Clive Palmer needs to apologise to Peta Credlin

OPINION

Fairfax MP Clive Palmer has been attacked over comments he made about Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Fairfax MP Clive Palmer has been attacked over comments he made about Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Clive Palmer's criticism of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is a disgrace that should be condemned by all sides of politics.

The fast-talking Queensland MP told the Parliament on Monday that Ms Credlin would receive a "massive benefit when she gets pregnant" from Mr Abbott's paid parental leave scheme and suggested she was somehow responsible for  it.

Peta Credlin

Peta Credlin Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

On Tuesday he went further, suggesting Mr Abbott could not think for himself, that Ms Credlin exercised undue influence on government policy and that the chief of staff was "top dog" – before correcting that sexist aside to "top person".

It was anything but subtle, and it was also wrong.

Abbott wrote in his 2009 book Battlelines, published before Ms Credlin worked for him: "The Rudd government's paid parental leave scheme is only for women in the paid workforce, but it's not funded by business as, by rights, it should be. At 18 weeks, it's not long enough to allow women to fully breast-feed their babies and, at the level of the minimum award wage, it's inadequate for most families that depend on a mother's income".

A year or so later, as leader, he announced the policy (which remains unpopular in his party room and with business groups).

And as a public servant, Ms Credlin is employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act, which already offers a more generous leave scheme than that available under the basic scheme introduced by Labor.

Perhaps, in his own mind, Mr Palmer thought Ms Credlin was fair game because of her decision to go public in January 2013 about her attempts to conceive using IVF.

She is not.

Ms Credlin is an imposing figure who combines an impressive policy brain with superb organisational skills and an acute understanding of politics.

No one gets to be chief of staff to a prime minister by accident.

In her case, years working for Howard government ministers Robert Hill and Helen Coonan, as well as stints in the offices of Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull in opposition before joining Mr Abbott honed her political instincts.

She is respected by Labor and by those in her own party, even if some grumble about her influence.

But Mr Palmer's comments are over the top and a throw back to a time when some people viewed a powerful woman as somehow sinister, as something to be feared.

Perhaps Mr Palmer simply thought he was being clever.

Instead, he has only embarrassed himself.

It is 2014. He should climb off his high horse and apologise unreservedly.

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1 comment so far

  • The conundrum is this: That Ms Credlin (I prefer not to use her first name, as Tony Abbott frequently did this in opposition about the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and it was deliberate to undermine the authority of her office) introduced her personal struggles with fertility into the public sphere, was unprecedented, noble and brave, it was done so to gain political advantage. This is the uncomfortable truth. It was part of the election campaign to deal with Tony's (first name) 'women problem'. She explicitly stated that she wanted to assure Australian women and allay their concerns regarding Tony Abbott's position on their fertility ironically and medical access to abortion. As someone who had also struggled with fertility, I thought it was deeply disturbing that Ms Credlin chose to use her position and gender to exploit that trust. I felt used, especially given he apparently 'let her keep her medication in the office fridge' while he referred to subsided access to IVF treatment for other women who he does not personally know as the 'I want my baby brigade'. This is the problem. While Mr Palmer should not have identified Ms Credlin personally, he was right to highlight the inequities inherent in the Coalition's PPL policy and its aim to 'encourage women of a certain calibre' (quote) to become pregnant. Tony looking after the women he knows yet again. As for the other rude things said about Ms Credlin in the media, Anne Summers writes about that and exactly how wrong that is far better than I can:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-07/summers-credlin-interview/4455364

    Commenter
    Ann
    Location
    wrong side of the tracks
    Date and time
    June 07, 2014, 11:16AM

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