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Constructing national identity through policy: Discourses of multiculturalism and reconciliation in Australia

Posted on:2007-06-24Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:Northeastern UniversityCandidate:Lee, Michelle AFull Text:PDF
GTID:1446390005962264Subject:Political science
This study explores the intersection between political rhetoric, public policy, and nationalism. Using two case studies in Australian public policy, this work explores how political elites strategically employ language about redistributive policies to sustain the status quo. Two case studies are examined: the development of immigration policies in the 1970s and 1980s under Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, and Bob Hawke, and the development of land rights policies for Indigenous people under Prime Ministers Paul Keating and John Howard. Both case studies consider how certain groups of people are defined in terms of an Anglo-Australian version of national identity. Immigrants and Indigenous Australians share the inheritance of welfare policies designed by Anglo-Australian political elites. Both policy areas are grounded in a contentious history of race politics in a country which began as a British outpost in the Asia-Pacific region. This work primarily analyzes prime ministerial rhetoric and the role that national leaders play in articulating identity on behalf of the nation.; In the case of immigration policies under Prime Ministers Whitlam, Fraser, and Hawke, the discourse of "multiculturalism" emerged as a focal point for policy development in the late 1970s and 1980s. Multiculturalism remains a point of debate for many Australians in terms of how to define what it means to "be Australian". The political attachment to multiculturalism initially emerged in response to the diminishing support for the White Australia Policy, a collection of racist policies aimed at sustaining Australia's historically British culture and identity. In the case of Indigenous land rights policies under Prime Ministers Keating and Howard, the discourse of "reconciliation" became more prominent in the 1990s after two major High Court decisions lent more credence to the legitimacy of Indigenous people's claim as Australia's original inhabitants. This work analyzes how and why political elites from both ends of the political spectrum used the same discourses, "multiculturalism" and "reconciliation", to advance very different policy agendas during these time periods. This study concludes that political rhetoric is manipulated in ways that mask the reality that policies do not change the inequities they purport to.
Keywords/Search Tags:Policy, Political, National, Policies, Multiculturalism, Case studies, Rhetoric, Identity
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