Former minister Amanda Vanstone lets rip at 'lazy, sneaky or both' PM

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty.

Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone has given prime minister Tony Abbott and his supporters a huge serve in her regular Fairfax Media column today over plans to strip dual nationals of Australian citizenship.

The former South Australian senator, who spent 23 years in parliament, including four years as immigration minister during the Howard government’s “Pacific solution” policy on asylum seekers, has always had a reputation for being blunt, has taken the government to task for the way it’s handled the issue, warning Abbott that “the public will not long tolerate people who say one thing and do another”.

Vanstone sees the debate over giving the current minister, Peter Dutton, the power to strip citizenship from people as fundamental to what it means to be a Liberal, saying “What we’ve seen detailed in the media in recent days was not a minor policy issue escaping proper process, but a fundamental issue as to your and my liberty almost escaping any discussion at all.”

She describes it as a “pinch-me” moment to check she’s in the real world, arguing “there’s nothing new and therefore sudden about dealing with terrorism that justifies this suggestion not going through proper cabinet process”.

The way it was handled by the prime minister was “either lazy, sneaky or both”, going on to detail a litany of instances where “the PM chooses to avoid proper process when he thinks his ideas will be opposed”.

Here’s what Vanstone says in her column:

Imagine my profound disappointment, bordering on despair, when I see some on “my team” thinking it is OK for a minister alone to take away a citizen’s rights – indeed, take away citizenship – in the blink of an eye. No appeal, no judicial process, just a ministerial decision. What were they thinking?

…Hoping to flick it through at the end of a cabinet meeting smacks of trying to get something difficult through without proper discussion. That’s either lazy, sneaky or both.

…Are the cabinet ministers who were in favour of excluding the courts so stupid as to think the real enemies of democracy, the radical Islamists, would not set up innocent people in order to make a mockery of our system?

…Cutting down our democratic protections to get at the enemy is profoundly dumb. We end up doing the enemy’s work for them, and from within!

Vanstone concludes with some speculation on who’s been responsible for the leaks from cabinet and her conclusion is as Machiavellian as you’d expect.

It’s just a guess, but I reckon only a moron would think you could leak this to damage Malcolm without damaging the PM as well. So you can probably rule out an Abbott devotee as the leaker, unless they are a complete idiot.

That leaves someone who wants to kill off Malcolm so he can in turn kill off Tony. Hmmm.

Read Vanstone’s full column here.

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