The rise and fall of climate change in Australian politics: Climate change discourses across three Australian federal elections

Stream: Panel 73 - Environmental Politics: Changing Environmental Discourses 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


Australia’s federal election in November 2007 was arguably one of the first in the world which featured climate change as a key election issue. Opinions within the literature vary as to just how influential it was in determining the outcome. Some suggest it was the defining issue of the election, while others argue that it was one of four or five dominant themes, together with health, education, industrial relations and water policy. Certainly, the then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd chose climate change as one of only a few policies through which he differentiated his party from the government, and both Rudd and the Prime Minister John Howard focused on climate change at key moments in the election campaign. In contrast, climate change was scarcely even mentioned in the lead up to the 2010 and 2013 federal elections. This study uses discourse analysis to examine media texts published by The Age, The Australian, and The ABC, to trace the issue of climate change through the 2007, 2010 and 2013 election campaigns. It explores how climate change was constructed during each campaign and the implications of these constructions for the development of subsequent climate change policy. It is argued that until climate change becomes firmly established as a core political priority, it will remain on the periphery of Australian politics, and Australia’s climate change policy will continue to fail to address the urgency and complexity of the issue


Karen F. Hytten (Presenter), Massey University
Karen Hytten completed her PhD at Griffith University and now works as a Lecturer in Environmental Management within the Institute of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Her research interests include social and political responses to climate change, and social and political dimensions of wildlife management and animal welfare.