on the list," she said.

"And not all the others that you think are good to nominate in the community. It is something."

Ms Credlin is the longest serving female chief of staff to a prime minister and she was known, in that role, for a strong "command and control" over the office and the prime minister which lead to criticism from within government. It was written in The Australianthat Tony Abbott and Ms Credlin were, in reality, co-prime ministers.

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Her tenure was remarkably public for what is a regarded as a top behind-the-scenes role. She queries that attention even now.

"Even with a bit of distance from those times, I feel still a bit stung by the fact that I had 14 years in the building where no one knew my name," Ms Credlin said.

"But when his successor wanted Tony Abbott's job, I was sort of collateral damage in that whole sort of push."

"I think few people in Australia would even know Scott Morrison's chief of staff's name. I don't think staff should become targets, but inevitably, I feel I was."

She has gone from the hunted as an unusually high-profile political staffer to a hunter as media personality and journalist. Ms Credlin says she understands the media better these days.

And in the wake of the revelations about the alleged sexual assault of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins she says Parliament culture must change and she is taking part.

She has spoken to the Prime Minister's office and is advising as a representative to the Kate Jenkins review into workplace culture at parliamentary offices.

"So there's a whole lot of things, structural things, culture things that need to be remedied," Ms Credlin said

"Jenkins needs support from people like me and say Ben Hubbard, who was Julia Gillard's chief of staff, people that understand not just what the MoPs Act says but how it is used in practice. She's an outsider looking in and the system is deliberately run to be as opaque as possible to outsiders."

"So, I think, Higgins was incredibly brave. I think she was poorly treated. That is an understatement.

"And I think that everyone, everyone in politics needs to be as determined as ever to see this through to the end and it's got be genuine long-lasting reform and it's got to happen before the election."

Peta Credlin is often touted as a possible Liberal Party candidate for federal and Victoria state politics, but while an AO would be handy for a run for a seat, it is a case of not now thanks.

"I am not considering a run, I'm not going to rule it out. I'm not naive. I'm not going to rule it out. I'm not stupid enough to rule that out," Ms Credlin said.

"But I am 50 and I am finally in a position where I don't have to ask anyone but my audience, and the thought of going back in and toeing a party line, and I know what's involved in being an MP more than anyone.

"I would not give up what I have very lightly."

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This story Peta Credlin, the accidental political warrior, lands Queen's Birthday honour first appeared on The Canberra Times.