It was appropriate that the newspapers were full of Australian flag stories on the day Prime Minister John Howard announced his pre-election ministerial changes.
We’re going to see a lot of flag waving from now until polling day. Nationalism is going to be the Government’s big re-election theme.
The change in name announced by Mr Howard provides the clue. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs is dead. Long live the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Get ready as the master politician flirts again with the difficult task of tapping the underlying xenophobia in many Australians without himself being condemned as an Anglo Saxon racist.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Mr Howard managed it once years ago when raising fears about the levels of Asian migration and again when he exploited imaginary children being thrown overboard by undesirable queue jumping illegal immigrants.
The sacked Amanda Vanstone will surely be relieved that she has been relieved of the duty to preside over this latest bit of wedge politics. The good Senator might have been a tough Immigration Minister in withstanding the attacks of bleeding heart lawyers but she retained her small “l” liberalism through the difficult time of rebuilding a shattered department.
It was good to hear so many refugee advocacy groups finally acknowledge on the day of her departure that she had done a lot to humanise the refugee and detention process.
Her successor Kevin Andrews will be ideologically better suited to replacing a concentration on multiculturalism with an emphasis on citizenship.
Senator Vanstone had left it to Andrew Robb as Parliamentary Secretary to handle the distasteful task of pretending that Australia needs to give would-be citizens tests in English and civics.
Mr Andrews will be quite stern enough on his own on this issue so Mr Robb has been rewarded with a proper ministry of his own for laying the groundwork.