23 January 2007

Big changes in Australian immigration department

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard's Cabinet reshuffle has cost Amanda Vanstone her job as immigration minister and looks set to prompt big changes in the department.

Aside from the change of minister, Mr Howard said he would rename the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Mr Howard thanked Senator Vanstone for her service as a minister since the election of the Coalition Government in 1996, and had been the Immigration Minister since 2003.

"She's a very colourful person who has worked very hard and in a very committed fashion in the various portfolios that she's held," he told reporters.

"She's made a wonderful contribution to the Government and Australia."

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews changes portfolio and will oversee the transformation of DIMA to Immigration and Citizenship.

Senator Vanstone said her stay in the immigration portfolio had seen her make some difficult decisions.

"One of the privileges of my ministerial responsibilities has been to work with many highly professional and dedicated public servants," she said. "Their work to build a better Australia all too often goes unrecognised.

"I also extend my sincerest thanks to my personal staff, both past and present, who have also worked tirelessly over the years in the service of the Government.

"As immigration minister I have been required to make difficult and sometimes unwelcome decisions affecting individuals almost on a daily basis.

"These decisions have always had to be in the national interest rather than what individual people might prefer."

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