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‘Taking advantage’ or fleeing persecution? Opposing accounts of asylum seeking

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This paper discursively analyses advocates' explanations of asylum seeking in the 2001 Australian parliamentary debates. Previous research has mapped the negative discourses used to present asylum seekers as economic migrants ‘taking advantage’ of soft laws. This paper analyses how advocates oppose this rhetoric, re-categorising asylum seekers as potential refugees, and establishing Australia as legally and morally responsible for providing protection. This paper examines three influences shaping advocates' arguments: opposing anti-asylum seeker rhetoric; theories of the formation of anti-asylum seeker public opinion; and the parliamentary and wider liberal democratic intellectual political framework. It then analyses four extracts taken from political speeches in the parliament, focussing on the rhetorical strategies used to counter a pervasive ‘culture of disbelief’ against asylum seekers.
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Keywords: Asylum seeking; advocacy; counter discourses; critical discourse analysis; political discourse

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of South Australia and University of Adelaide

Publication date: 2008-11-01

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