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