Rhetorical Strategies of the 2013 Federal Election: Defining public debate on immigration policy

Stream: Panel 83 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Theories of Citizenship and Migration & Refugee Policy
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


Despite the 1951 Refugee Convention (UNHCR, 2007) requirement for signatories not to punish refugees for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting state, the 2013 Australian Federal Election campaigning was dominated by a bipartisan push for an increasingly punitive approach to immigration policy. Both major parties not only remained committed to the current policy of mandatory detention for people arriving in Australia by boat, but endorsed a policy that stated asylum seekers arriving by boat would never be settled in Australia, whether they were found to be a ‘genuine’ refugee or not. Media scholar, John Street suggests that although there is disagreement about whether specific political outcomes can be attributed to press influence, the role of television in politics has been more comprehensively established as shaping broader world views in regards to ideas, values and practices that are considered ‘common-sense’ (2011) . One of the key challenges in the political debate regarding people seeking asylum is broadening the scope of discussion beyond the current dominant narrative of criminality and problematization. This paper takes a Critical Discourse Analytic approach to demonstrate how linguistic features such as lexical choice and rhetorical strategies in the political discourses of the 2013 Australian Federal Election function to define public debate on immigration issues pertaining to people seeking asylum, leading, arguably, to the justification of the Australian Government’s failure to meet human rights obligations under the Refugee Convention.


Leicha Stewart (Presenter), University of Newcastle
Leicha is a PhD candidate in the school of Design, Communication and IT at University of Newcastle. Her doctoral research examines the relationship between language, media and politics with a specific focus on discourses of people seeking asylum in television news reports of the 2013 Australian Federal Election.