Turning the Tide on Whaling: Print media news and the whaling controversy in Australia 1975-80

Harry Dillon

    Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser addressed the House of Representatives
    in Canberra on Wednesday April 4 1979 to flag a radically revised national
    stance on the issue of commercial whaling. His government’s consequent,
    comprehensive rejection of whaling marked not only the demise of an
    Australian industry that had existed on-and-off for nearly two centuries, but
    also a major public policy switch that did not seem imminent
    just a few years previously. The policy reversal was based on full acceptance
    of findings from an official inquiry into whaling, which had been triggered by a
    relatively brief period during which the previously low-profile issue burst onto
    Australia’s political agenda. Concurrently, the cause of saving whales gripped
    popular consciousness and formed the foundations for what was to become
    a thriving coastal industry based on viewing the migrating animals rather
    than killing them. The emergence and resolution of the whaling controversy
    in Australia from 1975 to 1980 resulted in near-consensus among interest
    groups and public opinion, to an extent that is rare in respect of controversial
    issues. This confluence was reflected in news coverage by mainstream media,
    which began to focus – for the first time – on commercial whaling as an ecoenvironmental issue in which there was significant community interest. My
    research into print news coverage of the whaling industry points to rapid
    encompassing of the relevant issues by previously-indifferent media outlets, in
    response to perceived shifts in popular consensus. This coverage amplified the
    ongoing shift, reinforced the influence of pro-conservation groups on general
    society, and helped to focus pressure on political decision-makers. My findings
    offer insights into how news media play out their social roles and influence the
    formulation of public policy on issues pertaining to ocean conservation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2017
    EventSustaining the Seas: Fish, Oceanic Space and the Politics of Caring - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    Duration: 11 Dec 201713 Dec 2017


    ConferenceSustaining the Seas
    Abbreviated titleOceanic Conservation
    Internet address


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