A must–read juicy backroom account of the Tony Abbott/ Peta Credlin partnership or an unethical and biased piece of gossipy trash – there seems to be two extreme points of view on Niki Savva’s account of how it all came crashing down for the former prime minister and his high-profile chief of staff.
The reality is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, as The Road to Ruin contains some intriguing reveals but the book isn’t the must–read some have claimed, since the sauciest and most revealing tidbits have been republished on every news website no matter how far right or left it leans. The big hook that grabbed the nation’s attention was Savva’s publication of a rumour about the former PM and his chief of staff. The ethics of this has been debated ad nauseum ever since, especially since the former Peter Costello staffer did not get a comment from Abbott or Credlin about the rumour, which she should have done. Although this gossip takes up only a couple of pages, it was enough to hook a nation even though there are much more important things to worry about regarding Abbott’s brief rule, which were why the public and some in Abbott’s party were never comfortable with him in the top job. When reading Savva’s account of Abbott’s short–lived rule, one remembers his quote when the LNP toppled Rudd and ended the Rudd/Gillard years. He promised that the adults were in charge. Though he was a combative opposition leader, this, as we all know, didn’t mean he was suited to leading a country with the 12th largest national economy in the world. Stubborn, arrogant, isolated, petty and just plain weird, The Australian columnist paints a bleak picture of Abbott and Credlin’s leadership and management styles that proves the grown–ups were definitely not in charge. According to Savva’s account, many in the party had doubts about the pair soon after the LNP formed government (indeed, many Australians had serious doubts about Abbott’s leadership qualities many years before he stepped into the top job). The focus on Credlin and her part in Abbott’s downfall (though occasionally justifi ed) takes up too much space in the first half. Her boss (the former prime minister of Australia, no less) wasn’t unpopular because of Credlin’s poor management style and alleged leaking, the man was responsible for some unpopular and straight up bizarre policies, ‘captain’s calls’ that made him a national joke and media performances (onion-gate, wink-gate, Minister for Women-gate etc) that made the talk show rounds in the US and embarrassed many. The Road to Ruin peaks with the lead up to the leadership spill. Savva’s inside knowledge and contacts within the Liberal Party (especially the party’s moderate centre) means the planning leading up to the spill is a fascinating real–life political thriller. The inside word on the deals and backroom meetings that ended up with a party vote to install Malcolm Turnbull as the fifth prime minister in six years is the book’s crowning achievement. With some unnecessary chapters (especially the ones about the roles of former chief of staffs to discredit Credlin) and a pro–Liberal bias that taints some of the chapters, The Road to Ruin, for the most part, is a cracking political read. Author: Niki Savva Publisher: Scribe