21 April 2017
James Campbell and Rob Harris
DISGRUNTLED millionaires are attempting to draft Peta Credlin to unseat federal Cabinet minister Kelly O’Dwyer in the blue-ribbon seat of Higgins.
A powerful group of local Liberals want Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff to challenge Ms O’Dwyer in retribution for her role in an unpopular tax on their superannuation savings. When asked by the Herald Sun about the plan on Friday, Ms Credlin would only say: “I have not been formally approached to run for Higgins”.
It’s understood the group of current and former Liberal branch members have made an unofficial approach and are willing to bankroll a challenge to the Revenue and Financial Services Minister because of their fury over the Turnbull Government’s changes to super.
Victorian-born Ms Credlin has long been touted as a political candidate.
While she ran the former prime minister’s office, Ms Credlin was accused of deliberately holding back Ms O’Dwyer’s political career.
As Mr Abbott’s closest political adviser, Ms Credlin played a pivotal role in the former Liberal leader’s rise and fall and was accused of being a “control freak” and “micromanager” by Cabinet ministers and Mr Abbott’s political rivals.
Since the pair were ousted by the Turnbull regime, she’s been a continued critic of the current government — despite having once worked for Malcolm Turnbull — through her roles as a TV commentator and newspaper columnist.
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She has previously been linked to a Victorian senate bid as well as the safe northeastern suburbs seat of Menzies should Abbott ally Kevin Andrews retire.
The Herald Sun has been told Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger — part of a rival faction to Ms O’Dwyer’s — is aware of the plan from Higgins branch members to challenge. Mr Kroger did not return calls on Friday.
Ms O’Dwyer, who supported Mr Turnbull in the leadership ballot over Mr Abbott, was vocal in her support for Peter Reith’s challenge on Mr Kroger for the party’s top Victorian role last month before he withdrew his nomination following a health scare.
Ms O’Dwyer is currently on maternity leave.
Any challenge would be a warning shot against warring NSW Liberals faction who are understood to be considering a challenge for Mr Abbott’s federal seat of Warringah.
The Save Our Super group emerged in Melbourne during last year’s election campaign after contentious Budget moves, including a $500,000 “lifetime cap” on after-tax super contribution.
Many of the group were members of the Higgins branch and complained that they were not given a fair hearing by their local MP. A series of leaked emails last year revealed a number of members had quit the party or were refusing to raise funds for Mr Turnbull because of the policy.
Mr Turnbull and Ms O’Dwyer declined invites to address a Save Our Super rally at Malvern Town Hall two weeks out from last year’s election day.
The changes, which come in to effect on July 1, include a tax increase from 15 per cent to 30 per cent on contributions for workers earning more than $250,000. The seat of Higgins takes in Melbourne’s wealthiest postcode, Toorak.