Monthly Archives: September 2015

Peta Credlin & Political Leadership

peta-and-tony-smallI enjoy freaking out my friends by telling them I like Peta Credlin, formerly Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff.  Genuinely, I think she was a woman treated unfairly, that she was smart, tough and capable.  Her politics, sure, were an issue.

Now she’s spoken about gender, I’m reviewing my views.

Peta is quoted as this week saying “If I was a guy I wouldn’t be bossy, I would be strong. If I was a guy I wouldn’t be a micromanager I would be across my brief.”

Superficially, she’s right – these are the disempowering labels used by people, mostly men, when they’re not coping with strong and knowledgeable women.

But her feminist* analysis of commentary of her role mischaracterises those criticisms.

Those who called her bossy didn’t mean it.  They were being polite and euphemistic – they meant she was a bully, and those who bully should be called bullies, though they might claim they’re just forceful or strong or misunderstood.

Those who called her a micromanager were speaking politely, too, and colloquially, and meant much more.  They, too, were being euphemistic – they meant she was megalomaniacal and a control freak, and those who are megalomaniacal or control freaks should be called on it, and mustn’t be allowed to get away with it.

I’ve never met Peta, so can’t attest to the accuracy of what’s been said of her, but I know her critics meant so much more than merely “bossy” and “micromanager”, and I know it’s possible for such criticisms, levelled at a powerful woman by the most sexist men, nonetheless to be accurate or indeed understated**.

I also know this: almost no leader who’s told they are bossy, or a micro-manager, or a bully, or a control freak, will accept it; those who operate like that almost never see it, and describe their behavior differently.

She also said “You will want to have women like me in politics, you will want to have women like me sitting in seats of authority”.

We don’t, if her critics are anywhere close to the mark.

Those in authority who are bullies, or with such megalomaniacal tendencies as control-freakiness, are terrible, and their successes are always temporary and tainted and ultimately discrediting – these behaviours should entirely rule out of leadership roles their practitioners.

We need fewer people at the top of politics or business, with these traits – not more.

She also said, which is unassailable truth:

“… you want women in places where they can make a difference, because half the policy in this country is for us, but only about a tenth of it is by us.

“And if we do not stand up and put women in the epicentre of decision-making, whether it’s boardrooms, government boards, politics, cabinet rooms, wherever, if you don’t have women there, we will not exist.”

As Annabel Crabb says: “… a powerful, cogent, controversial woman who has worked like a bastard for many years to get to the top of an inhospitable system, a flawed and complicated woman …”.

* Some of my friends insist her comments/analysis aren’t feminist.
** And some of those who have said she operates like this are women, not solely sexist men.  No-one can easily claim they completely lack bias, in this instance, though.


Australia’s New Government

Photo: Veni Markovski

Photo: Veni Markovski

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s new Prime Minister, announced his first Ministry on Sunday 20 September 2015.  They will be sworn in on Monday.

There are many significant  changes, including:

  • An increase in the number of women in Cabinet from two to five (Michaelia Cash, Kelly O’Dwyer, Marise Payne will join Julie Bishop and Sussan Ley);
  • Joe Hockey, Bruce Billson, Eric Abetz, Ian Macfarlane, Kevin Andrews and Michael Ronaldson are all leaving the Ministry, some apparently volunteering to go
  • Former Treasurer Joe Hockey has advised he intends to leave parliament, which will create a by-election
  • Indigenous West Australian Ken Wyatt is Assistant Minister for Health
  • Arthur Sinodinos is not a Minister, but is Cabinet Secretary, a position previously abolished but now resuscitated
  • Scott Ryan will be the Assistant Cabinet Secretary

You can download the full list here:

Analysis worth reading, sort of, so far: