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Metaphor use in the political communication of major resource projects in Australia

Volume 23, Issue 1

July, 2017

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Healy, G., & Williams, P. (2017). Metaphor use in the political communication of major resource projects in Australia. Pacific Journalism Review, 23(1), 150-168. doi:10.24135/pjr.v23i1.103
Author(s): Guy Healy, Paul Williams
Publication date: 
July, 2017

This article explores the patterns of political communication surrounding the environmental regulation of major Australian resource projects during the Business Advisory Forum of April 2012. The Forum discussed business and government responses to major project approvals to improve national productivity at a time when these projects also posed significant implications for anthropogenic global warming. The article’s method is to examine print news articles published during this period. While the international literature has long demonstrated how the American fossil fuel lobby has employed metaphor to characterise climate change as a ‘non-problem’—therefore allegedly making regulation of greenhouse gas emissions economically and politically unnecessary—no Australian study of metaphor use in climate science news has been conducted. This article, in finding news stories on so-called ‘green tape’ environmental regulation were saturated with metaphor clusters, argues that journalistic metaphor use has made the complex issue of environmental regulation accessible to mass audiences. But, in so doing, we also argue this metaphor use has supported business and government’s position on environmental deregulation of major projects. Finally, this article also argues that some journalists’ use of metaphors encouraged policy-makers to adopt, and re-use, journalists’ own language and, in so doing, allow those journalists to be seen as complicit in the shaping of softer public attitudes to the impact of major projects on anthropogenic climate change.