The dogs are barking in the corridors of Canberra’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Ambassador to Italy, Peter Woolcott, has been told to start packing, eight months before his tour of duty was scheduled to end.  It seems Amanda Vanstone has got the plum gig in return for staying silent following her sacking from the immigration job.  Woolcott has been told to be home by April, despite being told last year he would be in Rome “until the end of next year”. Of course that was before the Prime Minister decided to sack Vanstone and before Amanda apparently named her price to go quietly – she was in Rome last summer and rather liked the place.  Woolcott and his wife, after being assured they would remain in the post, changed the schools of their three young children, enrolling them in the British school after a stint in the American school. Now they have to come back in the middle of an Australian term and start again.  This is the kind of behaviour which makes public servants seethe. As a senior foreign service officer told Crikey today, political appointments don’t serve the national interest when they are used to get rid of politicians.  As for the Italians, they would have shown more than just a passing interest in the mess the Department of Immigration became under Ruddock and then Vanstone. Now they will have Amanda on their own patch.

Peter Fray

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