Contesting the ‘national interest’ and maintaining ‘our lifestyle’: A discursive analysis of political rhetoric around climate change


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Tim Kurz, School of Psychology, Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Exeter, EX4 4QG, UK (e-mail:


The release of the fourth United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in February 2007 prompted a flood of responses from political leaders around the globe. Perhaps nowhere was this more apparent than in Australia, where its release coincided with the first sitting week of the Australian Parliament, in an election year. The current study involves a discursive analysis of climate change rhetoric produced by politicians from the major Australian political parties in the period following the release of the IPCC leading up to the national election. Data include both transcripts of parliamentary debate and statements directly broadcast in the media. The analysis focuses on the various ways in which the issue of climate change was invoked and rhetorically managed by each of the two parties in the lead up to the election. In particular, it focuses on the ways in which appeals to the ‘national interest’ and ‘lifestyle maintenance’, both regular features of political rhetoric, were mobilized by both parties to discursively manage their positions on the climate change issue. Implications of the ways in which such appeals were constructed are discussed in relation to the discursive limits of the ways in which the issue of climate change is constructed in public debate.