News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch has made an extraordinary intervention in the Coalition controversy over Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, declaring via Twitter that she must go.
In a series of tweets in the wake of the highly damaging row over Abbott’s “captain’s pick” to award Prince Philip a knighthood, Murdoch said: “Abbott again. Tough to write, but if he won’t replace top aide Peta Credlin she must do her patriotic duty and resign.”
“Forget fairness. This change only way to recover team work and achieve so much possible for Australia. Leading involves cruel choices.”
A while later Murdoch followed up with: “Credlin a good person. Just appealing to her proven patriotism.”
Murdoch’s call comes after months of controversy over Credlin’s enormous power in the government. Some Coalition MPs blame her for not stopping Abbott making the Prince Philip appointment, and she is repeatedly accused of a “command and control” style in running the Abbott office.
Conservative commentator Miranda Devine, in a scarifying article attacking the Prince Philip decision, wrote today in News Corp’s Daily Telegraph that Abbott “has to make a sacrificial offering to convince his colleagues that he has learned a lesson. Something that causes him pain, like chopping off his right arm. In other words, moving on chief of staff Peta Credlin.”
Asked at a news conference today whether he had consulted Credlin on the decision and what her advice had been, Abbott said: “No. I consulted with the chairman of the Council [for the Order of Australia, Angus Houston, who also received a knighthood this week] and I consulted with the Governor-General [Peter Cosgrove, who was knighted last year].”
Pressed about whether he’d raised the issue with Credlin, Abbott said: “I’m just not going to get into this kind of internal navel gazing.”
Education Minister Christopher Pyne said he had the highest regard for Rupert Murdoch but “I support the chief of staff, Peta Credlin … I don’t think there is any prospect of [Murdoch’s] suggestion being pursued by the government.”
Abbott promised to consult more widely when appointing future knights and dames as the backlash against his choice of Prince Philip continues to rock the government.
The Prime Minister stood by his decision, while saying he understood why some people didn’t like it. He said he took the criticism “on the chin”.
“I do want to assure people that I have heard and there will be considerably more consultation around these awards in the future,” Abbott told his news conference. This was the “lesson” he had learnt from the affair, which had been “a distraction for the government over the last couple of days”.
Senior ministers have distanced themselves from the decision, stressing it was Abbott’s alone. Many backbenchers are outraged, seeing it as an example of his being out of touch with the community. His unilateralism has marked the government’s wobbly start to 2015.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, in the final week of a difficult election campaign from which Abbott has been pointedly excluded, said yesterday: “It was a real bolt from the blue – I disagree with it.”
Abbott said he absolutely respected Newman’s right to run his campaign, which he wanted to keep focused on his team and his plan for the state, adding: “I want to focus on jobs and families. That’s going to be the focus of the government this year. I accept that this has been a distraction over the last couple of days.”
Earlier, after talks with Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, Abbott told the news conference the government was determined this year to act to make a difference on the issue of domestic violence. The Council of Australian Governments would be asked to urgently finalise a national domestic violence order scheme, so that an order in one jurisdiction held in another. Work on a national scheme began last year.
“We all know that so many families do flee from city to city, from state to state to avoid violence, and if they’re fleeing violence, the violence should not be allowed to follow them,” Abbott said. It was also important to have uniform standards for dealing with the perpetrators, appropriate “red flags” for people subject to domestic violence orders, and protection of women from online forms of abuse.
Batty – who took up campaigning on domestic violence after the murder of her son Luke by his father last year – and retiring Victorian police commissioner Ken Lay are to be founding members of an advisory panel on violence against women, which will advise COAG.