“Secure in our Identity”: Regional Threat and Opportunity in Australian Election Discourse, 1993 and 1996



Anxiety about the Asia-Pacific region has held an evocative place in the Australian imagination, and has featured in federal elections since Federation. This article explores discussions of regional opportunity and threat in the spoken campaign language of Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, and his Liberal opponents, in the 1993 and 1996 elections. This language forms part of an ongoing project by Australian political leaders to provide voters with a secure identity by managing regional threat: from extending “civilisation” in the first half of the twentieth century; to the image of Australia as a benevolent stabilising force in an unstable region following the Second World War; and the contested frameworks of engagement and opportunity from the 1980s onwards. While specific constructions of regional threat have changed since federation, leaders' discursive reassurances have remained remarkably consistent over 110 years.