An all-star line up of Australian politics and media have gathered at an exclusive venue to celebrate Peta Credlin’s 50th birthday at a function which has doubled as a rallying point for allies trying to position her as the next leader of the moribund Victorian Liberals – and the woman to take down Dan Andrews.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott – still close friends with his one-time chief of staff – and Sky News co-host and powerful Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones were among 100 approximately guests invited to Saturday night’s shindig at the Melbourne Club, the social home of the city’s business and society elite.
A bevy of fellow right-wing media personalities joined them on the invite list including Herald-Sun columnist Rita Panahi, Sky colleagues Paul Murray and Peter Gleeson, plus outgoing Liberal MP Nicolle Flint and Jones’s producer Jake Thrupp.
Ms Credlin’s birthday bash has been a long time in the making with the powerbroker-turned-broadcaster telling colleagues it was an alternative to a planned but now impossible trip to Italy‘s Amalfi Coast.
Daily Mail Australia has confirmed that Credlin expressly asked her guests to bring their favourite book, in lieu of gifts, along with a personal message about why they selected it.
Peta Credlin arrives at the Melbourne Club for her 50th birthday party on Saturday. An all-star line up of Australian politics and media have gathered for the occasion
Ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and powerful Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones were among 100 approximately guests invited to Saturday night’s shindig at the Melbourne Club
That special request had been expected to spark a run on a nearby Collins bookstore this afternoon, with one guest admitting just hours earlier that they had ‘no idea’ what to bring.
Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane’s celebration comes as allies Jones and broadcaster Steve Price openly pushed for the birthday girl to be parachuted into a safe Liberal seat so she can enter state Parliament and have time to tangle with Mr Andrews prior to the November 2022 election.
Jones took to his Sky News ‘after dark’ program this week to compare Credlin with Muhammad Ali and even a Biblical lioness.
Jones predicted that Credlin would ‘wipe the floor’ with Mr Andrews, who she famously hammered over the state’s bungled hotel quarantine program at his press conferences she attended last year.
‘A political fight between Daniel Andrews and Peta Credlin would be Ali and Frazer all over again, but it would be no rumble in the jungle,’ Jones said.
‘Chapter six of the Book of Daniel tells how the legendary Daniel was saved from the lions by the God of Israel. Nothing would save this ‘Daniel’ from the lioness of the Liberal Party.
‘Just let her out of the Liberal cage and watch.’
Sky News broadcaster Peter Gleeson arriving for the high-society bash alongside Mr Abbott. Daily Mail Australia has confirmed Credlin expressly asked her guests to bring their favourite book
Jones (right, his producer Jake Thrupp left) took to his Sky News ‘after dark’ program this week to compare Credlin with Muhammad Ali and even a Biblical lioness
Sky News presenter Paul Murray arrives at the Melbourne Club. Credlin has told colleagues the event is an alternative to a planned but now impossible trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast
The birthday party has doubled as a rallying point for allies trying to position Credlin as the next leader of the moribund Victorian Liberals
Credlin hosted her birthday bash at the Melbourne Club – a prestigious city institution and gentleman’s social club on Collins Street. The club famously does not accept female members
Gleeson and Mr Abbott are pictured centre arriving at the star-studded event. In her time as chief-of-staff to Tony Abbott, there were constant rumblings from the discontented that Credlin held too much power in his office
Jones went on to instruct local Liberal powerbrokers Michael Kroger and Jeff Kennett to ‘start making calls now’ – comments which were slammed as ‘extraordinary’ by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.
Jones was echoing an earlier column by fellow conservative broadcaster Steve Price, who noted in the Herald Sun recently that at 50, Credlin was in the ‘prime of her working life’.
Price described Credlin as having the ‘most impressive’ CV for the job, noting she is a Melbourne University educated lawyer, who has worked with three prime ministers and as Racing Victoria’s public relations chief.
‘Victoria needs a local version of the best State Premier in Australia and that’s NSW’s Gladys Berejiklian,’ Price wrote in a Herald Sun column.
Price said Berejiklian’s handling of Covid and dominance over Jodi McKay’s opposition was the ‘perfect blueprint’ for a Credlin run for the top job.
But he admitted she wasn’t actually putting her hand up for it.
Peta Credlin hammered Daniel Andrews over the bungled hotel quarantine program which landed the state in a months-long lockdown last year. Above, she is seen on left during an appearance at the Premier’s daily press conference
‘Sorry Peta if the idea horrifies you,’ he said.
The calls comes amid ongoing concerns about Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien – and state opposition parties in general – following West Australian Premier Mark McGowan’s stunning landslide victory last week.
Australia’s success in handling the pandemic has significantly bolstered the profile of premiers and chief ministers across the country, and opposition parties have struggled to land blows on state leaders.
A group of Liberal MPs tried to eject Mr O’Brien at a party-room spill on Tuesday but he successfully held on, with about a third of his party room – nine out of 31 members – voting to remove him as leader.
A divided party room, a worrying lack of public cut-through, and a largely anonymous leader are fertile ground for a ‘name’ to be parachuted into the top job, particularly one with the no-nonsense reputation like Credlin.
In her time as chief-of-staff to Tony Abbott, there were constant rumblings from the discontented that Ms Credlin held too much power in his office.
They were rumours she addressed in 2016 after the scuttlebutt was put into print in a book by political journalist Niki Savva.
‘I know I am not the first woman to face offensive and false rumours about the nature of her professional relationships but, sadly, I doubt I will be the last,’ Ms Credlin wrote in The Australian.
She also defended her prominent role in the Abbott administration, which extended to admonishing government ministers over their performance.
‘When I was working long days in the prime minister’s office, doing my part to stop the boats, repeal the carbon tax and respond to growing terrorism threats, did anyone in the real world care that I was a tough operator, that the prime minister expected results or wanted ministers under pressure to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and deliver on our election promises?
‘I’ve never claimed that I got it right every time, but you don’t survive 16 years in one of the toughest working environments around if you’re not up to the job or don’t have a good reputation.’
There’s no doubt Credlin may wake up on Sunday – her birthday – with a few political memoirs in her gift pile.
And perhaps a few messages scribbled in the front urging her to run for office.
PETA CREDLIN: CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Peta Credlin and her husband Brian Loughnane
Peta Credlin was born and raised in country Victoria and has a two decade-long career in politics, media and public relations.
She is married to longtime former Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane and have long been described as a ‘power couple’ of the party’s backroom.
2016 – present: Broadcaster with Sky News and columnist with News Corp Australia’s newspapers
2009 – 2016: Chief of staff to Tony Abbott – first as opposition leader and later as prime minister
2008 – 2009: Deputy chief of staff to then-opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull
2007 – 2008: Senior adviser to then-opposition leader Brendan Nelson
1998 – 2007: Works for Howard Government Senators Richard Alston, Robert Hill and Helen Coonan
1998: Graduates Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Laws