Tony Abbott was ejected from Parliament yesterday by the Deputy Speaker of the House Anna Burke because he can't take orders from a powerful woman, according to some Labor members. But Abbott takes orders from one particularly powerful woman every day.
Abbott was accused of being "not very comfortable with capable women" by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, of showing more disrespect to Burke than he did to those who sat in the chair before her (Peter Slipper and Harry Jenkins) by Leader of the House Anthony Albanese, and of having an issue with being told what to do by a woman, by front bencher Tanya Plibersek.
Naturally, Abbott was keen to reject such notions and so came up with the "entirely modern man" response. "I take directions from women every day -- my wife, my daughters, my chief of staff, other senior members of my office," he said. "Look, I am an entirely modern man in this respect."
It's difficult to judge Abbott's ability to "take directions" from his own family outside the media spotlight. But when it comes to his chief, the Opposition Leader appears entirely capable of taking orders and advice from Peta Credlin, the woman who sits in the adviser's box during question time.
Credlin is the person responsible for keeping Abbott on message -- and yes, that means driving his negative agenda and continual attack on the Prime Minister. She travels everywhere with Abbott, has his complete confidence and holds significant influence over what goes on behind Coalition closed doors. She's a spinner -- the country's most powerful, as declared on The Power Index earlier this year -- and has worked tirelessly to spin Abbott free of his "mad monk", anti-women message: including by urging him to quit discussing religion, and getting his family to do media appearances.
Credlin has been known to enjoy a bit of heckling herself -- as she has done with frontbenchers like Albanese – and earlier this year faced threats of permanent expulsion from the House of Reps for doing so.
If Abbott has any kind of issue responding to the demands of powerful women, it's certainly not one that extends to his most trusted and indispensable colleague. If it was, then Abbott may be in a very to different position to where he finds himself in today and Credlin, who worked in the offices of Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull before Abbott, could well be on to shaping the image and message of her fourth opposition leader.
The very capable Deputy Speaker, meanwhile, declared she's "above being bullied". Anna Burke doesn't require others to come to her defence.