Saturday, 23 June 2018

Stopping the boats: the media depiction of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’


Stopping the boats: the media depiction of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’


Box, M. (2018). Stopping the boats: the media depiction of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’. Paper presented at the 2018 Federation University HDR Conference Ballarat. Retrieved from


Moral panic theory holds that when there is a heightened campaign about a particular issue a crisis mentality develops where a scapegoat is identified to channel public anxiety.  ‘Moral entrepreneurs’ of which the popular media are prominent achieve this. Moral panics have been the hallmark of ‘law and order’ campaigns in state politics in Australia for many decades. The polarizing nature of the issue of asylum seekers, which has dominated federal politics in Australia since 2001, poses the question of whether a ‘moral panic’ phenomena has developed.

This poster explores that issue by examining the media depiction of the Abbott Government policy ‘Operational Sovereign Borders’ a military-led taskforce to interdict boats carrying asylum seekers.

The poster undertakes this examination through an analysis of cartoons in The Age (Fairfax Media) and The Australian (NewsCorp). Whilst the portrayals in both publications were satirical, The Age tended to be more critical whilst The Australian was supportive of the policy. The dominance of these players in the media landscape and the detrimental effects a sustained moral panic can have on political discourse makes this an important issue worthy of analysis.




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