According to The Australian’s story Vanstone turns on officials today, the feisty immigration minister has bowed “to a barrage of criticism over the embarrassing Alvarez and Rau immigration blunders by flagging legal moves to relax strict deportation procedures.”

The Oz says Vanstone “challenged her bureaucrats to be more open to criticism of their decisions and told them they had to be prepared to change policy and practice, particularly in difficult cases, such as those involving wrongly detained Australians Vivian Alvarez and Cornelia Rau.” She also said she “would not rule out disciplinary action against officers found to have failed to carry out their duties properly,” but “my focus is not on punishing the guilty but fixing the problem.” Former federal police chief Mick Palmer is conducting an inquiry into the department’s actions, sparked by the Rau affair.

It all sounds suspiciously like a mega buck-passing exercise is underway, which will probably result in sackings at DIMIA. It will be interesting to watch developments, especially in light of this tip-off from our anonymous DIMIA snout:

Rumour in DIMIA is that senior management heads are about to roll, and that the only female department secretary in DIMIA volunteered to fall on her own sword over the recent well publicised wrongful deportations.

In the meantime Amanda and her staff remain sqeaky clean. Rumour also says DIMIA will be split up with compliance bits to go to the Attorney General’s department. What is certain is that DIMIA senior management are in the bunker and morale at the coal face in DIMIA is below rock bottom over recent publicity. Staff are tired and emotional about the demonisation of DIMIA staff inferred by recent publicity. After all, they are doing what they are told, ultimately from Amanda’s personal office. There is no public support from DIMIA senior mangement.

CRIKEY: The long-standing principal of ministers taking ultimate responsibility for stuff-ups in their portfolio has taken a battering over the past 15 years, under both the Keating and Howard Governments. This sort of blame shifting to the public servants is just plain wrong when the political direction clearly comes from the minister’s office. Vanstone is reasonably well liked in media circles for having a sense of humour, not taking herself too seriously, and calling a spade a bloody shovel. But she’s not covering herself in glory here.