UPDATED: Federal ministers are denying some of the devastating claims about Peta Credlin's influence in the Abbott government

Prime minister Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin. Image: Screenshot.

[Update 1: Senior Ministers today are denying Abbott sought advice on sending troops into Iraq, and claims that Credlin chaired meetings of the expenditure review committee.

Treasurer Joe Hockey tweeted:

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has also denied the claims. On ABC Radio this morning Cormann described the story as “wrong” and said the Prime Minister “never sought such advice”. ]

[Update 2: Abbott has dismissed the claim that he canvassed unilateral military action against ISIS as “false” and “fanciful”. Andrew Bolt points out that if Abbott was canvassing Iraq action in late November, the US had already announced a troop deployment so the action wouldn’t be unilateral. The Australian is standing by the story.]

John Lyons has a jaw-dropping account of how the Abbott government has been working in The Australian.

Stories about the controlling influence of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, have been the stock-in-trade of gossip in political and business circles for more than a year. The Lyons piece graphically recounts incident after incident in grating, pointed, damaging detail.

Abbott apparently, with Credlin’s tacit consent, proposed sending thousands of Australian troops to pursue ISIS in Iraq in a unilateral mission, an idea that shocked top military brass.

In the extraordinary piece, there’s this:

At 180cm, the 43-year-old Credlin towers over the Prime Minister. But it’s Abbott’s “exaggerated gallantry towards women”, according to the old friend, which explains why Abbott allows her such a dominant role. The friend adds that Abbott is also “lazy on detail”, another reason Credlin has been left to micro-manage the government.

Then this:

One minister told Inquirer Credlin’s power would not continue. The party would bring down Abbott if they had to, he said. Ominously for Abbott, the minister is someone who has publicly been defending him.

And this:

So insular has Abbott become that it took him 16 months after winning the election to have a meeting with his pollster, Mark Textor.

Textor is regarded by political professionals, including many of his enemies, as the most devastatingly effective political strategist in the country. He is well-known in conservative political circles around the world for his insights on connecting conservative political parties with modern voters.

Abbott has been trying this week to steer the national debate back towards the economy and national security. He’ll have trouble keeping it there after this.

As we reported this week, the research among swinging voters shows there’s not much appetite among actual voters for the incremental developments in Canberra power-plays. But the documenting of Abbott’s inaccessibility, excessive delegation, and political cloistering, combined with Credlin’s micro-management style, expose a problem with the functioning of government that cannot be ignored.

The full piece by John Lyons in The Australian is here. Read it.

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