Leading article Australia

Best served cold

10 March 2016

3:00 PM

10 March 2016

3:00 PM

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Niki Savva book, reviewed this week by Rebecca Weisser as well as being under Neil Brown’s piercing eye and pen, was motivated to a degree by personal revenge. Justifying the slew of unsourced gossip and rumour that she dishes up, Ms Savva refers to the ‘abuse’ that staffers under Ms Credlin were supposedly forced to endure in silence for years – a laughable proposition and preposterous misuse of the language of ‘victimhood’. Moreover, in interviews Ms Savva has repeatedly trotted out the claim that Ms Credlin attempted to have herself and Peter van Onselen fired from the Australian (an irrelevance given they are both still there), as an excuse for not following the normal procedure of putting allegations of an affair to her two subjects prior to publication. Interviewed on 2GB, it became clear that Ms Savva who has admitted lying in the past about sources sought anyone who would support her counter-intuitive premise that the chief-of-staff brought down the former prime minister through her domineering behaviour, as opposed to the more likely scenario that Ms Credlin’s sex, style and overbearing personality were used to fan the flames of destabilisation during the opportunistic plotting by the current prime minister and his coterie that successfully terminated Mr Abbott’s reign, imperfect though that reign clearly was.

It is unlikely that Malcolm Turnbull was unaware of the contents and timing of this tittle-tattle book, given that Ms Savva’s husband works in the prime minister’s office and, focused on ensuring his re-election, would have been somewhat remiss not to have briefed his boss all about it. It is also reasonable to assume that Ms Savva might not have rushed out her saucy allegations with such eager haste had the PMO deemed it unseemly and, via her husband, gently asked her to delay her book until after the election. Given the fact that Mr Turnbull has made no public effort to offer Ms Credlin – a longtime loyal Liberal staffer any words of support or comfort, the assumption must be that he has no problem with the deliberate unsourced denigrating of his predecessor, including the obvious hurt to Margie Abbott and Brian Loughnane.

This may well backfire. Although Mr Abbott is clearly bruised and smarting, his only disagreements with the Turnbull government thus far have been in areas of policy where he has a legitimate right to question mooted changes of direction. There has been no Rudd-style ‘Well, what Malcolm really thinks/said is…’ mischief, and those areas where he has spoken out have been ones of genuine concern. To his credit, Mr Turnbull has repeatedly pointed out that Mr Abbott is free to speak his mind, and will only be corrected if Mr Turnbull believes Mr Abbott has his facts wrong. This is as it should be.

Yet the onus remains on Mr Turnbull to prove his superiority as leader of the nation by governing in a manner that demands re-election. The onus is not on Mr Abbott, now out of cabinet, to offer unqualified support for the man who deposed him, although he has laudably done so on several occasions.

Mr Turnbull knows that the public, despite being titillated by tawdry tales, ultimately have little respect for Ms Savva’s style of bitchy gossip. Once the punters realise the somewhat confounding fact that, er, there is no evidence of any affair, and that the author is uncomfortably closely linked to the Turnbull office, sympathies may well drift towards Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin, who, after all, had a flawed but very fruitful working relationship.

Mr Abbott’s government, aided by the undoubted skills (and ferocity) of Ms Credlin as his chief-of-staff, can boast of stopping the boats, three free trade agreements, scrapping the carbon and mining taxes, encouraging the world to confront Isis and Russian aggression and a decent (but thwarted) attempt at reining in spending. Not bad for two years. Whereas in six months, Mr Turnbull’s team, aided by Ms Savva’s no doubt more demure husband and ‘unabused’ co-staffers, has achieved what precisely?

In praise of Alison Bevege

Full marks to Alison Bevege, the courageous NSW journalist who took Hizb ut-Tahrir to court for their segregation of the sexes, and won. Her determination to stand up for women’s rights in the face of Islamic sexism and misogyny stands in stark contrast to the plethora of so-called ‘feminists’ who bleat on about CEO pay rise discrepancies and the like whilst Muslim men subject women to unspeakable tyranny, including forced genital mutilation, on our shores. Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull seeks to cosy up to the Islamic community, wandering around museums touting our ‘shared values’. We look forward to Mr Turnbull clearly articulating what those shared values are.

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