Christian Kerr has done well to profile how DIMIA’s new communications
branch is committed to helping the media and journalists, among others,
get answers to questions about the department’s activities.

my letter of congratulations to Lateline on receipt of its 2005
Walkley Award for coverage of the Vivian Alvarez (Solon) story made its
way into Crikey is I guess, a backhanded compliment. Nonetheless
it is a shame Christian couldn’t get a simple thing right, like DIMIA’s
new slogan.

The slogan is “people our business” (bolded
“people”). It represents a commitment by everyone at DIMIA, as an open
and accountable organisation, to be fair and reasonable with all of our
clients – who are after all, people. The department is moving apace to
ensure its staff are well trained and supported, and these key themes
go to the heart of the recommendations of the Palmer (and Comrie)

They address concerns about leadership and governance, values and
behaviour, dealings with clients and a lack of openness. Clearly,
the task of reforming an organisation of some 6000 staff with a complex
workload will take time, commitment and resources. Already more than 60
initiatives are underway and there have been some very clear
achievements in the areas of detention health services and
infrastructure, client service delivery, staff training and systems
support. DIMIA looks forward to continuing to work with Christian, and
other journalists, in their pursuit of stories arising from this
department’s activities and achievements.

Christian Kerr writes:

I look forward to seeing how long DIMIA can remain so po-faced – let
alone how long any other media can keep a straight face when a
Department riddled with problems from its minister down tries such
bare-faced spin.

Amanda Vanstone’s inability to accept at least some of the blame for
DIMIA’s disasters is a slap in the face for anyone who believes that we
still govern according to Westminster traditions of accountability. The
buck stops with her – no matter how much loss of face is involved.

I’m well aware from my own time in government – including, ironically,
working for Vanstone while she was acting immigration minister, that a
large number of individuals do not comply with the conditions of their

I – and most people who expect the public servants we pay to exercise
their authority efficiently and impartially – was horrified when the
Comrie Report identified implicit racism as one of the explanations for
the Vivian Solon Young debacle. The fact that at least one public
servant thought being a Filipino female equated with being a sex slave
shows that something very unpleasant lurks behind the face of DIMIA.

I also know from my time in government – and from my experience as an
electorate officer helping constituents deal with bureaucrats who didn’t
give a damn and often were simply lazy or incompetent – that public
service euphemisms like “counselling” and “retraining” are too often

Until we see a real change in the attitudes of DIMIA – and its
ministers – you’d only believe Sandi’s assurances if you were off your