Australian Climate Politics - a frame analysis of Australia's Liveral Party'sclimate change policy before and after the bushfires 2019-2020

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This study focuses on Australian climate politics in the period from August 2018 till April 2020. In this period a heightened pressure by the civil society on the Australian Liberal government due to the devastating black summer bushfires that started in June 2019 and the governmental reaction to these fires was observed. Australia is vulnerable to climate change and experienced its effects already; the extremity of the bushfires was a direct effect of climate change as well. This pressure on the government showed the contentious politics not just between the Australian political parties, but also within the governmental Liberal party. This intra-party conflict over climate change policy is not new and we observed different perspectives on climate change policy within the Liberal party. The focus of political research is often on inter-party politics, but this limits the understanding of climate politics. For this reason this study focuses on the intra-party politics of he Australian Liberal party through frame analysis and tries to descriptively answer the question: how does Australia’s Liberal party frame climate change before and after the bushfires of the black summer of 2019-2020? This study observed three different frames based on different positions on climate change that are used by Liberal Members of Parliament; the government narrative, the ‘a call for more action’ frame and the sceptical frame. These frames are constructed based on three frame elements. The government narrative resembles a defensive frame by the government to justify action taken by the government. The ‘a call for more action’ frame is similar to the government narrative within parliamentary debates, but changes in the media and preaches for more action on climate change. The sceptical frame is considered an outlier and is reactive to the other two frames that are based on a mainstream view on climate change. This outlier counters the idea that climate change exists. The frames are compared for the period before and the period during and after the black summer bushfires and convergence and divergence between the frames were measured based on their frame elements. This showed that the debate heightened during and after the bushfires and that the frames used by Liberal Members of Parliament became more mainstream on climate change after the bushfires.
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