Australia

Australian PM's adviser called 'horsewoman' by colleague

Peta Credlin (file image) Image copyright AAP
Image caption Ms Credlin is Tony Abbott's most senior adviser

Peta Credlin, chief of staff to the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was described as a "horsewoman of the apocalypse" by a senior party member, a leaked text message revealed.

The text, from Party Treasurer Philip Higginson to another senior party figure, said it would be a "huge win" to "negotiate the removal of Credlin".

The leak to ABC follows criticism last month of Ms Credlin by Mr Higginson.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has backed Ms Credlin and called for unity.

In the message published by ABC, Mr Higginson said Ms Credlin had harmed the party through her "non understanding of team harmony".

Mr Higginson said he anticipated a "hatchet job" against him for criticising Ms Credlin, adding that he thought he was "watching the party committing suicide".

Ms Credlin is Mr Abbott's closest and most senior adviser and is seen as a huge influence on the prime minister.

Dubbed "the boss" by some Liberal MPs, she has been accused by some of heavy-handed and centralised party control.

A leadership challenge and poor polling have led Liberal Party backbenchers unsympathetic to the prime minister to call for her resignation.

Ms Bishop called the leaked text "deeply unfortunate".

"It's very colourful language," she told Sky News. "It's deeply unfortunate it has been said and been made public. The less the internal workings of the Liberal Party are made public, the better off for everybody."

The message is a further embarrassment for the Liberal Party following a leaked letter from Mr Higginson to the party's federal executive in February, in which he criticised the party over the positions held by Ms Credlin and her husband, party director Brian Loughnane.

He wrote: "How this party ever let a husband-and-wife team into those two key roles, where collegiate competitive tension is mandatory and private consultations between colleagues to see that each side is served well, is a complete mystery," the letter said.

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