Monday, February 06, 2006

True confessions

And it's a shocking one: insofar as one is stuck with the politicians one has, within the party that one must suffer to be in power, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Amanda Vanstone.

No, no, stay with me. If they're accurate, and one assumes they are, the figures in this piece by the Age's Andra Jackson this morning speak for themselves:

"Ms Rau's ordeal prompted a department audit that uncovered more than 200 cases of possible mistaken detention, including the wrongful deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez Solon. The Palmer inquiry into Ms Rau's treatment found a departmental culture characterised by secrecy and denial, and recommended greater scrutiny and openness.

In the Rau case fallout, besieged Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone promised a departmental overhaul.

Children and families were released. Numbers in detention centres dropped dramatically as the issuing of temporary protection visas expanded. This time last year there were 1445 detainees in Australia; now there are 768.

A controversial special visa category was created for long-term stateless detainees.

The department's information and database systems were reprogrammed to streamline tracking across its divisions. Measures were adopted to check identities with federal and state police missing persons' lists.

A mental health assessment is now conducted as soon as a detain is taken in. A psychologist is on hand at all detention centres."

Yes, there are still problems. Yes, her hand was forced. But you've got to admit it's all a lot better than it was, in a relatively short time and in spite of the escalating tensions about the durn furriners.

Crikey.com.au's Christian Kerr, who used to work for Vanstone, occasionally gives us hair-raising glimpses of what he saw. But I kind of like her anyway. Whatever her failings may be, she is one tough sheila with lots of chutzpah, she doesn't take any nonsense from anybody, she's a survivor, and she's funny, if you like that kind of thing.

But what sticks most in the memory is a radio interview I heard with her one day a few summers ago. She was on holidays and could have fobbed the radio station off, but she didn't. She was relaxed and off the chain, talking about feminism in such a way as to indicate that she knows a hell of a lot about it and that her beliefs and choices in public life, at least as far as women's issues are concerned, have been firmly underpinned by feminist principles.

Best of all, she was talking not in airbrushed soundbites of one syllable, but like the best kind of lucid, user-friendly intellectual. And while not even her worst enemies would ever call Vanstone stupid, the depth and breadth of her intellect and her grasp of what was at stake in feminism was a revelation. Given that the Libs are in power and look as if they're going to stay there forever, I'm quite glad she's one of them.

17 comments:

Jennifer said...

I've always had that sneaking admiration for Amanda Vanstone too. It's partly her cheerful celebration of what she wears, and partly how well she gives as good as she gets when she's interviewed. But when she appeared on Enough Rope, I got a bit frustrated by her immigration answers (why the children behind the barbed wire etc). But, as you say, she's done a lot quietly in the portfolio, which has to be a positive. Still can't get a person to answer the phone at the Department of Immigration, though!

Pavlov's Cat said...

I ran this notion of Amanda-approval by my best mate, who works for the UN, and was firmly told some hair-raising things about the way Vanstone has behaved towards refugee advocates. But since I've never seen that, my sneaking admiration continues to sneak. I'm glad you agree; I was expecting to get seriously flamed for this one!

(And may yet.)

Kate said...

Hmmn. To turn from Vanstone to the noise around her for a moment... What bothers me about the criticism of Vanstone is that it is so focussed on her appearance, her weight, her un-femininity. While I don't think much of her politics I detest the way she's attacked.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Agreed. I don't think much of her politics either, Kate, not much at all. But the way she deals with the way she's attacked -- and her gender politics play a large part in that, I think -- is one of the things that I do like about her.

Zoe said...

I know a person who worked for her and was very fond of her. But she's a vile tory, even if with a human face.

And your confession was shocking enough to get you a second link this week in the crikey newsletter, pusscat.

Anna Winter said...

My favourite Amanda comment was when she asked people to think of the worst politician they could. She then said, only when we have a woman that bad in Parliament will we have achieved true equality!

comicstriphero said...

one, two, three, four!

Mandy Vanstone hates the poor!

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh, all right. I know. I do know.

And she lives in, erm, leafy North Adelaide, too -- home to the most infuriating kind of Adders Old Money.

elsewhere said...

My now very erstwhile boss (with initials 'AA') also entertained a strange attraction/repulsion fascination with Mandy, largely (I use that adverb at my peril) because AV is a 'strong woman'. Boss used to get invited down to Adelaide for breakfast chats with AV, where she was even more fascinated by what was on offer on the menu -- coke, creme caramels and chocolate. When AV went just a bit too far with some of her hacking and slashing of Indigenous affairs (and she is a wonderful hatchet woman & duplicituous to boot), boss cursed herself for ever imagining there to be a natural camaderie amongst 'strong women' and said, 'Right, that does it! I never like to refer to a woman by her weight, but from now on, I'm calling her "Fat Amanda"!'

I had a bureaucrat friend who once found herself sitting behind AV and Robert Hill on a flight, and afterwards did a marvellous imitation of AV asking RH to put her Gucci bag in overhead luggage...it did make her sound rather like Kim from _Kath and Kim_.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lisa said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who attack her based on her appearance/fatness/whatever are making a terrible mistake, because it engenders a kind of admiration for her that we see here on P-cat's blog!!

Admirable for the way she manages to distract from her nasty politics by being a rumbunctious, feisty woman and having to cop shit for that? Yes!

Admirable politics? Not in a million years. And I judge her on her politics.

a real person said...

its a real shame rednecks like you have discovered the internet, and tell the world hoe soft and cuddly amanda vanstane is, thankfully your blog wont reach many people.

what bullshit you write.

I assume pavlovs cat is a reference to "pavlovs dogs" and therefore you will seee the irony in how you've been conditioned into thinking psudo-political fat slags like vanstone are 'feminist freedom fighters'. seriuosly, do you actually live in this country?

you probably agree with making kids sing the nation anthem too.

you suck, and so does your blog.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Whoa -- flamed by an expert at last!

I've been called a lot of things in life, but 'redneck' is a newy.

Kate said...

I'm jealous PC, I hardly ever get drive-bys like that.

Lucy Tartan said...

I'm so tempted right now to bring up the finest piece of illiterate vulgar abuse ever directed at me. I have saved it for posterity in case the writer ever gets famous for assassinating someone. In part it alleged that I was "headed to hell where Joe Conrad will laugh at yr miserable lies and careerism". The rest is a bit too rude to post out aloud.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Good heavens.

What did you do -- call the said J. Conrad a racist? The implication that he too is in hell makes this seem unlikely, but there must be some explanation.

Lucy Tartan said...

The explanation is mental illness. The thread had nothing to do with Conrad (nor Shakespeare nor T.S. Eliot, who were invoked as well.)