National Communications Manager at the Department of Immigration & Citizenship
Born in: Toronto, Canada
Home Town: Canberra
Sandi Logan is on a mission to shape what you read, see and hear about the federal government's most troublesome policy area: immigration.
Logan helps determine which journalists get access to the Immigration Department's facilities and which don't. He rarely lets a damaging story, blog or tweet about his department go unchallenged. And when a big news story breaks – such as a detention centre riot – it's often this bald, bespectacled bureaucrat who ends up on the news, rather than Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
Chances are you recognise him: no other public servant has such a high profile, or speaks in such a distinctive Canadian twang.
For Logan, spruiking for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship isn't just a job: it's a calling.
"My phone has not gone to sleep for about seven years – just ask my wife," he tells The Power Index.
"If large organisations are going to be taken seriously you've got to be readily available. That means 24/7."
It wasn't always so. In the Ruddock/Vanstone era, the department's media unit was a shambles – notorious, in Logan's own words, for its "assumption culture", "series of stuff-ups", " fragmented computer system", "poor record keeping" and for having "no relationship with journalists".
This changed when the ex-AFP spinner arrived in 2005. Logan quickly implemented proper systems for responding to media inquiries, lobbied for increased resources (staff numbers soared from 15 to 41 within a year), embraced social media technologies, and made himself ultra-accessible.
Since then his job has become more complex. In June 2009 Australia had five detention centres housing around 1,000 detainees; less than two years later this had ballooned to 23 sites and 6,500 people. As the number of detainees grows, so too does the media's interest in the issue.
This means Logan must, at times, go above and beyond his duties. He worked for 20 hours straight when riots broke out on Christmas Island last March. At 2am he even took command of the facility for four hours so the centre's managers could rest.
But here we arrive at the Logan paradox. Despite his enthusiasm and despite his availability, he's a deeply polarising figure among the journalists who deal with him. Leigh Sales is a fan, describing him as "one of the savviest professionals around". But many reporters outright detest him, especially when he complains to their editor about their stories or slams their work on Twitter.
One experienced reporter, who has copped criticism from Logan, describes him as "obstructive", "forceful" and "aggressive". Another calls him a "stirrer" and a "psycho".
"He has become a player and a commentator, not just a public servant," says the latter informant. "He oversteps the mark. He doesn't mind throwing bombs. I think he winds up journos to put them off their game."
And it's not just the media Logan takes on.
Last June, Marissa Ram, a visiting law student from the US, posted a blog on a University of Berkeley website describing her experience volunteering at the Villawood Detention Centre. The first comment appeared two days later: a 483-word response by Sandi Logan.
"That the department monitors the internet to that extent and responds to the material is extraordinary," says Stephen Blanks, an asylum seeker advocate and secretary for the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
"He's certainly dedicated to the cause. There's no chink of doubt in what he does to defend the indefensible."
It's dubious, however, whether Logan's interventions are effective. One journalist told The Power Index that his approach had driven them to dig deeper into the issue of mandatory detention. Another said they avoid him altogether – "he's useless" – and only deal with Chris Bowen's office.
Logan shrugs off the criticism, saying he has no plans to tone down his dealings with journalists and advocates.
"When things are misreported – or, even worse, when they're misreported as part of an agenda – I do get cross and I get in touch with the journo. It's not a threat but a courtesy."
He's been particularly outraged when journalists have identified children in detention – something he says they'd never get away with had the kids been Australian.
But don't get him wrong: Logan doesn't see journalists as the enemy. In fact, he still considers himself one, despite not having worked as a reporter for almost thirty years.
Logan's, whose family moved from Toronto when he was 12, began his career at the Sydney Sun newspaper and worked as a radio producer at the ABC before becoming a public affairs diplomat. He remains a paid-up member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).
That hasn't stopped the MEAA lashing out at the new media access policy for detention centres Logan crafted last year at Chris Bowen's request. The deed of agreement has made it easier for journalists to enter detention facilities, but on the proviso they're accompanied by a department official, follow the official's instructions at all times and hand over images for vetting before publication.
Critics slam the policy as a form of censorship, saying it reduces detention centre visits to glorified guided tours. It's a charge Logan rejects. He says he wants to "demystify" detention centres while safeguarding asylum seekers' privacy.
"There is absolutely nothing to hide that goes on in our detention network," he argues. "Absolutely nothing."
Four Corners' Sarah Ferguson, who filmed inside Villawood Detention Centre last year, is one of the journalists who have been granted access under the new policy.
"When we started a program on detention centres last year, Sandi Logan told us he understood how important access to the centres was for us," she tells The Power Index. "Over a month, he and the department delivered on all their undertakings. That doesn't mean more transparency in this area isn't urgently needed but the relationship was remarkably straightforward."
Asylum seeker advocate Stephen Blanks isn't so kind. He dismisses Logan's claim that he is working to demystify detention centres as "complete spin". Under Logan's watch, he points out, the threat level for unauthorised media visits to detention centre has been raised from major to critical. That puts it on a par with a bomb threat.
Logan, no doubt, would tumble out of The Power Index if the issue of asylum seekers lost its political potency. Or if the major parties agreed on a workable policy to stop the boats. Or if mandatory detention was scrapped.
But there's no sign of any of those things happening any time soon.