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

  • Guy Hamilton Healy Queensland University of Technology
  • Paul Williams Griffith University
Keywords: agenda setting, Australia, climate change, deregulation, emissions, environmental journalism, fossil fuel lobby, greenhouse gas, metaphor, newspapers, rhetoric


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.


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Author Biographies

Guy Hamilton Healy, Queensland University of Technology

Guy Healy is a PhD candidate at QUT Creative Industries. Mr Healy has a BA from Monash (Clayton), and a BJourn Honours First Class from Griffith University. He is a former journalist from The Australian, but has also freelanced for BBC Wildlife, Australian Geographic, The Guardian and The Saturday Paper.

His last research was as follows:

Ewart, J., Pearson, M., & Healy, G. (2016). Journalists’ and Educators’ Perspectives on News Media Reporting of Islam and Muslim Communities in Australia and New Zealand. Journal of Media and Religion, 15(3), 136-145.
Paul Williams, Griffith University
Dr Paul Williams is a senior lecturer in the Department of Humanities at Griffith University.He has research expertise in the following areas:
  • Queensland state politics
  • Australian national politics
  • Election campaigns and the media
  • Political leadership
  • Government-Business relations


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How to Cite
Healy, G. H., & Williams, P. (2017). Metaphor use in the political communication of major resource projects in Australia. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 23(1), 150-168.