A ham fisted immigration minister with all the subtlety of a grand
piano falling 30 stories – see the transcript of this morning’s AM– running a cruel, incompetent and unaccountable department isn’t just
an ugly mix. It’s deeply disturbing. And it’s worrying more and more
members of the Howard Government.

Unity – or the appearance of unity and unanimity – has always been one
of the government’s strong points, but the depth of distress unleashed
by the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon cases is disturbing more and more
Coalition MPs. Other aspects of the heavy-handed tactics by the lad
from immigration seem to have won Petro Georgiou, the leader of the
internal revolt against the government’s immigration policy, a new
recruit: Louise Markus, the neophyte MP for Greenway in Sydney’s Hills

Markus is playing it very softly-softly, though. She’s only raised her concerns in her local paper, the Blacktown Sun. Last week the Sun
reported how a local student, 16-year-old Blacktown High pupil Valentia
Gythalovesa, had been hauled off to Villawood Detention centre after
her Indonesian parents overstayed their visas.

Valentia is the second child from the area detained in recent months. 14-year-old Sylvestre Aben was taken from
his home to Villawood in February. He has since won approval to stay in

Immigration rules say that Valentia is entitled to stay with a close relative or family friend, rather than being in detention.

Staff from the school contacted Markus, who was initially polite but
non-committal in her reply. “The family has not contacted me to
ask for my assistance at this stage. Obviously, if they do, I would be
pleased to examine their case and express my support to the minister if
appropriate,” the Sun reported last week.

Things have clearly moved quickly. This week the Sun reports that
Markus has promised to lobby on Valentia’s behalf, and she has agreed
to meet the Blacktown High School community to discuss the matter
further. Markus, according to the Sun, has also been in contact
with the Department of Immigration and is organising to meet with
Valentia’s family.

Liberals are supposed to back individuals against heavy-handed,
faceless bureaucracies. Immigration’s incompetence should be repulsive
to every Liberal value.

Is Markus’s move a sign of a looming larger revolt?