Who’s Who in Australia’s New Coalition Leadership Under AbbottAngus Whitley
Australia’s Liberal-National coalition led by Tony Abbott defeated Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor party in the Sept. 7 federal election. The following are likely senior members of the next government.
Abbott, 55, a former trainee priest who decided against a life of celibacy, becomes prime minister after almost four years as opposition leader. His criticism of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s new taxes helped spur her downfall and Rudd’s recall in June as Labor leader. An endurance triathlete and volunteer lifesaver, Abbott has been described as “hyper masculine” by Greens leader Christine Milne. Gillard labeled Abbott a misogynist after he blamed her carbon pricing mechanism for increasing the cost of housewives’ ironing. Before politics, Abbott worked as a journalist at The Australian newspaper and in 1990 became a press secretary to then-Opposition Leader John Hewson, who later described Abbott as a “fairly extreme conservative Catholic.” Abbott entered parliament four years later and was minister for health and ageing, and employment and workplace relations in the mid-2000s. He graduated in economics and law from Sydney University and was an Oxford University scholar and boxer.
Joe Hockey, 48, a self-described modern liberalist, has been shadow Treasurer since 2009 and will take command of Australia’s $1.5 trillion economy. In April last year, Hockey called for an end to “the age of entitlement.” In a speech in London, he said governments must be funded by revenue rather than debt, and state welfare in developed nations had compromised economic sustainability. He has been tagged “Sloppy Joe” by Labor lawmakers critical of his grasp of the portfolio. He worked as a finance and banking lawyer before entering parliament in 1996. Like Abbott, Hockey held a range of ministerial posts under then-Prime Minister John Howard. Between 1998 and 2007, Hockey’s roles included small business, tourism, and employment and workplace relations. He studied arts and law at the University of Sydney, where on the rugby field he was once knocked out by a young Abbott.
Warren Truss, 64, a third-generation Queensland farmer and leader of the Nationals in the coalition, is set to be deputy prime minister. Truss was a minister under Howard for 10 years, spending most of them in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Relations between the Nationals and Liberals haven’t always been happy. Truss, who has a lower public profile than other senior members of Abbott’s team, said in August 2009 his party had discussed leaving the coalition. Hockey said this month in Western Australia, where the coalition parties are separately contesting two seats, that the Nationals wouldn’t have a strong voice in government, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said. Truss said the parties are united despite their squabbles, the ABC reported. Truss is Abbott’s shadow minister for infrastructure and transport.
Julie Bishop, 57, is deputy leader of the Liberal Party and shadow minister for foreign affairs and trade. The job of foreign minister is her “ultimate dream,” she told the Australian newspaper in February. She abandoned a career as a commercial litigator to win a seat in parliament in 1998. The coalition’s highest-ranking female, Bishop in June accused Gillard of waging a “false gender war” against Abbott, just weeks before Gillard was ousted by the Labor party. Bishop led several ministries in the mid-2000s under Howard, including education, science and training. A keen runner, she grew up near Adelaide on a fruit orchard. She has a law degree from Adelaide University.
Andrew Robb, 62, is shadow minister for finance, deregulation and debt reduction. After growing up on a dairy farm north of Melbourne, Robb’s early career was dominated by agricultural politics. During the 1970s and 1980s he was an animal health officer, an agricultural economist and director of the National Farmers’ Federation. He directed the Liberal party’s successful election campaign in 1996 before working for late-billionaire Kerry Packer and setting up a direct marketing company. On entering parliament in 2004, he called for lower taxes and fewer “draconian regulations” on business. He became minister for vocational and further education during Howard’s final term in office. In 2011, Robb released a book on his struggle with depression, “Black Dog Daze: Public Life, Private Demons.”
Peta Credlin, 42, is Abbott’s top adviser and set to be his chief of staff. In a rare interview in 2011, Credlin told The Australian she regarded herself as an “alpha female.” Describing Credlin as “the scariest woman in Canberra,” the newspaper said Liberal lawmakers and staff view her with a mixture of fear and awe. She is married to Brian Loughnane, the Liberal party’s federal director. Credlin told Marie Claire magazine in January that she’s a “right-wing feminist.” Credlin grew up in rural Victoria, according to the 2011 profile in The Australian, and has a law degree. In the mid-2000s she worked for then-Defence Minister Robert Hill, who also led the government in the Senate, to help steer key policies including the Telstra sale through the upper house, the paper said. She also advised the last two opposition leaders -- Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull.