Australia's Vanstone sacked as Immigration Minister, other changes

23 January 2007

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In a reshuffling of Australian parliament, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone didn't make the cut. Her former department will also receive a name change.

According to Prime Minister John Howard, Vanstone is "a very colourful person who has worked very hard in a very committed fashion in various portfolios that she's held. She's made a wonderful contribution to government."

Vanstone's replacement will be Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews.

Vanstone said she would take time to consider her next move and stated there was a possibility of leaving parliament before her term expired. She has five years left.

In an emotional address, she stated, "I think after 22 years in Parliament ... 22 good years, incidentally, representing the lovely state of South Australia, and 11 in government as a minister, eight of those in Cabinet, this is a good time for me to start thinking about what I'll do next, and I'll start that process today."

Over the course of her tenure, she oversaw some controversial immigration issues.

She was a defender of the 457 visa, a program meant to bring workers to Australia to fill skills shortages. It was criticized by those who felt it was driving down wages and changing the makeup of Australia's nationality.

Vanstone defended her stance, stating the scheme was healthy for Australian business and that those coming to the country under the 457 program were well paid.

Name Change

The department will be renamed from Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to Immigration and Citizenship.

Some in Australia's government see this as Howard's dislike of multiculturalism.

"It's no secret the Prime Minister has never liked multiculturalism," said Senator Andrew Bartlett.

"He's always wanted to promote the notion of a single, monocultural notion of Australia, which apart from anything else doesn't reflect reality and certainly doesn't reflect a modern nation that's seeking to reach out confidently to the rest of the world."

Howard responded to criticism of the name change by saying that it reflected the nation's desire for immigrants to become Australian citizens.


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