It was classic ministerial sleight-of-hand that will probably go unnoticed by the hoi polloi, as does much of the trickery of this government, but I reckon that something as seemingly insignificant as a change in terminology will have a big effect on the pending election.

We no longer have a minister in charge of ‘Multicultural affairs’, because apparently ‘multiculturalism’ as a term does not convey the ‘belief that immigrants to Australia should become citizens’. Thus, in its stead we have a new department, for Immigration and Citizenship.

It’s an interesting shift in terminology. ‘Multiculturalism’ and ‘citizenship’ aren’t exactly synonyms, so the new portfolio isn’t exactly the same as the last one. In fact they’re closer to antonyms in the sense that they imply opposing attitudes to the same issue; if multiculturalism is diversity, then citizenship is conformity (at least it is in the recent political climate in this country).

Then again, it isn’t uncommon these days for a single ministerial portfolio to contain a paradox. Ian McFarlane is currently the Minister for Environment and Industry, yet the two portfolios necessarily have competing interests. How can a single person act in the interests of industry in Australia, one of the largest of which is coal mining, while simultaneously acting in the interests of the environment?

Perhaps they should have stuck with ‘Immigration and Multiculturalism’. It would in fact be very accurate, in an Orwellian sense at least. It would eventually come to mean the Ministry for (hindrance of) Immigration and (discouragement of) Multiculturalism. Just like Orwell’s Ministry of Peace was in fact responsible for the perpetuation of war.

No matter what you call it, the ministry for immigration and multiculturalism and/or citizenship will still sing the same tune: people shouldn’t be allowed in unless they can speak English and will barrack for Australia at the cricket, in a nutshell.

That’s enough leftist cynicism for this month, but it’s only a week till February.