Tony Abbott's Chief of Staff
Born in: Wycheproof, Victoria
Home Town: Canberra
She's a relative unknown, but Peta Credlin has been cracking the whip in the Liberal Party for three successive leaders. And while she doesn't make the Top 10, she's certainly one to watch.
A Catholic, like Tony Abbott whose office she runs, Credlin has been chief-of-staff or senior adviser to the past three Liberal leaders, and you'd better believe she has got what it takes.
"She is effective, strong, articulate, engaged, presentable, smart and hard-working," says a senior NSW Liberal.
"She's tough, she's a player, she makes demands, she gives directions, she bawls people out," says a respected Victorian Liberal powerbroker, who ranks her as the Libs' second most-powerful player, above Nick Minchin, Christopher Pyne and the other two Liberals in The Power Index Top 10.
We have left Credlin off our Political Fixers, despite the fact she's important and powerful enough to be near the top, but only because she doesn't quite fit our definition.
The chances are you've never heard Credlin's name before, but if you're mad enough to watch parliamentary question time, you may have seen her in the advisers' box. She's tall and 40-ish, with a long face and big hair.
A decade ago, she was using her legal skills as a junior adviser to Communications Minister Richard Alston. Then, after a spell with Racing Victoria, she was pulled into Helen Coonan's office in 2005 to manage two issues that were important to the Howard government: the sale of Telstra and changes to the media-ownership laws.
Abrupt and demanding, she annoyed some people with her style, which showed little care for others' egos and even less tolerance of fools. Yet she was given the task of managing difficult negotiations with National and Liberal backbenchers on media law changes and handled the job well.
Even back then, Credlin was plugged in at the highest levels of the Liberal Party via her husband, Brian Loughnane, who had been federal director since 2003, so she knew John Howard and Peter Costello socially. She was also well connected to the party machine. And she had talent to boot.
After the 2007 election, Credlin was parachuted into new leader Brendan Nelson's office. Then, when he was dumped, she moved in with Turnbull — whom she had previously disparaged to colleagues — as chief-of-staff. And when Turnbull was forced out, she worked with Tony Abbott. In her spare time she picked up a legal practising certificate and won the ACT Law Society Prize.
Abbott takes Credlin with him whenever he travels around Australia — which is unusual for Liberal leaders and chiefs-of-staff — so she gets to meet everyone in the party. "That gives her power," says a prominent NSW Liberal. "She is the conduit to Abbott. Even the shadow cabinet talk to her."
Three leaders in a row suggest that either Credlin's a cracker at her job or that hubby Loughnane has huge influence. But we're pretty sure it's the former. She'll shoot up the Political Fixers list if the Liberals win power. Even in the unlikely event that Malcolm Turnbull or Joe Hockey take the helm, the odds are that Peta Credlin will be in the front seat.