Dissecting Prime Ministers’ Australia Day speeches

Dissecting Prime Ministers' Australia Day speeches


According to their evaluation, Prime Ministers tend to present Australia as ‘classless’.

“The tendency of prime ministers to avoid discussion of class can be explained first by Australia’s culturally embedded tradition of egalitarianism. Secondly, neoliberal economic norms see challenges to market-based policy making as divisive,” the researchers said.

“For example, in 1999, John Howard said: “We believe very deeply that a person’s worth is determined by their character and by the effort they put into being a good citizen, not according to their social class, or their background”.

“In this context, any critique of class division or wealth disparity would negate the myth-making of a unified and egalitarian Australian society, regardless of real class difference.”

Gender and sexuality

Dr Bromfield and Mr Page further found that the speeches, more so on Anzac Day than Australia Day, reinforced traditional gender norms. They did this through subject selection, as well as through binary stereotypes, which privilege ‘masculine’ traits like strength, ambition and independence and diminish ‘feminine’ ones like passivity and fragility.

John Howard, for example, dedicated whole Australia Day addresses to the achievements of Australian male cricketers such as Don Bradman (in 1997), Mark Taylor (in 1999), and Steve Waugh (in 2004) yet only reserved a few sentences for female athlete Cathy Freeman when she won Australian of Year in 1998.

Further, heteronormative depictions of families abounded in the materials studied, while only one LGBTQI-related word was identified – the word ‘gay’ on Australia Day 2015.

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