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Politicians outdo each other with tough measures to deal with asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. But someone has to look people in the eye and do the questioning, the arresting, the detaining and the deporting. For a time, that someone was Peter Mitchell. Hoping for a quiet public-service job, Mitchell walked into the Department of Immigration in 1990 and quickly found himself on the frontline of one of the nation's most divisive issues. With the wry humour shared by those in uniform, Mitchell describes his early years collaring illegal workers and visa overstayers. But things became a lost more challenging when he was appointed manager of the infamous Villawood Detention Centre, and later of Operation Safe Haven, ministering to the desperate flood of refugees from Kosovo and East Timor. How do you reconcile your sense of compassion with the demands of fair and proper procedure? For the first time, COMPASSIONATE BASTARD takes us behind the razor wire to reveal the sometimes difficult, sometimes farcical processes our public servants are duty-bound to implement while dealing with people in traumatic circumstances.

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