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

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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