The decision-makers at the highest levels of DFAT are back-pedalling at a fast rate after Crikey exposed their heartlessness this week in trying to pull Peter Woolcott out of the Rome Embassy to accommodate John Howard’s deal with Amanda Vanstone for la dolce vita.  As we go to press today, Ambassador Woolcott may have a lot to thank us for in prolonging his stay — but there’s little doubt that Amanda is Rome bound. Just when remains to be seen. This is a space to be watched.

Meanwhile, before she sets sail for Rome, Amanda might be well advised to have a session with her ministerial replacement, Kevin Andrews, about her AWA considering the behaviour of her boss-to-be, Lord Downer.  Alexander’s fuse is notoriously short when he perceives himself to be short-changed by those he considers inferiors — and if his track record is anything to go by, Her Excellency-to-be may fall into that category.  John Campbell, a career diplomat and Ambassador to Chile, was shown the door during a visit by Downer when there was an unavoidable mix-up with cars and the Minister was forced to take a taxi. That was the end of Campbell’s career.  Rather like Bob Merrillees who, when he was Ambassador in Athens, managed to get Jeff Kennett an audience with the Greek president. When Alexander heard this, he wanted the same, but because his tentacles weren’t into the Melbourne Greek community like Jeff’s, the request didn’t see the light of day. Merrillees soon resigned from the Department. So did Jeremy Herder, who assessed Downer, as a junior diplomat, as being of FAQ. When he became Minister, Herder was by then High Commissioner in Tanzania and he was told unofficially his days as a diplomat were over. He too resigned. Don’t say you weren’t warned Amanda.

Peter Fray

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