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Peephole to power

19 Sep 2014
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Private secretary, chief of staff, enforcer? A look at the role of the prime minister’s most influential gatekeeper

In the wall of prime minister Bob Hawke’s office in the old Parliament House there was a tiny hole, about the size of a thumbnail. It was not a design flaw or a listening device snuck in by a foreign spy agency. It was a peephole, a beautifully simple way for the occupant of the adjacent office, the principal private secretary, to monitor his boss.

Put your eye to the tiny glass lens and you’d get a miniature image of the prime minister at work behind his desk. Sometimes Hawke was alone, attending to his paperwork or holding forth on the phone. More often, a meeting would be under way and you’d see, seated opposite him, whichever foreign leader, cabinet minister, public servant or staff adviser was occupying the attention of the government’s central figure. Once I saw the Pope in there…

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2014
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