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The same ruined road: Why we’re better than the Peta Credlin rumours

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We're treading the same well-worn path, says Seb Starcevic

On International Women's Day, Seb Starcevic says the blame attributed to Peta Credlin for the downfall of former PM Tony Abbott is yet another sign of the deep sexism running through our society.

What decade is it again?

Oh, right, it’s 2016. Almost forgot. You could’ve fooled me what with the media coverage in the wake of political commentator Niki Savva’s controversial book launch. It’s called Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government. As far as titles go, it’s a step above Peta Credlin: Homewrecker, but maybe they’re saving that one for the sequel.

For those out of the loop, Peta Credlin was the former PM’s chief of staff during his short, brutal reign in office. Her guidance is sometimes cited as one of the contributing factors to her boss’s downfall. And here I thought Abbott did that to himself.

Alas, the matter didn’t end there. If the rumours about Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin’s working relationship are to be believed, there was a lot more going on behind closed doors than simple strategising. Because when a successful woman attaches herself to a male co-worker, they must be having an affair. Even if the two are both married.

In a statement, Abbott dismissed the rumours as "scurrilous gossip and smear”, proving that scurrilous is a word that actually exists, guys. Previously, he infamously defended Ms Credlin against the aspersions cast on her in his farewell speech, saying his foremost advisor been

“... unfairly maligned by people who should've known better.”

For once, the former PM and I are in agreement.

For all her faults – she’s been called bossy and tyrannical, lambasted over her treatment of junior staff, and accused of playing the gender card when she reminded critics that these same qualities are praised in her males counterparts – Ms Credlin has proven herself a force to be reckoned with.

With a law degree under her belt and a CV peppered with impressive credentials, there’s no denying she fought tooth and nail for her position, crushing political opponents under her sensible heels on her inexorable climb up the rungs of Parliament House.

Whispers followed her as she stalked through the blue-carpeted corridors. Grown men spat out jokes to ease their discomfort with a woman – a tall, proud, glamorous, intelligent woman – occupying the role of the PM’s grizzly guard dog, his best general and most lethal enforcer rolled into one.

Consequently, some of the headlines making the rounds labelled her, by turns, a scheming succubus, the devil on Abbott’s shoulder and Australia’s very own Cersei Lannister. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.

Newsflash: Ms Credlin is worth more than a bit of tawdry gossip ripped straight out of a glossy spread in some cheap tabloid. If nothing else, she deserves our respect.

To be fair, some of the claims calcified in Savva’s tell-all are eyebrow-raising, to say the least. Friendly flirtations ranging from feeding each other food off the other’s forks at ministerial functions, to bottom-slapping and resting heads on shoulders…

But I’m less concerned with barely substantiated anecdotes and more miffed at how we’re going about the whole thing. Because it’s no coincidence that our most heavily publicised chief of staff in a long time has been painted a huge-haired, viciously menstruating ultra-woman, a blood-sucking, conniving Jezebel whose thunderous mood swings and sensuous sex politics poisoned the waters long before Abbott’s management went down the drain.

We’re better than that. Aren’t we?

You can follow Seb Starcevic on Twitter @BookshelfOfDoom.  

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