Review by DEB BENNETT
Part memoir, part political reportage, The Road to Ruin is above all else an insightful glimpse into the deliberately opaque world of national politics. The story of the rise and spectacular fall of Tony Abbott and his chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin, is both salacious and spellbinding, an account of recent history as dramatic as any Shakespearean play.
Abbott is depicted as a decent man brought down by his own flaws. The odd, co-dependant relationship he developed with Credlin was essential to his success. A living example of the ‘Peter principle’ (a management theory that managers rise to the level of their incompetence), Abbott is painted as a brilliant opposition leader without the talent or skills to lead a country. According to the author, Credlin’s control of her boss was, in part, an attempt to shield him from himself.
While Credlin’s dictatorial style caused professional angst, it was the couples’ personal relationship that raised eyebrows. Witnesses recount watching Credlin hand-feeding her boss from her own plate, personally touching up his TV makeup and chastising him like an errant school boy. Credlin excluded Margie Abbott from social events, and even directed staff not to provide catering for Australia’s ‘first lady’ when she was in residence at Kirribilli House.
Author Niki Savva is, by necessity, a major player in the events she documents. As press secretary to federal treasurer Peter Costello for six years during the Howard government – and married to a current advisor to the Turnbull government – Savva has the ear of many leading figures within the Liberal party. While she has been criticised for not seeking comment from Abbott or Credlin in the book, the credibility of her sources has not been questioned.
Few politicians elicit such extreme emotions as Abbott. Those who sat glued to the television on 14 September 2015, as the successful coup by Malcolm Turnbull was played out for the nation, will be fascinated by the political intrigue exposed by Savva.
It is clear this book was rushed to print. But poor editing and an often disjointed narrative don’t detract from the schadenfreudian delight the story will offer many readers.
Scribe Publications 2016. RRP $32.99