Last Friday Amanda Vanstone was blaming her bureaucrats for the Vivian Alvarez and Cornelia Rau blunders. And that’s exactly what she did with a series of spectacular stuff-ups when I was on her staff almost ten years ago.

But don’t worry, she has A Cunning Plan. Rumours abound that new options on refugees are being taken to the Government party room today, and that the release of Naomi Leong from Villawood might just be a start.

Nothing’s happened – yet – but don’t rule the option out. Amanda Vanstone may be an incompetent minister, but she does deserve some credit for her very gradual relaxation of some of Phillip Ruddock’s more egregiously inhumane immigration policy decisions. The most effective refugee advocates have played along with Vanstone to facilitate these moves.

Releasing a significant number of immigration detainees and announcing a new stand might be an admission of moral and public policy failure, but clever politics.

First, it would reduce the heat on Vanstone. It should also gazump the ALP. It’s hard to make Labor’s immigration spokesperson Laurie Ferguson look even sillier than he is already, but that’s exactly what would happen. Such a move would also exacerbate internal Labor tensions. It will be a win for Carmen Lawrence, along with shadow ministers in exile Bob McMullan and Lindsay Tanner, who all fought hard for changes to immigration detention policies in the lead up to Labor’s national conference last year.

Heck, it might even deliver some decent outcomes.