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Abbott’s worms: Pyne's vacation and the Credlin domination

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The massive travel and accomodation costs run up by Christopher Pyne in April and Abbott's trip to the UN should be opening up a big can of worms, says senior correspondent Barry Everingham.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE AND HIS WIFE were officially in Rome recently, where they represented Australia at the canonisation of a dead Pope.

It could be asked why it was necessary for an Australian to be represented at such a ceremony and if it was so important what was wrong with our resident (underworked) Ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy doing the honours?

And this is where Tony Abbot’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin comes in.

But first, some background.

When Kevin Rudd was prime minister he was anxious for Australia to gain the vacant seat on the United Nations Security Council and so, at huge expense, he decided to open a full-time embassy in the Vatican, which until then was serviced by the ambassador in Dublin, who was cross-accredited and made four visits annually to the city state.

Rudd’s rationale was that a full-time Australian could lobby the diplomatic community stating our case for the Seat.

He resurrected the train loving former National Party leader and deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, for the plumb sinecure and hang the expense.

At the time, one seasoned former ambassador remarked that, at the most, the job would entail an hour’s work a week.

One hour.

Be that as it may, Fischer’s term ended and Abbott ‒ ever the good Catholic boy ‒ decided that, despite the so-called “debt and deficit disaster” he would keep the embassy open, disregarding the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

So back to Pyne.

He has had his fingers deep in the biscuit bin and, along with his wife, has run up a $30,000 account on what would appear to have been very little more than a European vacation — one which was approved by none other than Peta Credlin, whose influence is now paramount and obviously unquestioned.

It should be noted that when Abbott was delivering his address at the UN to an almost empty chamber, our Ambassador to the UN and our representative on the Security Council – the experienced and universally respected Gary Quinlan ‒ was sidelined by Abbott. But who should be there at his side, in the seat of honour — of course, the ubiquitous Ms Credlin.

She obviously has enormous clout, for in the past week she has joined with the beastly Cory Bernardi to support North Queensland caveman MP George Christiansen in calling for a ban on the burqua.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Abbott is under her political spell — and it needs to be asked if it is she who has been responsible for some of the more outrageous Abbott thought bubbles recently landed on an unsuspecting and increasingly bewildered electorate.

The restoration of archaic imperial titles, the cruel six months waiting period before young job seekers can get the dole, the decision to take Australia to war and the wedging of the Opposition of the matter — the list is endless.

Ministerial advisors ‒ particularly those close to the Prime Minister ‒ do advise and do, in some circumstances, have the authority to make decisions — but seldom, if ever, do they see the light of day under the hard hand of Peta Credlin.

Time to open that can of worms and see what slithers outs.

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