“It’s been tough on my mum.”
It’s been a rough week for Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott’s “controversial” Chief Of Staff. Forced out of office by the now-familiar machinations of a government coup, you could forgive her for wanting to stay home on the lounge for… well, more than seven nights.
But a deal’s a deal, and Credlin didn’t pike on Helen McCabe and the Australian Women’s Weekly Women Of The Future Awards last night at the Art Gallery of NSW.
She turned up, she smiled for photos and then she sat on a panel with Annabel Crabb and Jesinta Campbell to talk about… well, women.
Peta Credlin didn’t mince her words about the “bloody tough” experience of being a senior female in Australian politics. “If you’re a cabinet minister or a journalist and you’re intimidated by the chief-of-staff of the prime minister then maybe you don’t deserve your job,” Credlin told the room.
She also spoke openly about her attempts to conceive through IVF.
“I thought it would all come together like everything else in my life would come together – and it didn’t come together. And one of the reasons I spoke out about IVF was I felt really strongly about it because I battled with IVF for three years – in one of the toughest jobs in this country. Everyone I ever talked about IVF had a baby and it had all been okay so I suddenly thought “is something wrong with me?” and “how do you keep going with this load? And there was a bit of talk in Canberra that I was doing an IVF and there was all the insider gossip that meant someone would get my job. So I decided just to be out there about it and I was – pretty tough but criticised for talking about stuff that’s personal. But I wanted to be the voice, at least a little part for the woman who aren’t successful.”
Credlin admitted that in her 16 years in politics, she had encountered both covert and overt sexism, but she thought it was absolutely essential that women keep pushing through prejudice to positions of power.
Despite insisting that, “I’m not going to run for politics. I’m not… I want to move on with my life and do something where I get my own voice,” Credlin made it sound very much as if she wasn’t done.
“You will want to have women like me in politics,” she told McCabe. “You want women in places they can make a difference. Because half of the policies are made for us, but only about 10 per cent is by us.
‘”And if we do not stand up and put women at the epicentre of decision making… we will not exist.”
Rejecting Annabel Crabb’s question about whether she was a “terrible bossy boots”, Credlin said if she was a man she would be strong not bossy, before answering the question that most of the room was waiting for: So, how was your week?
“It’s been tough for my mum, tough for the whole family,” she replied. “Lots of my old school friends flew up to Canberra to spend the week with me because they thought I was doing it tough.”
Some of the other impressive women who attended the awards (post continues after gallery):
But there were pluses to being booted out of a big job.
“I am now fully emancipated. I am not looking at my phone every 15 minutes.”
And what was next?
“I want to read and talk to interesting people and then work out what to do in life.
“I’m not going to kick the new Prime Minister on my way out. I think that’s undignified and I’ve never been like that.
“I’m looking forward to my next chapter, whatever that is. Whatever that is.”
The awards were tweeted under the hashtag #wotf2015. Some were impressed with Credlin…
Others, less so: