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Vanstone appointed as new ambassador to Italy -

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Vanstone appointed as new ambassador to Italy

Reporter: Michael Edwards

Former immigration minister Amanda Vanstone has been appointed as ambassador to Italy after being
dropped from her portfolio earlier this year.

Transcript

TONY JONES: Well Rome wasn't built in a day and nor was Amanda Vanstone's diplomatic career. It
took 22 years in the Senate to prepare the former minister for her new role as ambassador to Italy.

One of the most colourful characters in the Howard Cabinet, Senator Vanstone served in a variety of
portfolios and even took time out to pen her own national song Under Southern Stars, renditions of
which could provide some comfort during her exile in the Northern Territory. It was her term as
immigration minister which generated the most controversy and finally saw her demoted.

Michael Edwards has the story.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Like most politicians, Amanda Vanstone was called many things during her time in
Parliament, but one word rarely applied to her was 'timid'.

AMANDA VANSTONE, FORMER MINISTER: They didn't elect you. They've rejected you time and time and
time again. Time and time again.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Ms Vanstone was elected as a senator for South Australia in 1984. For most of her
career, she was regarded as a moderate, but as a minister she mostly stuck to the Government line
when handling several tough portfolios. As the Howard Government's first education minister, she
drew fire from students for her university reforms.

AMANDA VANSTONE: And I think the normal person in the street understands that ministers have to
make tough decisions. And they're actually grateful that someone else is doing it.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: For her troubles, she was demoted to justice minister. She made the chase for
now-deceased businessman Christopher Skase almost a personal crusade.

AMANDA VANSTONE: I've seen the wheelchair come out, the oxygen mask come out. I've seen them both
be thrown away and him toddle out on the golf course.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Her return to Cabinet in 2001 came through the Family and Community Services
Portfolio. But it was her time as immigration minister which was the most controversial. She
presided over the Department as it was buffeted by scandal.

Its handling of the wrongful deportation of Vivien Solon and the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau
brought intense criticism and personal scrutiny of senator Vanstone's performance.

WOMAN'S VOICE: I've been, never been treated so unfairly in all my life.

AMANDA VANSTONE: If you think we went out there into the street and did a vox pop and said, "Is
Australia kind to refugees?" what would the answer be? What do you think it would be? I think the
answer would be no. And I think the media is largely responsible for that.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: John Howard brought her ministerial career to an end earlier this year, replacing
her with Kevin Andrews. After ministerial life, Ms Vanstone made the news for penning an
alternative national anthem. She called it Under Southern Stars.

AMANDA VANSTONE: Well the aim is to give Australians another song that can be sung.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: She says Italian culture and zest for life have helped persuade her to accept the
post. And in typical fashion, she refused to be drawn when asked about her proudest achievements in
politics.

AMANDA VANSTONE: I think it's peculiarly ego-centric and possibly a male attribute, to list things
as one's personal achievements when in fact they're just things you've done as part of a team.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says Ms Vanstone's political experience
will enable her to promote Australia's interests in Italy.

Michael Edwards, Lateline.

(c) 2007 ABC