Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin has slammed Malcolm Turnbull for claiming she effectively ran the country.
In his tell-all memoir A Bigger Picture, Mr Turnbull suggested Ms Credlin ‘dominated’ Mr Abbott during his two years as PM until September 2015.
‘You were really dealing with Peta and Peta was running the country and that was obvious, and dominating Abbott,’ he told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday.
Ms Credlin hit back on Tuesday afternoon, telling The Australian Mr Turnbull lacked character.
She said: ‘There is a lot I could say in relation to Mr Turnbull’s conduct in politics.
Malcolm Turnbull has claimed his bitter rival Tony Abbott’s controversial chief-of-staff Peta Credlin (pictured in November 2019) ‘owned’ her former boss
‘However, while I find the man absolutely lacking in character and his highly personal attacks to be unedifying, I respect the office he once held, and the great party he once led, to add further to his commentary.
‘In the end, the electoral test speaks volumes. I was part of a team that won 25 seats off Labor, and he led the team that handed them 14 seats on plate – so you be the judge.’
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Abbott described Mr Turnbull’s comments as ‘odious’ and used the opportunity to heap praise on Peta Credlin rather than criticise Mr Turnbull.
Ms Credlin, who advised the PM during his time in the top job, was an ‘extraordinarily capable person,’ Mr Abbott told the Today Show.
‘She was an important part of the Abbott Government. She was a fine thinker, a great organiser and a trusted colleague.
‘She deserves a great deal of credit,’ he said.
Abbott has described Ms Credlin as a ‘fine thinker’ who ‘deserves a great deal of credit’ for her role in the Abbott Government. Pictured together in 2015
Speaking to the ABC, Mr Turnbull said of Ms Credlin: ‘It was as though she felt, ”I’ve created you, you’re my creation” and she felt she owned him. It was a truly bizarre relationship.
‘Credlin and Abbott destroyed their own government due to their own follies and then set out to destroy mine.’
Ms Credlin, who served as an adviser to Mr Turnbull during his brief stint as Liberal Opposition Leader in 2008 and 2009, has described her other former boss as a ‘reprehensible human being’.
‘He has no moral compass,’ she told Sydney radio 2GB broadcaster Ben Fordham last week.
‘I’ve never met a more reprehensible human being.’
In his new book, Mr Turnbull said he had ‘never known a leader more dominated by another than Abbott by Credlin’.
The former prime minister described Turnbull’s comments as ‘odious’, but used the opportunity to heap praise on Peta Credlin rather than criticise Mr Turnbull
‘The relationship was completely asymmetric, he worshipped and feared her and she on the other hand treated him with disdain,’ he wrote.
Ms Credlin went on to land a job with Sky News and News Corp, which Mr Turnbull also targeted in his memoir, accusing the organisation of working to dump him as PM in August 2018.
Mr Turnbull pointed the finger at News Corp’s 89-year-old executive chairman and founder Rupert Murdoch, whose titles include The Australian, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph and Melbourne’s Herald Sun.
He also included Sydney 2GB breakfast radio king Alan Jones, whose views on national security, immigration and multiculturalism are influential among the conservative side of the Liberal party.
Had he remained as PM in 2018, Mr Turnbull alleged they would have conspired with right-wing Liberals in an attempt to deliberately lose the 2019 election – so Tony Abbott could lead the Coalition to victory in 2022 from Opposition.
‘Now, just describing that sounds unhinged, doesn’t it?’ Mr Turnbull told 7.30.
Mr Turnbull has suggested Ms Credlin dominated Mr Abbott during his two years as PM until September 2015 (when they are pictured), until he himself overthrew him in a leadership coup
‘But that was Abbott’s agenda and as Rupert acknowledged to me, it had the support of one of his most senior and most influential editorial executives and it went a lot further than that.
‘So it was crazed and it was part of Alan Jones’ agenda. They tried to foment a coup at the end of 2017.’
Mr Turnbull overthrew Mr Abbott as a first-term PM in September 2015.
He also claimed Murdoch shopped the plan out to Seven Network majority owner Kerry Stokes to have Mr Abbott replace him again as leader.
‘Look at what Rupert Murdoch said to Kerry Stokes. ”We’ve got to get rid of Malcolm … Three years of Labor wouldn’t be so bad”,’ Mr Turnbull said.
‘The one thing those plutocrats knew, the billionaire proprietors knew, was that I did not belong to them … They wanted to have, again, a prime minister who they felt they had some control over, they had an ownership of, and they wanted to feel as they had done with Abbott – that they were in charge.’
Tony Abbott (left) talking to Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 when they were in opposition together. Mr Abbott was ousted from the Prime Ministership by Mr Turnbull in 2015. Mr Turnbull in turn lost the Prime Ministership in 2018 and immediately resigned his seat
In the Coalition, Mr Turnbull blamed right-wing power broker and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who launched two failed leadership bids in August 2018 within the same week.
He also blamed Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who he had regarded as a confidante until he backed Mr Dutton’s leadership tilt.
As prime minister, Mr Turnbull backed same-sex marriage and policies to tackle climate change, to the chagrin of conservatives within his party.
He suggested right-wing Liberals and conservative media ‘would have preferred (ALP leader) Bill Shorten to be prime minister than me.’
‘A Liberal Party that they could not control was not a Liberal Party they wanted to have. It was – it is all about raw power, I’m afraid.’
Malcolm Turnbull (left) in August 2018 when he was still prime minister, with then treasurer Scott Morrison (right)
He told 7.30 that although he knew the party had become very factionalised and ‘tribal’, that he had tried to work with everyone despite being warned to trust no-one.
With everybody telling him not to trust everybody else, the former prime minister said it would have been easy to become lost in a sea of paranoia.
‘I was determined to look past that,’ he said.
The former investment banker and journalist said when the ‘coup’ occurred it was not because he was so unpopular as a leader that the Coalition thought they’d lose the election.
‘They overthrew my government and overthrew my prime ministership not because they thought I’d lose an election but because they thought I would win it,’ he said.
Mr Turnbull said his political enemies hatched a plot to remove him from power, let the Coalition lose the 2019 election and suffer in Opposition so Tony Abbott could be returned to power in 2022 as Prime Minister once again
‘Murdoch acknowledges that one of his senior executives was part of the Abbott plan to bring down the government with the goal of sending us into opposition so that Abbott could come back as leader after the election and bring the party back to victory in 2022.’
Mr Turnbull, a Liberal moderate, resigned in August 2018 and was replaced by his preferred successor Scott Morrison, a socially-conservative Pentecostal Christian who was backed into the leadership by the party’s moderate and centre-right factions.
Government MPs had hoped Mr Morrison, who was treasurer under Mr Turnbull, would be able to end deep Liberal Party divisions sparked by Mr Abbott’s overthrow in 2015 and Mr Turnbull’s earlier downfall in 2009 over emissions trading policies.
An embittered Mr Turnbull resigned from his Sydney eastern suburbs seat of Wentworth after losing the top job.
This destroyed the Coalition’s one-seat majority and left his colleagues in minority government until the May 2019 election returned them to power for a third, consecutive term with a narrow, three-seat majority.
WHAT MALCOLM TURNBULL TOLD 7.30 ABOUT HIS STRUGGLES
Turnbull deposed Abbott as prime minister in a party coup in 2015 and blamed him and his supporters for orchestrating his ousting three years later. He said the Abbott-led government had been ‘dangerous’.
‘He basically abandoned cabinet government. It was erratic, his whole style of government was erratic and flaky.’
‘From a national security point of view … at a time when terrorism was our biggest domestic security issue, Abbott was determined to ramp up the rhetoric in a way that was calculated to inflame animosity against Muslims, right? And that was obviously lapped up and echoed by the Murdoch press, who were doing the same thing. That made Australia less safe. It was profoundly dangerous.’
In the book, Turnbull also says Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin was the one really wielding power and Abbott worshipped and feared her.
‘You were really dealing with Peta and Peta was running the country and that was obvious, and dominating Abbott.’
‘It was as though she felt, ‘I’ve created you, you’re my creation’ and she felt she owned him. It was a truly bizarre relationship.
‘Credlin and Abbott destroyed their own government due to their own follies and then set out to destroy mine.’
Turnbull says he stood aside in the second leadership spill spearheaded by Peter Dutton, so Scott Morrison could win instead.
‘Morrison and I are different men, we have different values in some respects, but while we had differences as PM and Treasurer, we’re longstanding friends, we’ve worked closely together, I know him very well – he has got his limitations as we all have, right, he is not perfect. But he is a much safer pair of hands than Peter Dutton by far and I always regarded him as my most likely successor.’
Turnbull said Morrison had told him he supported him during the week before his downfall, but he believes he had been shoring up his own position to become leader.
‘The bottom line is Scott, you know – when Abbott was defeated, Scott was saying publicly he was supporting Abbott, but he was working to get the numbers to vote for me. So, you know, that’s his MO, right? I know Scott very well, and he is a lifelong political operator and he is a control freak.’
‘It was such an absurd proposition … I didn’t imagine that he was so deluded as to imagine that our political prospects would be advanced by a change of leadership, and especially to him,’ he said.
‘And it never occurred to me, frankly, that so many people would support him. If Dutton had become leader, not even (former Labor leader) Bill Shorten could have lost the election.’
‘What was important to me was that I ensure that Dutton did not become Prime Minister above all.’
THE MURDOCH MEDIA
‘During a conversation I had with (Rupert) Murdoch, (he) acknowledges that one of his most senior executives was part of the Abbott plan to bring down the government with the goal of sending us into opposition so that Abbott could come back as leader after the election and bring the party back to victory in 2022.
‘Now, just describing that sounds unhinged, doesn’t it? But that was Abbott’s agenda and as Rupert acknowledged to me, it had the support of one of his most senior and most influential editorial executives and I think it went a lot further than that.
‘These were people that were a foreign company, controlled by foreign nationals, was conspiring to overthrow the prime minister of Australia.’
Turnbull admits entering a deep depression after the Utegate scandal in 2009 when he made false allegations about PM Kevin Rudd and his government’s dealing with a car dealer based on evidence from treasury official Godwin Grech.
‘I started to sink into a very, very deep depression. It was very deep and very dangerous.
‘I felt these thoughts of death, of self-destruction, coming into my mind unbidden and unwanted. And I couldn’t get them out of my mind and I got sicker and sicker and sicker. It was a terrible time.’